"Better Quality" Plastic Chess Sets from Wholesale Chess (USA)

sound67

The situation: You simply can't find *any* superior quality plastic chessmen in my country (Germany) - apart from the Philos Aurelius imitation wood set I reviewed (https://www.chess.com/forum/view/chess-equipment/decent-quality-tournament-size-plastic-polymer-set-from-philos-germany - which is also available in the US under various brands, but at a higher price), ALL there is are bargain-based pieces, with no or single weighting, and usually very crude. The most up-market "straight plastic" set available e.g. on German Amazon is one that equals the US$ 7.99 "Quality Club Chess Pieces" from Wholesale Chess. Not much beyond those - apparently the sellers here think there's no market for better quality plastic sets.. Well, I wanted a few nice plastic sets, so I had to look for them in Trumpland. 

I ended up buying six of the more up-market chess sets from Wholesale Chess (they were shipped from Madison, Alabama)  They offer a rather generous portfolio of sets in many different colours, with glossy and matte finish. And since the market situation for silicone and mousepad boards in Germany is just about as grim as the one for better plastic pieces, I added differently coloured versions of those as well. I'll attend to them later.

First off, I'd like to commend Wholesale Chess for speedy shipping and safe packaging. The sets were shipped on the same day I ordered, and arrived (via FedEx International Priority, the slightly pricier option) within less than 3 days, with no customs charges added. 

This is how the sets were packaged:

Apart from the "Premier Chess Pieces", which were in plastic bags, the other sets came within sepasrate carton boxes (again with plastic bags inside), one for each colour per set. Efficient, sensible.

Now unpacking ...

First up among the sets I picked are the ....

I. Premier Chess Pieces (Natural & Black)

In terms of "size for money", this is the cheapest set I ordered: US$ 24.99 for a weighted set with a king's size of 4.125" (10.5cm), with broad bases that require a 2.4" (60mm) field size board, as pictured.

My initial impressions of this set are fairly positive. The finish is "semi-glossy", there are very few defects on just a few pieces (mainly caused by glue), and the pieces are rather nicely detailed.

The set is well-weighted, at a total of 1.7kg (3.75 lbs - just as stated on the company's website). Surprisingly, the rooks are the heavies pieces - at 70g each. 

I ordered the "Premier Chess Pieces" in natural and black (ivory white & black is also available - no other colour combinations). The colour for white is rather like dairy cream, not beige as displayed on the homepage. But still sufficiently removed from stark white. I'm rather pleased with them:

This is a classic Staunton design - and I was rather delighted that the knights are nicely detailed:

I did not expect such nice sculpting at this price.

Now, the issue that always bugs me most about plastic sets: The seams from the molding. I am happy to report for this set, that, while the seams are certainly noticeable, they aren't atrociously obvious. Usually, the suppliers try to gloss over the seams by taking pictures from an angle that obscures them.

So I tried to capture them myself.

Not half bad, I think. That said, there were "noses" of plastic within the mitres of the bishops, but I could easily "knock" them off. The turrets of the rooks OTOH were very precisely molded,

Interestingly, the queens came with paper wraps around the crowns - but not the kings. That initially baffled me, until I unpacked them: the crowns are very sharp and pointy (as indicated by some reviewers), and they may actually hurt the player during a blitz game. I will probably have to sand down the edges on those. 

Other things I noticed about the "Premier Chess Pieces": the green felt bottoms are fairly thick - and all were precisely centered; and at least as of now, there are no rattling weights.

The individual weights for the different "classes" of pieces come down as follows:

King: 66g;

Queen: 54g;

Bishop: 49g;

Knight: 56g;

Rook: 70g;

Pawn: 42g.

Summing up, I think that these are a very good bang for the buck. Acceptable seams, good weighting, broad bases, few blemishes (a drop of glue on a few isolated pieces, two "noses" that needed to be taken off), very robust pieces for use and abuse. But be careful about those sharp crowns on the queens!

Bear with me as I add the remaining sets....

Eyechess

These are very nice.

