A Fine c.1880 Carved Bone Scrimshaw Sailors Dice Holder & Dice

Origin: English
Period: Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1875-1900
Width: 1.5 inches square

The beautiful bone dice holder modelled as a dice with scrimshaw carved playing card decoration, sliding cover to reveal compartment containing six bone dice, the side decoration to include the Queen of spades, King of spades and Jack of spades survives from the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Attractively designed and wonderfully tactile, the condition of this well proportioned example is excellent with no cracks or chips to the bone and the slide off cover is fully operational. The whole could be cleaned if so desired but we prefer to leave it as is.

We have found one dice box similar to this selling in 2012 though that did not have the maritime theme that we have here, rather just the simple playing card faces. This style of artwork is similar to items presented to young ladies by their sweethearts, often given as a love token and created on New England whaling ships.

This gaming aid would have been used in taverns in the late nineteenth century and possibly on ships of the same period, hence the maritime theme. Dice appears to be among the earliest pieces of specialized gaming equipment used by humans, having been used throughout Asia since before recorded history, the oldest known examples being a 3000-year-old set unearthed at an archaeological site in southeastern Iran. Notable dice games have included Hazard, a game popular in Europe from the 14th through the 18th centuries, Chuck-a-luck, a related game also known as birdcage and Craps, which replaced Hazard in popularity during the 19th century and which would have no doubt been the game of choice when using this particular set of dice.

Once you’ve picked this up it’s incredibly hard to put down again. Snake eyes.