The Bill Price Collection

Throughout Britain’s long history of colonialism much of the foreign territory was directed by high-ranking British officers and administrators positioned over local governments and forces. Many spent their leisure time playing various games which were often common to the country they lived in. Mahjong became a past time for some, and when these expatriots returned home they brought with them many well crafted mahjong sets that are now antiques highly sought after by collectors.

Many from the Estates of such people, you will appreciate that this is a diminishing source of sets so there is a growing demand amongst existing Collectors who wish to acquire sets to add to their Collections. Ebony backed sets are in demand as are unusual boxes which display well.

Bill Price

William Price (75), born 1943, is a retired banker who spent much of his working life in various regions on the African continent. He retired to Durban, South Africa where he found his first vintage mahjong set in 1985 and developed a fascination with the hand carved detail of suit tiles and the artistic design of their boxes. Bill returned to the United Kingdom, the country of his birth, in 2010 where he continued his collection and plays British mahjong a few times per month.

From: United Kingdom
Favorite Tile: 1-sou. (There’s a lot of variety in the carving of the birds.)

Of particular interest to Bill are sets with unusual boxes and large numbers of flower tiles, especially those designed with sequenced tiles that build a picture or tell a story.

Sequenced flower tiles creating a flying peacock scene.

When asked about how this pursuit of vintage mahjong sets has impacted his life, Bill had this to say:

I am a hunter by nature and seeking out unusual sets gives me a project in my retirement years. Being applauded for my “good eye” when showing the sets off is uplifting. However, the real importance, as so much in life, is the positive impact of being in contact with my mahjong friends and sharing experiences with them.

Bill Price

The gallery below is just a sample of Bill’s collection which highlights the variety and uniqueness of his collection.

“This is a Vietnamese box which contained a Bone and Bamboo set of 148 tiles. I found it in France and suspect it will have been bought by someone working in ‘Indo China'”
“This is one of the very first 16 flower bone and bamboo sets I purchased. I call it the “Marriage set” but since I used that term the sinograms have been interpreted and it recognizes a celebration but not necessarily a marriage.”
“This set is Chinese Bakelite—it has only 148 tiles but I suspect it to be extremely rare. Such extensive engraving is normally reserved for bone or ivory tiles. The Chinese New Years are most uncommon and the hawk on world one-Bam is unusual but not so rare.”
“This is a carved cinnabar box which contains the Chinese Bakelite set. [above] Beautifully carved on all sides and is a wonderful display item.”

Do you have a collection of mahjong sets or ephemera that you would like to share? Contact Riichi Reporter and we’ll share your collection at the end of this month!