These Chinese Mother of Pearl gaming counters were introduced to England by the captains of the East India Trading Company. They immediately caused a sensation, with the wealthy paying small small fortunes to secure a set. They remained popular until about 1840 when new card games such as whist (which did not require counters) began to replace quadrille and Pope Joan.
We recently obtained a small collection of counters in many different shapes and designs including a couple of the rarest kind, those with a family coat of arms.
In the day, procuring these special counters was difficult. A servant carrying a copy of the desired crest would be dispatched to London to make contact with a sea captain who would then take the order to Canton and commission counters from the local craftsmen. A year later the order would be collected and transported to the waiting customer.