Why Collect Vintage Games?

“With all the video, computer and Internet games available to kids these days, why would anyone want to buy vintage board or card games!” That sentiment was conveyed to me by Jason, a longtime business colleague. When I informed Jason that just the other day I had a customer who purchased not one but four vintage games from Dogbotz Boneyard, one of which was fully designed, written, and produced during pre-World War II Germany, he was amazed. “Wow! Really?” was all he could say.

As a former editor of fantasy role-playing games in the 1980s for TSR, Inc., the then-producer of Dungeons & Dragons and its various spawn, I learned that play in all of its diverse formats is a fundamental human endeavor. The ancient Romans termed that concept homo ludens, “the playful man.” In fact, much can be learned about a culture by studying how its citizens approach the idea of play. Anthropologists and sociologists have done much research in this arena, and from archaeological discoveries, we have learned that some of the basic components of play are several millennia old — dice, sticks, tokens, and even playing tiles or cards. These are devises we still use to this very day for play. Even the more “modern” games such as Go, Halma, Mahjong, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, and those based on the standard 52-card, four-suit card deck are all antique, if not ancient, and are the progenitors to Old Maid, Stratego, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Scrabble, and so forth.

So, contemporary collectors of vintage games are sometimes motivated to add to their collections because they appreciate the historic perspective a game might convey. For example, the very rare 1890 Game of Dr. Busby is a sought-after card game because of its less-than-politically correct portrayals of  African Americans, caricatures that were rampant prior to and well beyond the turn of the 19th century.

Another impetus, which follows alongside historic appreciation, is the artwork created to illustrate the various components of a game. Board games, for instance, have been around since Victorian times. These games were beautifully lithographed and generally had intricately detailed artwork, playing pieces and storage containers. The oldest board games, whether manufactured in the U.S.A. or Europe, are hot commodities in today’s collectible market, the rarest selling for a minimum of $10,000. Turning to more recent times and remembering the artist contracts that I drafted as a game editor, I can guarantee you that the collectibility of the artwork (both color and grayscale) that has populated heroic fantasy and science fiction role-playing games since the 1980s  is . . . well, let’s just say, a huge market.

The more iconic a game becomes, the more its variants may become collectible as well, which makes the vintage game market more dynamic. Think about it! How many versions of Monopoly are there? I am not merely talking about the different editions of the standard game or its computer or Internet versions but the thematic diversity the essence of the game has engendered. Austin-opoly, Gay Monopoly, and, even one Dogbotz Boneyard has for sale, Dino-opoly — all of these are the thematic grandchildren (or perhaps, step-children) of an old master.

Finally, and with prevalency among the Baby Boomer generation, the desire to recapture one’s childhood is a motivating factor for many who collect vintage games. Therefore, some Boomer collectors seek to purchase the vintage Dark Shadows board game for the same reasons that they watched the similarly named Tim Burton film that brought to life almost 50 years later perhaps the oddest of all TV soap operas ever written and produced.  And so it goes with the Dukes of Hazard game or the Man from U.N.C.L.E. game or even images of Jerry Mathers himself in the numerous Leave It to Beaver games featuring different storylines.

Historical appreciation, beautifully designed and artistic components, thematic diversity and childhood regained are some of the reasons that I believe people collect vintage board and card games. But perhaps the most important of all is, quite simply, it’s a lotta fun!

If you are a collector of vintage games, or if you are seeking to start a games collection, here are great examples of vintage board and card games as well as other vintage toys and models available through the Playthings department of Dogbotz Boneyard.

Now it’s your turn to roll the dice or play a card!

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

Advertisements

Outsider Art: Raw, Naïve, and Psychic — or Mad, Fantastic, and Psychotic?

When we announced in our recent Dogbotz Boneyard newsletter that our August art exhibit would feature folk and outsider artists, many of you indicated that you weren’t sure what the term outsider artist meant or what sort of art to expect for sale at the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art.  Readers indicated that they knew what folk art entailed (and many others thought they did), but not too many were sure about outsider art. Well, here’s what we know — and we’ll try to contain it in the proverbial nutshell.

