In the summer months, our family, like many families around the country, has fun with a few yard games.
A vintage outdoor yard game that comes out from year to year is the collectible croquet set. Various versions date back to mid-19th century Europe, but the game actually started to gain an interest in 1851 in England, where it became popular in high society, where garden parties began to be referred to as croquet parties.
It was a British sporting goods manufacturer named John Jaques who presented colorful croquet sets at the first World’s Fair. It became popular with young women, since they were shut out of most sports and it was felt that croquet was a safe game.
Later, while croquet was on the decline in England, it was becoming the latest thing in America. In 1865, the Newport Croquet Club was formed in Rhode Island.
Today there are many antique sets on the market in excellent condition with all their original pieces. Some of the newer sets are starting around $75 on up to vintage sets around $250 to $300, though some are selling at $150-$175 online with missing wickets.
Ann Collins at Churn Dash Antiques, Rochester said, “The croquet game sets that we sell range in price from about $20 to $75, depending on age and completeness. Young to old folks buy them — to use, but also to collect, Some collect the entire set, some just the balls, and some just the posts.”
Brenda Jannsen, Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona said, “One late afternoon we had a dealer bring in a vintage croquet set to display on the porch. The next morning we had customers (four sisters) waiting outside anxiously when we arrived at the store. They were squabbling over who would be the fortunate one to purchase the croquet set! After a lovely time of shopping in the store, the happy winner proudly took the set home to the chagrin of the other three ladies. And yes, we do have another croquet set currently in the store.”
Another fun outdoor game is the classic horseshoes. Henry St. Pierre, who owed a steel business in Worcester, Mass., decided to expand his business in 1931 and turned to something a little bit unexpected. At the time he found that the demand for tire chains was slowing down during the summertime, so he put his workers to work forging pitching horseshoes. By 1934, he modified the shoes by adding pronged ends for catching the stake, being called the Royal model. In 1966, St. Pierre passed away, but the family still is continuing with the business and to this day the Royal model is still being used.
Collins said, “We also have old shuffleboard poles and discs, bocce ball, and horseshoes, all in the $20-$75 price range. Also lots of tennis racquets, badminton racquets, old golf clubs, baseball mitts, baseballs and more.”
Sarah Kieffer, Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s “Man”tiques, St. Charles, has just those mantique items. “Some outdoor games, the old croquet sets, horseshoes and even the yard darts,” she said.
Playing outdoor games one needs a vintage metal chair. Of course you can go to the local big box store and buy new, but it sure isn’t like the 1950s colorful tubular-steel frame that probably was a match to the metal glider from that era as well. We also called them the “motel chairs.”
I found mine along a curb when someone decided to toss it, needed a little fix, fresh paint and good to go. Today, these sturdy metal chairs are eagerly collected. Some collectors repaint them in vivid hues of red, yellow, lime green and turquoise, going back to the ’50s, and attach a padded seat cover to match the color of the chair.
Some collectors do appreciate a worn and weathered look of a metal lawn chair that has survived many seasons outdoors. Vintage metal lawn chairs carry a price tag of $25 to $175 at some antique shops or flea markets where dealers are aware of their popularity. However, bargains can still be found at tag/garage sales, salvage yards and junk shops.
For more information on these timeless treasures and ideas check-out “Garden Junk,” by Mary Randolph Carter.