Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Note! Click on photos to view in full size.

Tis a sad thing to see a robust Irishman turn into a little old Jewish grandmother schlepping around with a mahjong set.  One of the hazards of retirement is a susceptibility to new and strange interests which led to my curious cultural metamorphosis from a robust Irishman to a Jewish grandmother!  Hold on, not so fast…as Irishman go, I am not very robust, and fat chance that I will ever be as smart as a Jewish grandmother.  They know a lot more than how to make a curative chicken soup.  If you don’t think so, check out the complicated hands on a National Mah Jongg League score card!  They don’t call mahjong the game of 1000 intelligences because it is simple.  Yet oddly enough, it can be simple enough to keep a dumb old Irish bastard entertained for hours. 

"Sextant, you nice boy. Quit chasing the shiksas and come
play some mahjong." 

Until about two months ago I had only heard of mahjong in two contexts: 1) from Jewish kids talking about their grandmothers when I was growing up, and 2) a shareware computer solitaire game from the early 90s.  The suburban neighborhood in which I grew up back in the 50s and 60s had many Jewish families.  The kids would talk about their grandmothers and aunts playing mahjong.  These kids seemed to be in awe of the game, but were never allowed to participate.  One kid was routinely banished from the house when his mother’s female relatives would come for their mahjong party nights.  It seems that the old girls didn’t want my buddy fingering up the tiles and interrupting the game.  That sounds terrible to modern sensibilities, but back in the 50s kids were often banished from house.  There was so damned many of us—most being the products of failed contraception rather than the carefully planned bundles of genetic perfection who will be play dated, extracurricular activity-ed, coached on their SATs, and groomed into this perfect statement of excellence of both the parent's genetic fitness and parenting skills, and for whom anything less than acceptance at Harvard would be considered a major catastrophe.  Yeah we were just kids, allowed to be kids, with our own social norms and justice.  It was a different, safer time back then with a neighborhood full of watchful mothers, like Ann that lived at the bottom of the street, that kept us from killing each other and having strip tease shows.   My mother had her card parties, and I had better not be hanging around other than to use the bathroom “and don’t pee on the seat, damn it”.  The thing that amazed all of us kids regardless of what games our mothers and their female cohorts played was how they could conduct the game with their jaws flapping non stop.  The cacophony from these cackling hens was enough to drive kids and husbands the hell out of the house.  The odd thing about all this mahjong that was going on in the neighborhood was that while I heard about it, never once did I ever see anyone actually playing it.  I had no idea what the game was other than it was something like a card game but played with tiles—and, weirdly, the mental image I had was the ceramic things glued on to the bathroom wall!

From 1970 until maybe 1992 there was a hiatus in the word mahjong filtering into my dim witted brain.  Then I ran into a shareware solitaire game for DOS computers.  The object of the game was to eliminate 144 tiles piled up in a pyramid by pairs.  There are four of each tile which means that you have two pairs of each type of tile to eliminate (for instance 4 norths,  4 red dragons, 4 flowers).  Cool game.  Then from the early 90s to the beginning of July this year, there was another mahjong hiatus for me. 

Mahjong Solitaire For The Kindle
I was fiddling around Amazon and I found a Kindle Mahjong Solitaire game for 99 cents.  Well I remembered liking the shareware game so I bought it.  Then I showed it to my wife and she wanted a version for her Nintendo DS.  So we start playing Mahjong Solitaire.  Then my wife asked me if there was a way we could play this together, and I told her about the Jewish kid’s grandmothers playing it.  So we looked up mahjong on Wikipedia.  Wow!  Look at this!  This seems pretty neat, but it has nothing to do with the solitaire game.  Mahjong is very similar to the card game rummy, but is played with tiles using a variety of Chinese characters instead of cards.  Not only is it the game of Jewish grandmothers in the US, it is a gambling game of Asian street thugs, and a popular family game through out Asia.  

