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How to Develop Profiles of Your Boards

Over the past several months, many people have read my articles about cribbage board collecting on the ACC web site, and some have taken the time to contact me with questions about their boards and collections. Some people have also provided me with information that wasn't previously documented, proving that the learning process is a two way street. So many questions have been asked that I thought that I should devote an article to the methods other members of the CBCS and I utilize to develop profiles on our boards.

Join the CBCS: Of course, if you join the CBCS, you will have access to our ever expanding files and it will save you a lot of time. We have a growing membership, and new information crosses my desk on a regular basis. If you choose to take the independent path, however, then let me continue.

The boards in your collection: If your cribbage boards are boxed and have accompanying instruction sheets, you need not look further. A couple of historical events could assist with dating the approximate age of your board. For instance, the postal ZIP code was introduced in 1963, and the 7 digit phone number replaced the 3 letter plus 4 digit in the mid 60's. If the phone number has only 4 numbers, then the board probably dates prior to 1940, depending on the city of manufacture.

Visiting the site of the former manufacturer of your board: Recently, a local newspaper did a feature article on my collection (and me), and it has generated numerous phone calls from local people. One man who called was surprised to learn that he wasn't the only collector in the area, and he had lots of questions for me. During the course of the conversation, he told me that he had purchased a "Hedgehog" board at auction and that he intended to visit the town where it had been manufactured in order to research the history of the manufacturer. His board was made by the Specialty Co. of Cortland, NY, and as it happens, one of the members of the CBCS has already done the legwork. Of course, I won't discourage him from continuing the search, for the first one revealed little information. Sometimes the second search turns up evidence not previously found.

Visit the library: How long has it been since you visited your local library? If your library has a computerized reference system, all you need to do is punch in "Cribbage", "Cribbage Boards" or "Games" and many books and articles on these subjects will surface. When you are done with that project, go to the section of the library which houses reference books on manufacturers, such as "Thomas' Registry of American Manufacturers". If any cribbage boards in your collection have a manufacturer's name identified, look up the manufacturer. I have found these books to be the source of several references.

Patent numbers: Prior to 1927, Patent numbers weren't required on the products for which they were issued, and most cribbage boards patented before that time bear only the date of the Patent. The most notorious of all patented boards is the C.W. LeCount board which was patented in Sept. 1879. Although much information is available about this very popular board, a copy of the Patent can't be obtained until someone goes to the PTO in Washington and actively searches the Sept. 1879 files. The CBCS, however, has copies of several other Patents, and they have given us fairly complete information about the inventors and the boards for which they were issued.

Books on cribbage: My library contains a growing number of books written about the game of cribbage, and I frequently refer to them when researching the history of cribbage boards. For instance, when I wrote about the "29" board and then researched when Game Win to 121 points rather than 61 points became popular, I found these books quite helpful. Some of the cribbage books are, but not limited to:

  • All About Cribbage by Douglas Anderson
  • The Encyclopedia of Cribbage by John Mixer
  • How to Win at Cribbage by Joseph Petrus Wergin
  • Play Winning Cribbage by DeLynn Colvert
  • Cribbage: A New Concept by John E. Chambers
  • How to Play Cribbage Well by Frank L. Brown
  • Cribbage for Experts by Dan Barlow

Although these authors focused on the GAME of cribbage, I have gathered much important information about the BOARD from their pages.

Old catalogs: The old Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs often carried cribbage boards, and we are constantly searching for catalogs that may contain more inclusions. The catalogs issued just after 1900 from both of these companies offered the C.W. LeCount boards, and we have come to the conclusion that their widespread distribution is the reason why so many of the boards have survived. These catalogs were delivered by the millions long before there were 10,000 competitors also distributing catalogs. Sears also carried a Tower cribbage board in the early 1900's, but we haven't uncovered a catalog with one in it yet, so the approximate date of manufacture hasn't yet surfaced. We welcome any information that can be provided on the Tower board.

The ACC website: When doing your research, don't forget that this site now contains a gallery of many photos of cribbage boards, as well as a gallery of all my previous articles. Your questions may be answered right on your screen!

I have touched on only the most common methods that we use to learn about our cribbage boards. It takes time, good connections, and sometimes just plain luck to accomplish the goal of discovery! In the meantime, keep on collecting those boards so that their histories can be preserved.

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