Today when someone talks about getting a game table, they are often referring to pool, ping pong, air hockey or foosball. But most of these types of games have not been around for very long, and some are as new as the 1970s! But you can find antique game tables, and they are very nice, stylish and collectible. But they cannot be used for table tennis, hockey or foosball!
Most antique game tables are smaller than what we think of today, and are made of wood. Some were also quite ingenious. One I found was a beautiful mother of pearl and ebony table made in China in the mid 19th century. It was wonderfully inlayed with detailed oriental scenery and figures. This game table had a single, three footed leg, though most I found had the traditional four legs! The sides of the table curved inwards and the corners were rounded and fancy. The center of the table had a removable chess board on one side, and the table design on the other. When the chess board was removed, a recessed backgammon board was revealed on the inside of the table, and there was also a small drawer for storing game pieces.
The idea of a removable chess board with a recessed backgammon board underneath was not unique. Another game table I found was similar, but had some other unique features. This second table is round, made out of hardwood with a light finish and a beautiful inlay design. It has two drawers and, more unusual, four drink holders that pull out from the sides. This style table is heavily reproduced.
Many square or rectangular tables opened up to reveal a felt playing surface underneath, perfect for cards. Though a game table like this was similar in function to many others, they did come in many different styles. With a bit of searching, I found one from the French Napoleon III period from the 1860s with a black lacquer and gilt bronze finish. Another one I found was a rare English table made of solid walnut with a burl finish. Not as fancy, but still elegant.
Another French table that I found was a mahogany table from the Jacob period of the early 19th century. This game table appeared to be a small writing desk with a gold-embossed leather writing surface. But the top could be flipped over to expose a green felt card playing table, or the top could be completely removed and inside was found an ebony and ivory inlaid backgammon board. This great table also still had the original white and green tinted ivory playing pieces.
Though, I would have to say that the most deluxe and versatile table I found was from 19th century Paris. At first glance, this table looks like an ordinary side table, measuring 31 wide by 26 deep, with beautifully carved legs with casters and leg supports. But the table conceals multiple playing boards for backgammon and chess or checkers, as well as a pull out roulette wheel! But that is not all, this game table has more. The legs pull out to extend the table to a full 93, what appears to be a decorative part of the legs becomes the middle leg support. The table top then unfolds to a long, rectangular felt top, which I believe is for a form or carrom or billiards. This is a really cool table!
So, if you are in the market for a game table, perhaps you need the modern version that invites rowdy game play for the whole family. But perhaps your life has quieted down and you mainly enjoy cards and some board games with friends. Then perhaps you should look around for an antique game table to grace your home and impress your friends.