So then we started reading about how to play the game.  It requires four players.  Well that almost killed it for us, we wanted something that just the two of us could play.  But for some reason I become intrigued with the game—it must be my inner Jewish grandmother.  So I kept reading about it.  Well the first thing you have to decide is what version you want to play.  There has to be a zillion different versions—none Irish!  Well yeah I am an Irishman but also a Yank so I guess I want to play the American version.  Suddenly things get very murky.  The American version uses complicated hands that change every year.  You have to have a National Mah Jongg League score card which are published annually. The NMJL must have a team of effective copy write lawyers, because without a card or an authorized book to teach you, you are not going to learn American  mahjong.  There is very little information on American rules on the internet. Oh yeah and you have to have four players.  Ah to hell with it, let’s just play Rummikub dear.  Truth be known, I don’t really like Rummikub, my wife is a master and she slaughters me every time we play.  Despite this running batch of disappointments, I kept snooping around on the Internet and then I ran into a website by a guy named Tom Sloper.  The one thing I gathered rather quickly from Tom’s site is that Mahjong can be extremely difficult and confusing to learn.  Then I ran into Frequently Asked Question Number 10 at the Sloperama:

Paraphrasing quite a bit, and tossing out wall construction, here are even simpler rules:

  1. Set out all your mahjong tiles and remove the jokers and flowers. 

  2. Turn the tiles face down and mix them up.

  3. Push the tiles into a pile.  Leave room for another pile of discards.

  4. Everyone take 13 tiles for their hand.  Keep your hand concealed..

  5. The object of the game is to get four melds of either three of kind (7,7,7 or N, N, N) or a three tile strait, consecutive numerical run (6,7,8) all of the same suit and a final matching pair.  The 4 melds make 12 tiles, and the pair make 14.  You win with no discard. 

  6. Each player picks up a tile from the pile one at time in turn and either discards it face up, or if it can be used to help make the standard winning hand above keeps it and discards another tile face up.

  7. Other players can claim a discard for their hand but only if it completes a meld (which must be shown) or a completed hand.  If no one wants the discarded tile, the next player picks up from the pile.

  8. The hand is over when the first person yells mahjong and shows a proper winning hand.

  9. Scoring:  Everyone bows their head toward the winner and reverently says OOOOHHHHH!.  Alternate Complex Scoring.  On a sheet of paper write down the winners name and a hash mark.  At the end of the game the person with most hash marks next to their name gets to keep the score sheet.
Yellow Mountain Import's Mahjong Cards, $7 on Amazon

Don't forget these are the very simple rules and much has been left out, but they will get you started.  All rightey!  I can handle that, and why do you need four players?  "Ok dear let’s buy a mahjong set."  We looked on Amazon.  Holy mackerel.  $85!!!  I don’t think so.  We might play this once and never look at it again.  Well here is a travel set for $20.  Well what if we do like it and the damn travel set is too chintzy?  We have blown ¼ of the price on a set we don’t want.  Even at that $20 is a lot of money to spend on a game that you may hate.  Whoa!  Look at this…Yellow Mountain Import's Mahjong Cards for $7.  They are just like standard playing cards except that there is a lot of them and they are printed in the mahjong suites.  They are the same as the tiles but are cards.  And guess what?  That is all you need to play mahjong.

So we ordered the cards and a book on Mahjong from Amazon.  Me being cheap of course, I threw in another book to get the order over $25 to use the super saver shipping that saves you shipping and handling costs, but your stuff comes via a slow boat from China.  Well that turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise because while we were waiting for the cards, I found several websites that explained Old Hong Kong Style scoring.  
My Score Sheet. Click to see full size. 

So I made up a spread sheet (not for the calculations but just as a form) that made it easy to keep score for two rounds of play.  Technically a game in Old Hong Kong mahjong is four rounds of four hands for 16 hands total.  Sorry but we can’t sit through that much mahjong.  We have found one round of four hands or perhaps two rounds which is 8 hands to be a nice game, so this score sheet works great for us.

We finally got our cards.  With only two of us playing, using my home score sheet, we had a blast.  We played two nights in a row and decided we wanted a real set.  Well I had been looking at sets and decided to go with Yellow Mountain Imports American set  from Amazon for $85.  A big factor in that decision was again we could get the super saver discount and save about $16 on shipping. Edit 10/14/11: Apparently Yellow Mountain Imports and Amazon must have parted company.  This set is still available at Amazon but it is not eligible for the super saver shipping.  

