I don’t know about other folks who sell antiques, but I do know what I do. I not only check things out for condition (chips, niks, fliks, hairlines, cracks, repairs, and so on) I also look for anything that might be unusual, or of historical importance. Should I find something, then, like a dog worrying a bone, I have to track it down until I’m thoroughly satisfied with what I’ve learned (see the Napoleon Fan Leaf blog).
When I looked closely at the back side of the board. The construction was very different from even the other older ones I’d seen; more primitive in look and feel. Then I used a magnifier to get a better look at the impressed mark(s) on the wood. There were two, something that was very unusual, because one was directly on top of the other.
The first one read: PatP – for Patent Pending. But on top of that there was a completely different mark, and while the first had been made using a precut die stamp, the second one clearly was done using individual letters and numbers to create the mark. On the front, it was missing the word, “TRADEMARK”, that later boards carried.
This meant that the information was too new for a die stamp to have been created, and it meant that the information had to have arrived just after the PatP stamp had been used. In other words, this was the very Ouija board that had been under construction at the exact moment that the news of their having been granted a patent had been received.
Double checking the information in the Museum of the Talking Board website, I saw that the date of February 10, 1891, which they said the company had received the patent, matched the date on the hand made die stamp mark. As a shortcut, they had hand stamped it FEB’Y 10, 1891, but they had used individual letters and numbers, rather than a single stamp that said everything.
This meant that this was THE ONE board that existed which showed the time when, at first, it did not have a patent, and then it did. It may not have been of earthshaking importance, but as a former history teacher and a former researcher in communication, I was well aware of how significant this would be to someone who was interested in such things.
It sold for an amazing amount, one I would never forget – $1,234.56 – 1,2,3,4,5,6! But even better, it was restored into the world as being exactly what it was. I have always felt that there was a reason it came to me, rather than someone else. Clearly I was the one person who would have, and who could have figured out its true history.