By the way, Wholesale Chess is owned and operated by The House of Staunton.  Wholesale Chess used to be out of the state of Utah.  Alabama is The House of Staunton location.

sound67

II. Hastings Plastic Chess Pieces (Natural & Black)

Now, this confused me a little bit: The size of the Hastings Chess Set on Wholesale Chess is advertised as 4" - but the pieces I got are 3.875" (9.9cm) - as indicated on the carton box, too. I asked them about the discrepancy, and they said that the size is indeed as indicated and that they might correct this on the page. 

 

Anyway, this is another nice set, also at US$ 24.99 but smaller than the one above, and in matted finish.

 

 

For the Hastings pieces, the "natural" white is a tad more yellowish than on the "Premier" set - but again, not quite as much so as on the photos displayed by the company. 

 

 

Another well-balanced classic Staunton design, a bit more distinctive than the "Premier"s.

 

 

The knights are very well sculpted, and eerily similar to those of the Legend Allegria set:

 

 

The set is much(!) lighter than the first, coming in at 1.1kg (2.65 lbs). 

 

As for molding seams, partly because of the matte finish: barely noticeable.

 

 

No defects on this set, except (again) a couple of plastic "noses" in the bishops' mitres. You can see it on one of them in this image: (second from right).

 

 

But no glue spots here. The individual weight of the pieces is this:

 

King= 55g;

Queen = 45g;

Bishop= 37g;

Knight= 37g;

Rook= 41g;

Pawn= 23g.

 

Not as heavy as suggested on the homepage, but still very solid, not easy to tip.

 

 

Again, fairly thick green felt on the bottoms; the crowns of the queens are a bit pointy, too, but nowhere near as sharp as the ones on the "Premier" set. 

 

I love the knights on this set, and the good detail in general. Weight is a bit lacking, but that may make this set more appealing for speed chess. Again, no rattling weights as per delivery.

 

The board size for these should be smaller, the one pictured has 2.2" (55mm) squares.

 

A good deal at US$ 24.99 - though maybe not quite as good as the one before.

Charousek2002
House if Staunton plastic chess sets are the best on the market. There are the same type of these chess sets sold by other retailers but the used plastic is not same quality as HOS.
ShelbyLohrman
Charousek2002 wrote:
House if Staunton plastic chess sets are the best on the market. There are the same type of these chess sets sold by other retailers but the used plastic is not same quality as HOS.

Charousek2020,

I might have to take you on with this comment.  The HoS has some of the best products on the market, I grant them that.  But I will put up my Ultimate against anything he has in the plastic sets...and mine is less expensive too!

As for other vendors using sub-standard materials compared to the HoS with the Same products...I would check out other retailers sets first before making this claim.  What you are saying is they are running different materials through the same mold?  I doubt that.

Shelby Lohrman

American Chess Equipment

 

MikeDoolzinski

I'd put the Ultimate chess set against other plastic sets too. They are really nice. But.... Since you to raised the price of the Ultimate chess set up from $20.00 to $26.95, the $24.99 price tag is cheaper.

anat743

Super Weighted Chess Pieces in Drawstring Bag

I have these from.  £15.60

https://www.chessdirect.co.uk/cgi-bin/sh000001.pl?WD=plastic%20pieces&PN=Super-Weighted-Chess-Pieces-PSW08%2Ehtml#SID=52

sound67

III. Marshall Plastic Chess Pieces (Ivory & Burgundy)

The Marshall set is priced at US$ 27.99 for a set of 34 pieces with a king's height of 3.75" (9.5cm) in matte hard plastic. It's available in 4 color combinations, with ivory & natural (creme-colored) for white and black and burgundy for dark pieces.

Unfortunately, unlike e.g. Chess House, Wholesale Chess does not sell "half sets" of either one of those sets I ordered, so if you want one color to change, you'll have to buy a complete set again. That's a pity I think.

Anyway, this is another robust, classic Staunton design. 

The "ivory" pieces are truly stark white, more hospital white than actual ivory. In retrospect I might have chosen the "natural" version instead.