Yellow Mountain Imports American Set In A Red Wood Case
The artwork ain't great.  See the all the tiles at Amazon.  

One thing to realize when buying a mahjong set, you can use an American set (152 tiles minimum-- with jokers) for both American play which requires the jokers, and traditional Chinese play by removing the jokers and extra tiles.  A traditional Chinese set (144 tiles--no jokers) can not be used to play American style.  As such I would recommend Americans to buy the American style sets, even if the intent is to play traditional Chinese.  You never know where your interest may go.

 We also bought a mahjong table cover from Yellow Mountain Imports.  It is sort of like a thin carpet with a grippy rubber backing.  It is beautiful, protects your table top and your tiles, and gives your game some class.  $20 at Amazon or Yellow Mountain Imports website. It comes in 4 different colors, but we like red the best.

We received the set and were wowed.  The case and racks are simply beautiful.  The tiles have a very nice weight and feel to them.  The art work is nothing to write home about, but overall it is a very nice set and certainly worth $85.  

Well in the process of looking at mahjong sets, I made the fateful mistake of looking on Ebay.  Terrible, terrible, terrible mistake.  I fell in love with the old vintage Bakelite / Catalin plastic sets from the 1920s through the 1960s. 

Vintage Butterscotch Bakelite / Catalin Tiles

Unlike the modern sets which are predominately white acrylic or melamine the older sets are a yellow / orange color best described as butterscotch and are made of either Bakelite or Catalin plastic.  The art work on these tiles are stunning.  I just fell in love with these old sets and had to have one.  Hmmmm!  Easier said then done.  I think I am about 20 years too late. 

A woman named Amy Tan wrote a book called The Joy Luck Club in 1989.  It was about a mahjong club and was actually written in the style of the 16 hands to a game.  The book engendered a movie and that engendered a renewed interest in mahjong.  I can’t find the reference now but somewhere I read that a movie (not sure if it was Joy Luck Club)  featured women wearing bracelets made out of mahjong tiles.  So now you have two different types of market demand pressures on old mahjong sets, collectors and crafts people who buy up sets to make jewelry.  I will be very honest, the latter really pisses me off.  You want to make jewelry, fine, buy up modern replacement tile sets for $21.  Don’t buy a lovely old Ten Flowers, Met, or Tyl sets and destroy the tiles for stupid bracelets that will end up in the trash in less than 5 years when the dictates of fashion move on to some other silly bullshit fad. Yeah I am pissed.
The Dots From My Vintage Set

Well I tried bidding of about 5 different older classic sets. I lost every one of the bids, I wasn’t even in the ball park.  So I could either up the money that I was willing to spend or down grade my tastes.  Well I down graded my tastes and got a lovely, not that old of a set for a little over $100.  It is not one of what I would consider the classics, but it is a nice set and I am quite pleased with it, and pleased with the cash that is still in my pocket.   Comparing some of the other sales I have seen, I did good.  One set, even newer than mine, and I think worth less, got into a bidders war and finished out at well over $300.  That is just pure crazy.  People end up paying huge prices for attractive joker stickers.  The sellers have to be laughing all the way to the bank. 
The Bamboo With Perched Pheasant # 1

I look at my vintage set with something that borders reverence and sadness.  It belongs to a dead person, probably a very nice long gone Jewish grandmother.  These vintage sets end up in estate sales, and prudent Ebay sellers buy them up and sell them probably at a huge markup.  It seems sad to me that no one in the family wants grandma’s old dumb mahjong set, and they end up in the hands of a stranger like me, or worse a crafter that will turn the tiles into tacky looking bracelets and necklaces.  I sit at my table and handle the tiles and admire the artwork.  I get a little sad when I think of the games that this set must have experienced.  The laughter, the excitement of a great hand, the chit chat and gossip, and just plain fellowship of people getting together a half century ago and enjoying each others company to clatter of tiles echos through my mind.  This sitting here, touching some poor Soul’s possessions does not seem right.  It almost seems a violation, a breach of trust.
The Dragons

