An Amateur Collector’s Journey


Back in July 2015 when the “MahJongg That’s It”  FaceBook  page had a contest to award one of our memberships, several participants asked if we could do a piece on Collecting Antique Mahjongg Sets, show some sets, teach us how to assess their value, and give some guidance on collecting sets.

Well, I am in no way an expert in that topic, but I must admit I have the Mahjongg bug badly, and part of my “bug” means I am often trolling the internet about all things Mahjongg.  Also, because of a local newspaper article done on our site, I was given a gift of a lovely old set, which began my journey to appreciate an old set.

I was lucky to find Johni from LA, whom I will call Expert #1.   She took a look at the tiles via pictures and helped me to decide what to do about stickers (see my blog on that topic in the archives).   Additionally, she told me the set I was given was a beauty and gave an approximate value.  So expert #1 – Johni Levene, in LA is definitely a resource you want to work with if you want to start collecting old sets.  She has hundreds, and has a great site you can shop at.  She even founded the American Collectors Association.

Another resource (Expert #2) that I have found invaluable is located in Virginia. I first used her site to get stickers for my set to put on spare tiles I had.  They are gorgeous and unique and highly recommend them.   But “CHarli” ‘s website has helped me much more than that.  She has a great “Book” on the site that can help you to identify the age and manufacturer of your set(s).  You just hover over pictures of tiles that look like yours, and with a bit of detective work to find the one on the site that matches yours, viola!  You know your set!

So with all that new found information, (and I must say, a little information CAN be dangerous) I decided to start looking for another “Antique Set”.  So I tromped off to EBay to test my auction skills and bid on a very interesting set and won it!  What a bargain!  $60 for a circa 1920s to 1930s Ivory Craft set!  Course I didn’t know that’s what it was when I bought it.  I discovered that’s what it was when it arrived.

I counted the days to when it would show up on my door.  Careful to check several times a day to be sure my new treasure would not sit out in the hot sun all day when the box would come.  And finally, the highly anticipated “set” arrived.  As I began to gently untape the heavily packaged box, I already could smell the musty smell.  Finally after the last paper was unwrapped there it was!  My new set:    dirty, smelly with all kinds of tiles missing and extra tiles interspersed.  The sides of most of the tiles were black with sticky muck.  The Red dragon (yes, dragon, not dragons) had gummy goo on it.  The White dragons (at least there were 2) were strangers to me – a blank tile with just a P on it.   There were unmatched tiles, tiles with nail polish on them, and definitely not enough to be a complete set.

I used to Rehab houses for a living, and loved the challenge of turning a wreck into a beauty.  And so I began this tile journey undaunted.     I immediately contacted Johni.  All excited about my new rehab project!

She offered to help me at first, but as we talked a bit more and she saw my pictures, she tried as gently as she could to tell me:  SEND IT BACK!  What a dog!

Again, undaunted I set out to find more collectors to help me complete my set.   I subscribed to  the Collectors magazine, a new, beautiful magazine.

There is no fairy tale ending on this saga yet.  But my heart is ruling my head on this one.  So I’ll keep you posted on my Amateur journey.  But the moral of the story is… beware of Ebay or other non-professional MahJongg sites.  And by all means, deal with a reputable collector.  Although you may pay a tad more, you are more apt to get what you pay for!