This time, the colours on the homepage accurately reflect what the pieces look like in "person". The dark pieces are deep burgundy, and I think they look quite stylish.

The knights in this set are also agreeably bulgy and well-scuplted, though not quite as expressive as the ones on the Hastings set.

Molding seams: Very unobtrusive, except when the bases aren't matched 100%:

There are almost no blemishes on this set except on the bases of a few pieces, otherwise it's really well-made. The green felt bottoms are particularly thick on this model, and perfectly centred - but a couple of them were a bit loose.

Weight-wise, the Marshall set sits in the middle between the Hastings and the Premier. The whole set comes down to 1.4kg (3.1lbs) - with a nicely low centre of gravity. For the individual pieces:

King= 68g;

Queen= 70g;

Bishop= 41g;

Knight= 50g;

Rook= 51g;

Pawn= 25g. 

This set did not have plastic "noses" inside the bishops' mitres.

This is another very likeable set, slightly more expensive and smaller than the Hastings, but more robust. Ideal for a quick game at the club I think.

sound67
ShelbyLohrman hat geschrieben:

What you are saying is they are running different materials through the same mold?  I doubt that.

Shelby Lohrman

American Chess Equipment

 

Indeed. That makes no sense at all. 

adnanalmadani

رائع ذوق جميل 

 

MikeDoolzinski

I have the Marshall set as well. As much as it is a standard the Ultimate set has the edge. The ultimate set is very controversial at the moment and that controversy is based solely on the color mix up. If you don't like the buttery color, wait for the re-issue in the industry standard colors and I promise you that you will see why those of us love the ultimate chess set so much.

Trust me... All the sets you purchased are fine sets and great choices. 

Some ask why I bought the Marshall set when I love the ultimate set. With the ultimate set being so controversial, I decided to keep it and use it on special occasions. With everything that surrounds this set it may one day become a collectors item. That's is why I plan on buying another ultimate buttery set before they are gone to leave in the box and put up. 20-30 years from now people are still going to be talking about that set. If there's interest in it and I can pull a set out that's mint. And another thing, when the re-issue drops, I want that set too. That will ride in my bag and this Marshall set will probably move on to a less fortunate home.

I'm from the 80s and I trashed my transformers and gi Joe's. Now that stuff is worth hundreds of dollars for stuff we paid almost nothing for. I'm might as well take a chance on this. Even if I'm wrong I still have a bomber set to play with in 20 years.

sound67

Yes, I saw the photos of the stark yellow Ultimate Set. Truly an acquired taste. wink.png

IV. The Collector Series 3.75" (Natural & Burgundy)

Before I purchased the sets I contacted Wholesale Chess, asking them which of their plastic sets had the least obtrusive molding seams - they answered "The Collector Series". Which turned out to be false.....

The Collector Series Plastic Set in 3.75" (9,5cm) is available in 4 colour combinations: ivory+black, ivory+burgundy, natural+black, and natural+burgundy. These again a matte-finish hard plastic pieces. A set of 34 costs US$ 31.99 in this size. When I unpacked the set it became obvious that Wholesale Chess and House of Staunton, as Eyechess pointed out above, are indeed one and the same.

The reason why this series is more expensive than the same/similar-size Hastings and Marshall sets may just be that it aims to be a reproduction of the original 1849 Staunton set. I can certainly see no reason concerning materials or manufacturing quality that would justify the higher price.

The deep burgundy colour is the same as the one in the Marshal set. The natural white is less yellowish than the Hastings, but a bit more cream-colored than the Premier.

As for the purported replica of an 1849 Staunton original: yes and no. Generally, yes. But both the knight and the rook I think aren't quite bulbous enough.

The knights are quite attractive though, but again - nowhere near as expressively detailed than the Hastings knights. Even the Premier set IMHO has better-developed knights.

As I said, Wholesale Chess recommended this set to me because of less prominent molding seams. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case: the seams are more prominent than on either the Hastings or the Marshall - they are closer to the ones in the inexpensive Premier set.

