Although there is evidence that Romans played backgammon on special boards, the games table did not become popular until the concept of the Medieval ‘great hall’ gave way to the building of smaller homes (called hotels in France) with individual rooms for different functions.
One room was designated for games of chance. Gambling was rampant amongst the aristocracy and required furniture for that purpose. Enter the Games Table. Most of the early 18th century examples were custom-made and based on the client’s favorite games.
By the early 19th century, after-dinner parlor entertainments, such as cards, backgammon and chess, became fashionable and these tables, designed to blend in with the family’s other furnishings, grew in popularity.
There are numerous iterations. Some have four legs, others have a single pedestal base. Many styles have tops that fold in half. In order to open them, one must flip the ‘lid’ and twist it a full turn in order to support it on its base. There are pieces where the lid, once exposed, is decorated with an inset chess or backgammon board. Most are covered with green baize – the same coarse material that looks like felt and is most often associated with pool tables. All have a drawer for storing cards and game pieces.
This version is called a ‘handkerchief’ table because it opens the way a handkerchief would – for those of you who remember pre-Kleenex days.
Such tables continue to be popular today. The most commonly used woods are mahogany, walnut and less often, satinwood. Prices are based on several factors: age, condition, quality and sum of special details such as wood grain, carving, storage drawers, and more. Prices range from $500 and up.