| Mah Jongg through the Generations
After the current year’s card, the most popular Mah Jongg-related items purchased seem to be Mah Jongg sets. Although it is not a requirement to own one, most players have at least one set, and many have more.
While the majority of us buy Mah Jongg sets new, there are many who play with antique or vintage sets. Some players have a collection of sets because they love the look and diversity of the sets. Many of these sets can be purchased at estate sales or on internet sites. These sets are generally sold by people who don’t play Mah Jongg; often their descriptions of the merchandise contain generic terms and disclaimers that they are uncertain whether the sets are complete, or the names of the tiles. These sets are often purchased for hundreds of dollars if they are complete.They go to a new home as part of a collection or to be played with for years to come.
Although I don’t own a vintage one myself, I have played with many of these sets, often composed of tiles made from Bakelite, a popular material used for many years. Tiles might also have been made from bone, ivory, and bamboo. These tiles may have imperfections, such as worn imprints due to aging, but that is part of their beauty. Sometimes the new owner purchases stickers to better identify the Jokers. The stickers may help to define the tile as a Joker, but other symbols are used in place of the Joker. It’s not unusual for the vintage set owner to announce to the other players that the butterflies, or initials, or blanks in that set designate the Jokers