Check Mate

I’ve had a few exciting finds lately including a Florence Knoll Model 65 lounge chair (that I pulled out of the garbage) and a Dieter Rams/Hans Gugelot Braun radio/phonograph console in a spectacular teak case designed by Herbert Hirche. I will be photographing these items this weekend and be posting shortly.

In the mean time, I thought I’d telll you the Story about my Austin Enterprises chess set and show you the nifty Austin Enterprises “Hang Up Sculpture” I got this weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with Austin Cox and his fantastic anodized aluminum chess set, here are a few images.

Austin Enterprises- Chess Pieces

Austin Enterprises- Chess Pieces



Box with Cover Removed

Box with Cover Removed

The set was commissioned in 1962 by ALCOA to designer-craftsman Austin E. Cox A.S.I.D. of “Austin Enterprises” and the advertising agency of Ketchum, McLeod & Grove. The pieces are modern in form-the Queen represented by a crown, the bishop is a cross, the knight is a shield and the King, is fittingly, the symbol of ALCOA.

Last summer, I stumbled on one of these sets in its original wood and blue plexiglas hanging display case on Craigslist for $40. I was excited, but there were a couple of issues that had me concerned. First off, the set was in Roslyn, which is a 40-minute drive from NYC. Second, instead of using the traditional dollar bill or Campbells soup can to show scale, the seller used a handgun….a GLOCK no less. I KID YOU, NOT!

Well, for a $40 Austin Enterprises chess set, I am willing to assume certain risks. A scary sounding, gun-owning seller, is one of them. I drove with my wife and two small daughters to the house, parked around the corner and told my wife if I wasn’t back in 20 minutes to call the police. Fortunately, I was put a ease when I was greeted at the door by a nice looking older man. His son’s Bar-Mitvah picture hanging in the hallway  was a reassuring sign.

Alas, my wife didn’t have a need to call the police and I walked away with a chess set I had been wanting for a long time. This weekend at the yard sales, I scored a very interesting Austin Enterprises “Hang Up Sculptural Puzzle”. This immediately reminded me of the chess set/GLOCK story.

Austin Enterprises- Sculptural Puzzle

Austin Enterprises- Sculptural Puzzle

It is also crafted of anodized aluminum. This time, in blue and orange and it comes in a wood hanging case.

Blue and Orange Anodized Pieces

Blue and Orange Anodized Pieces

According to the text on the back of the box, “the challenge is to arrange the twenty five triangles to form a perfect square”. Apparently, it is rarer than the chess sets and even better, “the solution dates back to the Pythagorean Theorem” Looks like I have a little puzzle to solve in the near future.




6 Responses to Check Mate

  1. modernemama says:

    I tried to bid for a couple of sets on ebay that ended up going for $500+. If only I had known there was one just down the road…Great score!

  2. Jem N' Tonic says:

    I learn something new everyday. Even though I have absolutely no knowledge of the designer mentioned or his works, I do appreciate very much what you have in your hands. I myself am a sculpture of sorts on small scale and for years I made aluminum signs. I play with aluminum a lot and find it to be interesting in the forms you make of such a playable metal.

    Thanks for introducing me to one more designer that I can be inspired by.

  3. Jem N' Tonic says:

    While I was searching around on the net for info about Austin E. Cox I found this blog and it has a couple of photos of other offering that I understand to have been from the same designer. They are pretty cool as well.

  4. Hi Jesse.

    I have the felt and aluminum board that went with your chess pieces. Just thought you would enjoy seeing it. Thanks for sharing so much of the history of your pieces, and for your great blog.

    1962 Austin Enterprises Chess Board 07
  5. Connie Trotman says:

    I just found the Hang-up scuptural puzzle 1 as above. Wonder what it is worth? And I cannot work the thing. A picture or solution?? Thanks.

  6. Ghaladhriel says:

    Found the sculptural puzzle at goodwill, sadly it’s missing 2 pieces 😦 I don’t have much knowledge about this but loved the look of it (got it in original package which is what caught my eye)

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