No one in the entire damned family wanted her game?  How sad!  On the other hand, I have her set now.  I am going to clean it up, oil the flippies and the case latches.  Repair the detached lining in the case.  Get a set of vintage betting coins, and replace the missing flower tiles.  I will re-sticker the extra joker tiles.  It won’t merely set it in a closet untouched or unloved.  My wife and I will play with it on special occasions but for the most part we will use our new set.  Wearing the paint off the impressed characters on the tiles is not a huge concern on the new set.  We can buy a complete set of replacement tiles for $21.  The vintage set will be kept as an heirloom…an heirloom that I don’t deserve—its not mine, and I don’t really have any right to it.
Rare green faux alligator case

Every once in a blue moon I will take out the set, handle the pieces, and let my imagination roam to some far off game with funny little ladies setting about a table drinking pepsi and talking about bar mitzvahs.  And I, a not so robust Irishman will be linked to a kindly old Jewish grandmother through 152 pieces of butterscotch plastic.  And probably 20 to 30 years hence, we never know these things, some seller will be pitching on Ebay…”Extremely rare, mahjong set from an estate sale.  At least 70 years old.  Rare green faux alligator case with a not often seen white plastic handle.  152 butterscotch bakelite tiles in excellent condition, 5 bakelite racks with no missing flippies.  Dice and bettor.”  Perhaps tis not such a sad thing at all for an Irishman to revere an old Jewish grandmother.

Flippies? What the hell are Flippies?
These are flippies, in various states of
flippiness.  Flip them vertical to install and
remove betting coins.  Flip then horizontal
to hold the coins down.  They are frequently
missing or broken on vintage sets.  Modern
sets use cheap plastic caps.  

New Set's Wall Of Tiles On The YMI Table Cover

Modern Racks, No Flippies--Just Cheap Plastic Caps
Holding Down Some Really Cheap Betting Coins.

If you want to learn American Mah-Jongg, Sandberg's book below comes highly recommended.  It includes a National Mah Jong League score card from 2004, which is fine for learning and playing the game.  If you want to be current, you will need the NMJL for 2011 (or what ever year in the future) score card in addition to Sandberg's book.  Cards are available at NMJL link below or Amazon.  If you want to learn both American and Chinese Official rules, get Sloper's book.  If you simply want to play a simple casual game of traditional mahjong with the minimal emphasis on fancy hands, don't bother with either book, go to the Hong Kong Mahjong Rules and Scoring link below.

Beginners Guide To American Mah Jongg: How To Play The Game & Win. By Elaine Sandberg

The Red Dragon & The West Wind: The Winning Guide to Official Chinese & American Mah-Jongg. By Tom Sloper


Note:  Some of the links below may offer on-line Mahjong games.  I know nothing about these games and offer no recommendations either way.  I would advise caution regarding any on line game.  My interest in mahjong is limited to non-computer play. 

 Lest you think me guilty of ethnic stereotyping, here is a museum display commemorating mahjong’s contribution to American Jewish heritage.   Project Mah Jongg

Hong Kong Mahjong Rules And Scoring:  Mahjong Time, Hong Kong Mahjong Rules

American style mah jongg resources, score cards, replacement tiles, and new sets: National Mah Jongg League

Wright Patterson Rules.  Mahjong can be as big as a country like China or the US or as small as an officer's spouse's club on an air force base in Ohio. Wright Patterson Officer's Spouse's Club, Mah Jongg.

For a vast collection of information on mahjong try the Sloperama Mah Jongg FAQ.  Be patient, the site is a hodge podge that looks like a tornado hit it, but jewels are hidden within: Sloperama, Mah Jongg FAQ.

Excellent resource for identifying vintage sets, vast assortment of joker stickers, and replacement tiles.  Be sure to click on the Collector Weekly interview, very interesting., All Things Mah Jong

Another good resource for identification of vintage sets and vintage set sales: Mah Jong Mah

Reasonably priced modern sets with good quality and accessories.  NOTE!  YMI is a seller on Amazon. But not all the products are available on Amazon. Check Amazon first for a product, you may get free shipping (super saver) or more reasonable shipping.  YMI shipping from this website is pricey. Yellow Mountain Imports, Mahjong

Mahjong For The Cheap:  If you don't mind keeping your tiles in a shoe box, raiding the monopoly set for dice, and not using racks, you can be mahjonging for $21.00 + S&H.  All you get is the tiles, and really other than dice (available every where for next to nothing) it is all you need. Use the Hong Kong rules in the link above and you are all set. Yellow Mountain Imports At Amazon: Replacement Tiles

