There’s a deli about a half mile away from my office. I drop in there several times a month for “take it with me” lunch. And what I tended to get was always: Honey wheat bread, lettuce, tomato, no mayo, chicken salad. It got so that when they saw me coming through the door, they already had the ticket made up and were starting on my sandwich.

A couple weeks ago I changed the bread to “sour dough.” Easier to grip, tasty (I thought), and a little more filling. Anyhoo, now the first question they ask is, “Sourdough?”

My Mom clued me in on “bread starter” when I was a kid and now I’ve found another use for STARTER. As in Promotion.


I picked up two items I have been waiting for (6 months), almost Complete!

Off and on I have been telling customers, devotees, and anyone else who would listen about the new boxes I have had made specifically for the Grand Turk of Amritsar set I have been selling. Remember? Those chessmen made of budrosewood and boxwood? So elegant and a massage to your wallet which is hard to resist (by the way, I got a few more in recently, the ones with the black leather bottoms–perfect for engraving).

The boxes were beautiful. I have names for them, but I might change that. I hate to admit it, but for advertising purposes it can be crucial. One I call the Taj Mahal because it does such a fabulous job of housing the Grand Turk (did you know that in today’s money the Taj cost a BILLION dollars to build?) The Other I have called Topkapi Palace, another beautiful place, in Turkey I think where they made the movie.

The boxes are complete except for one thing and that one thing should be here October 21 I have been informed by the manufacturers. That is a COIN featuring a bust of Paul Morphy, the American Chess Genius, modeled after one by S. Gage circa 1859. I actually possessed this “coin,” (that’s what they call them) maybe 20-25 years ago.

• The thing is, the coin will be centered into the lid to give you easy directions on how to open the box. And that box is a work of art and L-O-V-E-L-Y to behold. The lid itself has 5-6 interior magnets to hold it closed so there is NO need for a lock (or a key to lose.)

• What’s also interesting is that on each side of the lid there is a “groove” put there for three reasons:

•• 1) To make the lid easy to grasp and open;

•• 2) aesthetics. A gorgeous touch;

•• 3) to “air” the pieces. Airing the pieces is recommended for budrosewood, especially the newer variety, as budrosewood is a sensitive piece of hard wood and if left in the open, or in a box which has openings, it remains clean and luxurious. Otherwise, over time it may garner some dust particles (from the wood)  which can easily be dismissed by a brush or soft cloth (included in the King’s Strongbox which we offer separately).

That’s all good, but

There’s More!

The woods comprising these two boxes (and only two boxes) vary among walnut, mahogany, maple (trim) and paduak (trim and interior). I’m not breaking it all down now because I don’t have the pictures yet, maybe this weekend. I am sure everyone wants to see pictures before the mad scramble.

I wasn’t completely finished with the lid yet.

• The brass hinging is totally first class, not that lacklustre stuff used in India (and elsewhere), looking as if it was found in an 1860s hardware shop: grubby, rusty, pitted, etc

Ours works smoothly and looks snappy.

Okay, let’ get to the inside.

The secret behind these two beauties is something I have never seen before, especially as it pertains to wooden chessmen.

The PIECES STAND UP (except for the Kings)!!!

• No jostling in the boxes, no divider separating the dark and the light pieces.

• You can instantly see if all the pieces are in the box without groping around looking for extra pawns or other pieces.

• There are no ugly dividers for the King, or Queen, or Knights like I have seen in some very expensive boxes in the recent past. If you know what a “trapezoid” looks like you know what I am referring too. Comically bad.

• And here is one “feature” I really do not like, that is thankfully “missing,” no sponge rubber or other substance with “cutouts” for where the pieces go. I have opened up modern Staunton set boxes with this fake sponge where the cutouts are so snug (i.e., tight) you have to dig your fingers deep (if you can!) to pull out the pieces. Imagine how exciting it is to put them back in their places? After doing that 2-3 times, the set has lost some of its allure for me. Is this limited to House of Staunton sets? No. I have seen this “solution” in lots of sets from Europe and India too. And when you look at some of this spongey cretinous stuff several years later it has lost its spring as it crumbles. Yech. No cloth solutions either.

