Classic Chess sets, such as the Staunton variety, tend to involve looking back into the past, as opposed to the future. We seldom think about what will become of our luxury chess sets, but it stands to reason that the really high quality and super luxury sets will hopefully remain treasured in your family for generations to come.
The issue facing fine luxury chessmen, and indeed all other luxury hardwood items is the ecological situation surrounding the woods used to make them. Ebony, Rosewood, & Red Sandalwood are the most commonly used woods and certainly some of the most desirable. Yet ever year the price of these woods goes higher as the socks run low and governments across the world impose restrictions on the further deforestation of these woods.
One issue we face is that the trees that bear these woods take many years to grow, indeed some can be over 100 years old when cut down and harvested. This means that any re planting schemes are extremely long term efforts that probably wont sure up any supply problems in the coming decades.
Already countries like India are trying to impose export sanctions on luxury hardwoods, countries like Brazil have completely banned the export of their precious rosewood much to the dismay of the luxury musical instrument industry. As pressure from the environmentalists mount, and governments bow down to the scientific consensus it’s realistic to assume that supply of luxury chess sets is going to shrink.
The UK’s most prominent online chess retailer is feeling the pain of this situation with the supply of their solid ebony chess boards. The boards come in a variety of sizes and are made from huge chunks of defect free black ebony. The results are quite stunning. Being the only retailer in the UK to offer such boards the demand is high, despite the very high price.
However obtaining enough stock to fulfil the orders is a constant challenge. Suppliers complain that it’s hard to source enough of the high grade woods and the prices are increasing every month. The costs of the wood are now scaring some wood workers out of using those woods through fear of making a mistake on a chess product and having to throw the item into the reject bin. Something that then pushes the overall price up further.
In the eyes of the consumer this situation isn’t having much of an impact yet. They can still buy excellent chess products at good prices, often artificially low at present due to failing chess businesses selling off stock cheap to maintain some cash flow. However this will be short lived and the days of being able to buy luxury wooden chess pieces at an affordable price will soon be behind us.
The only advantage to consider is that in future generations the finest chess sets made from the best grades of endangered hardwoods will increase in value and collectibility. One just has to look at the price of musical instruments that contain Brazilian Rosewood, in some cases they are worth thousands of pounds now! Given the price of classic antique chess sets these days it’s a fair assumption that the finest chessmen at today’s new prices will represent superb investment opportunities!