Mahjong For The Very Cheap:  Want to mahjong for a third of the cost of the tiles above go with Yellow Mountain Imports Mahjong Cards for $7.00 (same as pictured above).  Very portable. Yellow Mountain Imports At Amazon, Mahjong Playing Cards

Mahjong sets, tiles, accessories.  The have a really cool set of enameled betting coins that I was to get for the new set:  Where The Winds Blow

EDIT 9-19-11:  Here is a great resource for identifying old sets.  See the museum.  You can also order missing tiles from this site. See the tile replacement catalog:

Image Credits:

Japanese Mahjong Wizards. My Hawaiian Home, Wordless Wednesdays, Mahjong

Ladies Playing Mahjong:  The Kitschy Collector Home of C. Diane Zweig.

Kindle Mahjong Solitaire:, Mahjong Solitaire

YMI Cards & Mahjong Set:  Yellow Mountain Imports At

All others: Me


  1. Glad you finally got around to blogging about Mah Jongg. Just did some skimming, but I'll be back when I have more time to read everything. Love the pictures.

  2. I'm playing my own game of Mahjong today ! I am putting back together my busted John Deere 4 wheel drive. Just about as many pieces as your Mahjong set.

  3. @ Donna,

    I was waiting for the various sets to come in. I always go with the cheapest shipping. I have more patience than money. Unfortunately I published this by accident yesterday before it was really ready. I added some more things to it today, and it is still loaded with grammar errors. For some reason I have forgone the need for plurals any longer. So I must go back in and enter about 217 s's.

  4. @ Busman,

    First, I agree with you about the new interface, I went back to the old. The damn thing seemed all screwed up on the photos. It kept flipping one photo, so I would delete it, try adding it again and it would flip. So I flipped the photo on my computer and tried loading it. It didn't flip the flipped photo. So I unflip the photo and try it again, it flipped it again. So I saved the blog completely left the browser and tried it again. It flipped the photo. So I went back to the original interface. I did like the bigger editing window. Otherwise not much impressed.

    On the tractor, good luck with the reassembly. I hope all goes well. I would much rather putz around with a mahjong set, easier on the knuckles.

  5. Hello. I checked out your blog because I liked what you said on Jo's blog today. Imagine my surprise when you were writing about mahjong. I have become addicted to the Good Housekeeping solitaire version on line. Best score so far, 14743 points. I think the real sets are beautiful, but I have no one to play with, and would probably have a devil of a time learning to play that way, and keep score. I admire your zeal!

  6. Paula,

    My wife and I play just each other, we don't play the required foursomes, and other than having better hands than what on would get with four players, it works fine. If you would like my rules and score sheet I would be happy to email them to you. Send me a private message with your email address if you would like them.

    I liked what you and Jo said on the blog as well, nice hearing from and hope to hear from you again.

  7. Thanks so much for the offer sextant. If I should buy a set, I'll get back to you on that.

  8. "The cacophony from these cackling hens was enough to drive kids and husbands the hell out of the house." That made me chuckle. I remember my mother's bridge games. :-)

    I have never played Mah Jongg, except on the computer, but I enjoyed it. It was like meditation.

  9. I meant mahjong. But you knew that. :-)

  10. Jo,

    Nice to see you here, I enjoy your blog very much, great post on the toddlers and tiaras.

    Mahjong has two spellings. Much of the world uses the simpler one word mahjong, but in America & quite possibly Canada Mah Jongg is frequently used. I think the story of that was one of the early game set companies created the spelling as a trade mark and it kind of caught on like Kleenex. The National Mah Jongg League, the keeper of the American rules, uses that spelling so either is correct.

    I have read that women's brains can multi-task and men's can't. Ergo women can speak, listen, make their move, and concentrate on the game all at the same time. Men look at a group of women all taking at the same time and wonder who is listening? They all are.

  11. Oh shucks! I had a lovely 5 paragraph comment all typed out and Google Chrome crashed! Now it's almost 10pm and I really need to start getting ready for bed if I'm going to have time to read.