The set also had a few blemishes: plastic noses [on the ears of the knights this time). But no glue spots.

In terms of weight, the Collector Series in 3.75" is closer to the Hastings set than to the Marshall: 1.2kg (2.6lbs), with individual piesces at:

King= 71g;

Queen= 63g;

Bishop= 35g; (!)

Knight= 37g;

Rook= 41g;

Pawn= 22g.

The Marshall set seems much more robust.

While the Collector Series set, on the whole, is a fairly elegant looking plastic set, I would rate the three sets pictured above higher in terms of value for money.

sound67

V. The Collector Series 4" (Ivory & Black)

The larger version of the Collector Series from House of Staunton, with a king's size of 4" (10.2cm).

Except for the size and weight, pretty much everything I said above applies. The set is available in the same four colour combinations as the the smaller version.

Again, the "ivory" pieces are stark, hospital white. 

And the black pieces more like in a very dark grey, partly due to the matte finish:

What does set the Collector Series apart is the attempt to replicate the elegance of the original 1849 Staunton set - IMHO still the most beautiful "incarnation" of the style.

Unfortunately, the white set came with two queen with blemishes in the shape of rather nasty, and large, yellowish color marks. I tried to capture it here:

The other queen looks the same. There are similar, but *much* smaller stains on several of the other white pieces, too. I would suggest that if you want to avoid those, just order the set in "natural" white.

I contacted customer support about whether they can send me two replacement white queens. Let's see. Yes, they're only plastic pieces, but I bought 6 sets and 3 rollup boards from them after all. wink.png

The set is well-weighted, but not quite as heavy as the inexpensive Premier set. The whole set of 34 pieces weighs 1.5kg (3.3lbs). Individual weights are:

King= 78g;

Queen= 74g;

Bishop= 50g;

Knight= 52g;

Rook= 54g;

Pawn= 30g.

Note that the weighting here is more evenly balanced than the one on the smaller set.

This set clearly needs at least a 2.4" (60mm) quare size board (as pictured).

At US$ 34.99, this is the most expensive of the 6 sets I ordered, though you can almost always get a 10% discount on your order. Right now, they're advertising a 15% one for Valentine's Day.

No rattling weights in any of the Collector pieces either. They use pretty solid metal discs for weighting (as I could see from some loose felt bottoms). 

neveraskmeforadraw

I own the 3.75" Collector series plastic chess set, which I bought from Wvolesale chess, and I agree with everything @sound67 wrote regarding the poor quality of the pieces. I do like the design of the pieces a lot, but the quality is so poor that I wouldn't recommend anyone buying the set either from Wholesale chess, or House of Staunton.

sound67

I was surprised, too, to find the other three sets being of generally better value. Normally, if you attach your company's name to a product, especially if it's [slightly] more expensive than the other choices, I would expect it to be the better pick. Certainly, I would people advise against getting the ivory white pieces from the Collector model.

sound67

The 6th and final model I got from Wholesale Chess is the

VI. The Zurich Series (Natural & Black)

This model is only available in two combinations: ivory & black, natural & black. Which is a pity, since I find the design of these (especially the bulbous bishops, the characteristic knights and the hydrocephalus heads wink.png of the pawns) most attractive!

This is a 3.875" (9.8cm) size set, again made of matte hard plastic. 

Again, the "natural" pieces are agreeably dairy/cream-colored, rather than simply yellow. 

I really dig this design. Not as elegant certainly as the 1849/Collector series, but it's nicely quirky in a way.

The knights are well sculpted and characterful.

Defects: Well, the molding seams are more obvious than on either the Hastings and the Marshall sets, especially when the two halves are slightly mismatched, as they are on all four rooks:

Strangely, it's only that obvious on the rooks, but not on most of the other pieces.

Apart from the seams, there are also some inconsistencies from the molding on other pieces [little plastic blotches] that I did not find on the Hastings or Marshall. Of course, it's debatable how much the number of defects comes down to the manufacturing tolerance of isolated sets or batches.