• What Kirk has done with his original and fertile mind is to create a template for either a “grid” or “portholes” where the pieces can be easily retrieved and yet “sit” fairly comfortably into a base with the right measurements concerning the base size for the pieces. In effect, these templates were made for the Grand Turk sets. If by chance you find a “fit” for other sets which have a 4 inch King, well you are the LUCKY ONE. Kirk also used a green, spray on flocking for the inside of the box making all the pieces fit nicely!

• Now, the Kings. Well, you have to see this solution to believe it but through an idea we borrowed from Marie Antoinette, the Kings lie horizontally inside the box “over” the other pieces! I told Kirk he was a “genius.” He kept his impish smile. Are Dutchmen replete with impish smiles?

• Since the Grand Turk  set comes with 2 budrosewood queens and 2 boxwood queens, there are places for these 4 Queens. Everything fits perfectly. Don’t abuse the woodwork and you will have it crisp forever. We are looking into providing another accessory: a cloth carrying case lined with foam to forestall an unintentional mishap. These have yet to be made and are not necessary if you are never going to take the set and box out of your home. Some will have these pieces as hi-grade furniture on a coffee table or in a study or den. (By the way, as if I didn’t have to remind you, but I will–don’t leave these pieces around children.)

• We’re near the end. But I want to write a little about the wood. Kirk has used only premium woods. No pine or cheap pressed wood (like they are using in China these days for both pieces AND boards!)

Mahogany: I had a desk made of this once, expensive and beautiful.

Paduak: a red trim which is exotic and noticeable. It is so eye-catching you would have to be Stevie Wonder to not notice it. It makes such a huge difference.

Maple: Often used in squares of a chessboard. Hard and beautiful. Lastly,

Walnut: Well, most of us know walnut as a firm, great color, and not used on anything to be sold from Hobby Lobby.

A couple other things: Except for the hinging, nothing is nailed, screwed or welded in these boxes. We used DOVETAIL corners on the boxes and superstrong glue (he said, “Stronger than Gorilla Glue in my opinion.”) Everything was fitted. And, due to the grain of the woods used, no two will be alike, but on the otherhand, these two boxes are prototypes, the first of hopefully a line of first grade excellence. All others will be modeled after these.

Realize This… Please

There is only one of each. If something should happen, heaven-forbid, to Kirk or Bob (me) that most likely would be the end of the line. Craftsmen are ticklish about doing someone else’s projects. Or there may be a wood shortage of some kind necessitating a price rise (have we ever seen it (prices) go down?

Scarcity is for real!

And the annoying thing: Kirk won’t be able to work on more of these boxes again until AFTER Christmas! He told me yesterday that he has some other projects to finish. So, if you are looking for a gift for yourself or someone else, Christmas, whatever… I am not hyping, I would simply and calmly yell FIRE! and get it now!

I don’t have the pictures taken yet, but if you want to know more, see the boxes from outside and inside, email me your name and address and I will get them to you, by Tuesday (Sept. 30). My friend Carol will be recovering from knee surgery starting Monday, but I will stay in touch either this weekend or Tuesday. I will send the extra information to you. It definitely will be on a first come-first served basis.


When I took each box out of their packaging and showed them to my friend Carol, she gasped. Immediately I said, “Whatsa matter?” I was afraid I might get that “WD,” the woman’s disapproval some of us know about. Instead she replied, “These are absolutely beautiful… gorgeous.” Whew, it passed the ultimate test.

Thus, there are several ways we can do this:

1) Buy it sight unseen (I don’t recommend this one because some of us are “different.”) But if you WANT to be first in line, you have to pay for that privilege. Sort of like an Apple iPhone6 release.

2) Tell me right away you want pictures. Respond right away. Send money right away and an accompanying email telling me this (

3) Get the pictures to mull over while knowing those who send payment first will get theirs first. Everyone else will be on a waiting list. If I sell one, hopefully, that will leave one left. Get that one or wait until after Xmas to get the other one.

4) Do nothing. Pictures will eventually be in my catalogs, maybe on a web site (I am talking with someone about that right now), or in my newsletter.