    So to make a long comment short. I loved this post. You brought tears to my eyes with this line, "And I, a not so robust Irishman will be linked to a kindly old Jewish grandmother through 152 pieces of butterscotch plastic."

    That one line spoke to my heart! Thank you! And thank you also for commenting on my blog. I appreciate the visit!

    And isn't Jo an amazing writer! I just love her blog!

  12. Alicia, Thank you for your comment. It is kind of odd touching that old mahjong set, it is just a game, but it is a very personal possession that I am not completely comfortable in my ownership. Yeah, I bought it so yeah its mine in a legal sort of way. But it don't seem like it should be mine. It seems like someone in the family should have wanted it, and I should have never had the opportunity to buy it. Yes, I am probably making a far bigger deal out of it than what it deserves. It is just a game, but I guess the difference is that these mahjong sets were not played with by the children or the family. Its not like Chinese checkers or Yahtzee. These games were special. The woman and her friends played with it. One had to be invited. As such I find the set to be much more a prized possession of a caring person than a Monopoly set the generalized stuff of a family. This has been something of an odd experience for me. My new set is clearly mine, but the old set, I seem to be more of a curator of an artifact rather than an owner. Hey its just a dumb mahjong set, yet it seem to have a spirit of past use, that I have no right to possess.

    Jo is magnificent. She just seems to roll of some writing and it is magnificent both in subject and writing craft. Me I work my fannie off on these posts and they are so so and far too long.

    Your blog is very good too, I enjoyed your transplanting fat to your lips. But Alicia, you are quite lovely as you are. I look at some of these Hollywood people with their face lifts and I pity them. A scalpel will never make one 30 again. Thanks for the comment and stop by again.

  13. I'm writing a program (much like the one you probably played in the 90s) to play Riichi Mahjong against a few friends of mine. I moved across the country so I don't get to see them very often and I just recently fell in love with the game. I also bought the YMI version, specifically the black tile Japanese version (riichi). I ran across your blog while doing some extra research and I just wanted to say that your writing style is superb and I enjoyed every bit of it. I'll have to visit again. Oh, and I'm not Jewish or Irish :P

    1. Thank you very much for your very kind compliment to my blog. I am glad that you enjoyed it and I hope very much that you visit often and comment. I can use all the readers that I can get.

      Yes the YMI black tiles are beautiful. I don't know much about the riichi version but other than the red fives, it appears very similar to the Chinese version of the game.

      When I was in the market for my vintage set, I had my heart set on a yellow bakelite or catalin American set. There was an exquisite Chinese set on black bamboo tiles for sale in the UK on Ebay. I was sorely tempted, but being retired the cash flow limited me to one set. I can still kick myself for not bidding on it. The pieces were hand carved with such a delicacy. The flowers had the absolutely magnificent green leaves on them. It was and extraordinarily beautiful set.

      Good luck with your program and please stop back. Again thank you for your very kind comment.

  14. Thank you for this blog. Your description of your vintage set is exactly how I feel about mine. I fell in love with these old sets that are just dumped, unwanted. I despair that these stunning tiles are drilled for jewellery, rendering them useless for play. I relish imagining the rich playing histories of my sets. I now have custodianship just a few old sets. I clean them up, fix their cases or build new cases, and play with them the way they deserve. Some of these are being repaired as gifts for people I know will give them the same love and attention. Their patterns delight me, the feel of them in my fingers enlivens me, and my imaginings of their history enriches me. I have a set for each of my children, who all now play, to enjoy in their own lives, and to pass on what is now a family past-time. My 'own' special vintage set is enrobed, and I simply love to sit and look at it, run my hands across the tiles, and know that one day, this stunning game will pass to another, who will delight in it as much as I do.
    Your Royal Games set is simply stunning. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Anonymous,

      Thank you for your very kind comment regarding this post. Your enrobed set must be lovely. Buying up and restoring old sets is a wonderful gift to give your friends and children! Just giving your children the love of the game is a gift in itself.

