Bakelite and Catalin

Bakelite Mahjong tiles

Bakelite is a plastic, invented by Leo Baekeland in 1907 and popular in the early 1900's, since it was one of the first of its kind, cheap and easily available. It wasn't actually a very popular material for Mahjong sets in the first craze of 1920's but became more popular later.

Bakelite isn't the only plastic used for Mahjong sets. Catalin is another popular material, developed from bakelite. The two are pretty much the same, the major difference being that bakelite was made by a US company while Catalin was from UK. Both trade names actually cover few related plastics, made from slightly different chemicals.

What makes bakelite Mahjong sets so popular these days amongst the collectors? Colour is definitely one part of it. The bakelite sets have this beautiful warm butterscotch colour, which looks both nice and old.

French Ivory is another old material. It's celluloid, which is one of the very first plastics, invented by John Hyatt in the 1860's. It's called French Ivory because it has a grain that looks kind of like ivory. Celluloid was expensive, so it's unlikely that many Mahjong sets were made of celluloid.

The tricky thing about these plastics is that most people who deal with these sets cannot really tell them apart. So, if someone claims a set they are selling is this or that plastic, the only thing you can be sure of is that it's plastic. Of course, for most buyers it doesn't really matter.

See more information about Mahjong plastics in The Sloperama Mah-Jongg Zone. Identifying Plastics from CoolOldGames is another excellent resource on identifying plastics used in games.

If you want to make sure you don't miss any deals on interesting bakelite Mahjong items, make sure you subscribe to the Bakelite Mahjong RSS feed.



2017 Mahjong Wall Calendar, 12 Month Vintage, Mah Jongg Set Tiles Bakelite Bone
2017 Mahjong Wall Calendar, 12 Month Vintage, Mah Jongg Set Tiles Bakelite Bone
$24.00
Time Remaining: 7h 48m
Buy It Now for only: $24.00

Vtg MAH JONG Carrying Case Plastic/Bakelite 148 TILES 89 COUNTING STICKS 6 DICE
Vtg MAH JONG Carrying Case Plastic/Bakelite 148 TILES 89 COUNTING STICKS 6 DICE
$60.00
Time Remaining: 2d 22h 14m
Buy It Now for only: $60.00

Set of Ten 2017 Postcard Mahjong Calendars Bakelite Gift Bone Tile Vtg Mah Jongg
Set of Ten 2017 Postcard Mahjong Calendars Bakelite Gift Bone Tile Vtg Mah Jongg
$15.00
Time Remaining: 2d 12h 42m
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Chinese Mah Jong Tile Set-144 Tiles  Dice W/Case-Bakelite?-2 Tone Color Tiles
Chinese Mah Jong Tile Set-144 Tiles Dice W/Case-Bakelite?-2 Tone Color Tiles
$19.95
Time Remaining: 15d 11h 56m
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The Mah Jong Navigator-Game Accessory -(Finished to match butterscotch bakelite)
The Mah Jong Navigator-Game Accessory -(Finished to match butterscotch bakelite)
$27.38
Time Remaining: 16d 16h 52m
Buy It Now for only: $27.38

The Mah Jong Navigator-Game Accessory -(Finished to match butterscotch bakelite)
The Mah Jong Navigator-Game Accessory -(Finished to match butterscotch bakelite)
$30.84
Time Remaining: 13d 7h 2m
Buy It Now for only: $30.84

My Exclusive Design~Vintage Mah Jongg Tiles on a Cage w/Bakelite Dice~Necklace
My Exclusive Design~Vintage Mah Jongg Tiles on a Cage w/Bakelite Dice~Necklace
$25.00
Time Remaining: 10d 18h 28m
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Vintage Mah Jong - Art of The Game Collector Reference w Bakelite Bamboo Etc
Vintage Mah Jong - Art of The Game Collector Reference w Bakelite Bamboo Etc
$22.45
Time Remaining: 3d 17h 2m
Buy It Now for only: $22.45

2017 Mahjong Wall Calendar, 12 Month Vtg Mah Jongg Set Tile Bakelite Bone Bamboo
2017 Mahjong Wall Calendar, 12 Month Vtg Mah Jongg Set Tile Bakelite Bone Bamboo
$24.00
Time Remaining: 1d 17h 59m
Buy It Now for only: $24.00