Historically, the term outsider art was first coined in 1972 by art critic Roger Cardinal, who was trying to define in English the concept of art brut (“raw art” in French), a label that had been created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe artwork created outside the periphery of official culture. In particular, Dubuffet was interested in art created by those outside the “established” art scene such as children, beggars or the homeless, or mentally ill patients.

The actual awareness of the forms or creative expressions beyond the accepted or traditional cultural norms, which were defined by the realm of academia or “fine art,” began with the research studies conducted by psychotherapists in the early 20th century. The most significant work of that era was Artistry of the Mentally Ill, a documented study by Dr. Hans Prinzhorn, who collected thousands of works created by his psychiatric patients. This study became an influential document among the Surrealists and other artists.

One artist particularly affected by the artwork Prinzhorn presented to his peers as well as to the general public was Jean Dubuffet. With the assistance of regional artists and writers, Dubuffet formed in 1948 La Compagnie de l’Art Brut and then sought and collected works of extreme individuality and inventiveness by artists who were not only untrained but also often had little concept of an art gallery or even any other forms of art other than their own.

Dubuffet’s concept of what constituted L’Art Brut, or Raw Art, were those works that existed in their “raw” state, unaffected by cultural and artistic influences that defined fine art of the day. Dubuffet gathered a vast collection of thousands of works, those which bore no relation to developments in contemporary art yet were innovative and powerful expressions of a wide range of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists had little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work was discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrated extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.

Dubuffet’s great collection eventually found a permanent home in the city of Lausanne, France, and La Collection de l’Art Brut is now one of the most powerful and overwhelming outsider art museums to be found anywhere in the world. Today, an increased awareness of all the diverse works of outsider artists has led to a network of small organizations in both Europe and the United States devoted to the preservation of such works and the support of their creators. Similar collections to the one in Lausanne have been established in many countries, and exhibitions of different aspects of the phenomena are a regular occurrence.

DEFINITIONS

Ever since awareness of the phenomenon began, controversy has surrounded the exact definition of outsider art and its allied fields. Therefore, we provide you with some definitions that, as an art enthusiast or collector, may help you understand the differences.

Art Brut: “Raw art” (English translation) is artwork that is metaphorically “uncooked,” which is to say that it is artwork unadulterated by the culture from which it originates. Raw  implies creation in its most direct and uninhibited form. Not only are the works unique and original, but their creators are seen to exist outside established culture and society. Art Brut is visual creation at its purest, a spontaneous psychic flow from brain to paper.

Neuve Invention: Dubuffet soon realized that many artists were producing works of comparable impact and inventiveness as those designated as Art Brut; however, their greater contact with normal society and the awareness they had of their art precluded their inclusion within the strict Art Brut category. These folks are often humble workers who create art in their spare time, or eccentric and untrained artists trying to make a living from their work — some of whom have dealings with commercial galleries.

Outsider Art: Today, this term not only encompasses the concepts of Art Brut and Neuve Invention but also refers to the works of almost any untrained artist. It is simply not enough to be untrained, clumsy or naive. Outsider art is virtually synonymous with Art Brut in both spirit and meaning, to that rarity of art produced by those who do not know its name.

Folk Art: This simple and direct term has become much used — and over-used — especially in North America. Originally pertaining to the indigenous crafts and decorative skills of peasant communities in Europe, the term was later applied to the simply made practical objects of colonial days — a combination of charm and practical craftsmanship. In contemporary terms, folk art can now cover anything from chain-saw animals to hub-cap buildings. The crossover with outsider art is undeniable; however, most folk art emanates from a set of cultural traditions  and societal norms, which are often vastly different from the psychic flow of Art Brut.

To test your skills of identification, we’ve added some examples of outsider art intermingled with folk art that will be available through the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art in the coming weeks as part of our “Folk & Outsider Art” exhibit. Can you properly identify which pieces are outsider art as opposed to folk art? If you can, send us an e-mail at info@dogbotz.com indicating the art category of each piece and win a prize!

Enjoy the new exhibit as it unfolds in the weeks ahead,

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com