Weight: 1.3kg (2.9lbs) total, a little lighter than the Marshall set. Individual weights are:

King= 65g;

Queen= 60g;

Bishop= 40g;

Knight= 43g;

Rook= 49g;

Pawn= 27g.

Again, all pieces have nice billiard cloth bottoms (Rather than felt paper as on cheaper sets).

If it weren't for the several mismatched halves, most prominently on the rooks, and the few plastic blotches (especially on the black pieces), I would rate this set as highly as the Hastings & Marshall sets, and slightly above the Premier. I know it comes down to personal taste/preference, but I find the Zurich design very appealing. 

Summing up, my pros and cons on the different sets, and the rating, is as follows:

Winner: The Hastings Set

Pros: appealing design, wonderfully characterful knights, unobtrusive molding seams; very few defects.

Cons: Weight is a bit lacking

Runner-Up: The Marshall Set

Pros: No-nonsense design, best for "use and abuse", good weighting, unobtrusive seams.

Cons: The flip side of the "no-nonsense" design: A bit bland.

Bronze (tied): The Zurich Set

Pros: Appealing, ever-so-slightly "goofy" design, solid and very well-balanced weighting.

Cons: Some mismatched halves in the molding, a few more defects than the above.

Bronze (tied): The Premier Set

Pros: Elegant, classic Staunton design, imposing weight, generally well-sculpted pieces, value for money

Cons: Molding seams a bit more obvious, more prone to scratching from abuse [both because of the glossier finish], "razor-sharp" crowns on the queens.

Wooden Spoon (tied): The Collector Series 4" / House of Staunton

Pros: Most elegant design (1849 Staunton), well balanced weighting

Cons: Various blemishes: more prominent molding seams, various stains.

Wooden Spoon (tied): The Collector Series 3.75 / House of Staunton"

Pros: Most elegant design (1849 Staunton).

Cons: More prominent molding seams, some other (minor) defects, very uneven weighting.

 

Some general observations:

- If you're bothered by molding seams (as I am, obviously), get the white pieces in "natural" rather than "ivory" colour - plus, the "ivory" really won't look like ivory at all, but rather like "hospital white".

- If you intend to abuse your pieces (I don't, but to each their own), matte finish pieces may be the better choice - at least for hard plastic.

- Consider carefully what the perfect weight is. For speed chess/blitz, I wouldn't use sets that approach 2kg (4.4lbs) or above; it'll feel like weight-lifting at the gym. But, then, I'm old. 

Crappov
sound67 wrote:

III. Marshall Plastic Chess Pieces (Ivory & Burgundy)

The Marshall set is priced at US$ 27.99 for a set of 34 pieces with a king's height of 3.75" (9.5cm) in matte hard plastic. It's available in 4 color combinations, with ivory & natural (creme-colored) for white and black and burgundy for dark pieces.

Unfortunately, unlike e.g. Chess House, Wholesale Chess does not sell "half sets" of either one of those sets I ordered, so if you want one color to change, you'll have to buy a complete set again. That's a pity I think.

Anyway, this is another robust, classic Staunton design. 

 

The "ivory" pieces are truly stark white, more hospital white than actual ivory. In retrospect I might have chosen the "natural" versiion.

For Christmas 2018 I received an ivory/black Collector set and my reaction to the "ivory" pieces was the same as yours. I was hoping for a softer color for the white pieces. The pieces are too bright for my taste.

Crappov
Eyechess wrote:

These are very nice.

By the way, Wholesale Chess is owned and operated by The House of Staunton.  Wholesale Chess used to be out of the state of Utah.  Alabama is The House of Staunton location.

I did not know this! I thought WC and Chess.com had common ownership. Do you know of any other chess vending sites owned by HOS?

Eyechess
Shawn of HoS also has the chess.com sales
sound67

BTW, as "per delivery", there were no rattling weights on *any* of the pieces.

Side note: That's one situation when you're very happy to be in a room all alone, as you're shaking 204 chess pieces, close to your ear. happy.png