Since I don’t have pictures out yet, HOW can you choose which one you would want? I have a story on that. Years ago, early 80s, I ran into a similar situation. A couple, from Florida. She, nicely dressed, white slacks, nice shoes, and a blousey top. A babe. He: Hawaiian style shirt hanging out, over his slacks, sandles, and, 2 gold chains around his neck. Nice enough guy though no Mr. T. He and she were arguing over which item to purchase. I ambled over and said, “I bet I can help you!” Without stubbing his lips, he said, “Get both?” All of us laughed. And they did.

Thus there is always that option. I don’t count on it, but as I’ve told Carol before, “Don’t assume, you can’t always know (without clues) what a customer might do (and I’ve been at this a long time).”

So let’s say you are just interested in getting one box.

I know the time Kirk put in on these, off and on. He lives a couple miles from here, so I did see the progress and was involved in the design sessions, and you know I can be fussy about stuff like this! Future boxes “may be a little less expensive” because he has the template, but he will also be involved in buying more woods and still have to do the time intensive dovetail jointing and cutting. Then of course is the finishing. It’s hard to cut much “time” on stuff like this. Plus, there is “tool time.” He must own ONE of every kind of tool in the woodworker’s universe.

I am aware of what a “red leather” casket cost when we sold ONE of the Fischer-Spassky sets of 1972. It was a lot and that was 40 years ago. A $750 worth of a lot! Made in London. A sold that one to a guy out West. So I will tell you up front, before I even get the pictures done, this will be $1,595.00 plus $39.95 for shipping. Don’t STOP reading.

Kirk and I sat there noodling. I told him about some chess players and their desire to get a lot for a little. Such as a 600 page chess book for $5.00, in hardcover, and with algebraic notation and photographs in more than one color. So we know we might have to market this for collectors or even people who know next – to – nothing about chess but who like BSO (bright shiny objects).

The price is fair, which means nothing to a bargain hunter. I’m not in the mood to go to Marshall Field’s in Chicago to shop this idea although, who knows?

So Kirk was thinking, “Wouldn’t we want to make a lot of these?” Here I am thinking of Carol who is often reminding me about her “ship” coming in! He said he was willing to shave his cost some, and I said, “Okay, I’ll match that. The problem is, from the “retail” angle, we only have two and you’ve already told me you can’t do anymore until after Christmas.”

So, like in most negotiations, it’s about buyer’s/seller’s remorse.

At this point a lightbulb went on. “Kirk, we don’t know what next year will bring, so it’s probably a good idea for me to get my investment back sooner rather than later. For you, what’s the problem? You’ve already been paid! I haven’t.”

So, I decided that for the time being (up to Christmas) we would take paid orders at $1,395.00. And in addition to that, I would include the Morphy Coin inserted into the lid, for FREE. (You can get the boxes now and forget the coin or have it shipped to you when the coin becomes available.) Those aren’t exactly throw aways and he did say the “antique bronze look would be perfect against the woods I am using.”

I can’t drop the shipping as I am going to have to take it to a shipping company and have it insured and corrugated to beat the band.

I am willing to answer a few questions since I may not have remembered everything about the benefits of owning this box but I will say this: “If you want to hear oohs and ahs from your friends, this is the perfect place to start.” One of my Floridian friends called it “snob appeal.”

But like those commercials for Ginzu Knives where they keep piling on the extras, I am willing to add on one more thing.

You know those Grand Turk sets I wrote about? The ones with the black leather bottoms which sell for $995.00 and the same set with the green felt bottoms at $895.00 (but you can’t burn initials very comfortably on the bottom of the green felts)? I’ll drop the price on either of those $100 IF you get one of these boxes. Shipping is an extra $25.00 for the Grand Turk. “Final Offer?” (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) The offer for these two items is good only through Dec. 25th, 2014. And you could save $300 right away (The Grand Turks are in stock.)

By the Way

I did tell Carol that even millionaires want to save money (so, I am told).

My email address is — my PHONE number is 563-271-6657. If you are from out of the USA shipping charges will be arranged through DHL, and likely will be extra.

We do have other chess sets in other woods but that will be an offer for another time. Today is D-Day for this fabulous box and/or set. Naturally you would want to consider becoming a member of the Paul Morphy Club. More about that later.


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