I came across this unusual German dexterity game on an online collectibles site a couple months ago.  I loved the detailed lithography of the young woman’s face and the tiny dice.  It seems like the object of this particular game is to roll the same number on both dice simultaneously.

Barbara Levine, a curator with an interest in idiosyncratic collections, presented a display of antique dexterity games at the San Francisco Public Library in 2002.  The history of these games, according to her website:

Dexterity puzzles – also known as palm puzzles, games of skill and hand-held games – have been a source of fascination for adults and children since the Nineteenth Century.

The simple hand-eye challenge of rolling a ball into a hole, or sliding, nudging and tilting a capsule through a maze, has proved to be among the most delightful, maddening, and enduring diversions of the modern age, despite, or perhaps because of its sheer simplicity.  Soon after the games became popular with the public beginning in the late 1800s, they were produced in large numbers in the United States, England, France, Japan and Germany. The games could be found in doctors’ offices, train stations, and in rainy-day game rooms of seaside resorts - in essence, anywhere that required waiting.  They were even nicknamed “patience games.”

But whether straightforward or tricky, dexterity puzzles are objects of popular culture, as reflections of history, as advertisements, illustrations and graphic design they are a rich and revealing world…  

Each manufacturing country tended to use different materials and graphics.  French games were typically glass and cardboard boxed sets with ornate patterned paper and lids.  German puzzles were round glass-topped with chromolithographed tin and often included a mirror on the reverse.  Games made in the United States were usually square and made of inexpensive tin and cardboard.  The firm of R. Journet and Company of London designed more than one hundred innovative glass-top dexterity games beginning in 1891 and contuing through the 1960’s. Japanese puzzles are usually round and double sided including two games in one.  Dexterity games are affectionately known as your grandfather’s gameboy and  included in this exhibition are also a few of the earliest electronic hand held games.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 19th, 2010 at 2:53 am and is filed under Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment

1.  Betty
July 15th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Barbara Levine has fantastic examples of palm puzzles. viewing these is a real treat! Its surely a reminder that entertainment does not have to have bells and whistles or be complicated. Let’s hear it for hand-rendered art!
Wonderful post. Thank you.


Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)