      Unfortunately, I had to get out of mahjong set collection. Being retired, I couldn't afford it. I did buy a few spare tiles from some lovely sets that I could never afford but then felt guilty about denying people tiles they might need to complete sets! Of course, I justified it by telling myself I saved these pieces from being converted into jokers or worse tacky jewelry! Can collectors have a Soul? So I quit with my Royal set which has nice art but the the pieces are pressed. It does not compare to those lovely Met, Ten Flowers and Tyl sets. But good enough...I fulfilled my collectoritis without busting my bank account. We never play with the vintage set, rather we play with our modern Yellow Mountain set with no worry about scratching, chipping, or eroding the art (a problem with Royal sets). The art sucks on the modern set, but the tiles do have a very nice feel and a lovely sharp clatter...worry free clatter! Mixing and wall building is definitely part of the romance of the game...the Clatter of the Sparrows, and the feel of the tiles in your hand (and the not worrying about rubbing the stamped art off the tiles).

      I see by Stat Counter that you are from Oz. What version do you play? My wife and I were never able to round up anyone in the family who wanted to play so we still play our two player games with fantastic winning hands! We play old Hong Kong but created new scoring sheets that are loosely based on a generic scoring from Jelte Rep's The Great Mahjong Book.

      We found the real Hong Kong scoring system to be too stodgy. So like everyone else in the world we modified the game to suit ourselves which is basically two player with inflated scoring but Old Hong Kong otherwise. We tried American mahjong but did not like having our noses stuck in the NMJL score cards.

      I have been away from it long enough now (and got poor enough) that I should be able to take an interest in the tiles and sets without buying. So i ought to snoop around ebay and the web, and see what is out there.

      Thanks again for your very kind comment and enjoy the clatter of the sparrows!

  15. I just stumbled across your blog, and it really touched my heart. I have the exact same vintage Mah Jongg set your pictures show, that I inherited a few years ago from my mother-in-law. No one else in the family wanted it, and I decided I wanted to start playing Mah Jongg when I retired. Well, I just retired a few months ago and was invited to learn how to play by a friend and today was my first day! She invited a few ladies over for a lunch of Chinese food and she showed a short documentary movie about Mah Jongg and the history of the game in China and in the "Jewish lady" community in New York.

    My friend grew up with a mother that played Mah Jongg and has played since she was 10, but my family never played Mah Jongg so I feel I missed out. When we played today, I really enjoyed just socializing with other women (something I have never really done with a busy career and raising kids) and getting to use our brains a little, but not too much! When I got home I took out my mother-in-law's set and realized it was very old. After a little investigation on the internet I found out it was made by the Tyl company in New York in the 1930's or 1940's. My husband then realized that this was his grandmother's set, and that his mother had inherited it before we did! It is something like 75 to 80 years old and just thinking about my husband's Grandma Golda playing with her friends with this set, I can almost hear her voice among the cacophony!

    I am thrilled to be able to take this set out and use it with my friends. I think Grandma Golda and my mother-in-law would be very, very happy to know that it is being used again and appreciated by another generation. And you should also feel good that you are giving life back to an old Mah Jongg set, even if it didn't come from your family originally and you aren't a "Member of the Tribe!" Whoever once owned it undoubtedly derived great joy from it and I am sure would be honored and happy to know that you have it now and appreciate it. And that, as we say, is a mitzvah!

    1. Bev, thank you for your kind comment to my blog post. I am glad that your set was one of the lucky ones that found a loving home rather than being sold off in an estate sale to some would be jewelry maker who would destroy your lovely tiles for tacky bracelets.

      A Tyl set from the 30s is considerably more valuable than my set which is a 50s vintage Royal. Due to the value of your set, you might want to reconsider using it for play. The value of the sets seem to be increasing. I bought my set from Ebay in 2011 for a little over 100 bucks and I have recently seen similar sets of not as good quality going for over $300. That is a casual observation, to be honest. I had to quit watching Ebay because I was getting hooked into wanting expensive sets that I can't afford on a fixed retirement income.

      Amazon still has the Yellow Mountain set similar to that mentioned above for $99.99 and because it is over $35 free standard shipping (be sure to choose that at checkout...shipping rates on a heavy Mahjong set could get pricey).

      This set is slightly different than the one I have, the racks have pushers instead of coin retainers. Other than the crappy art work on the flowers, dragons, jokers, and the bamboo bird, it is a nice set with a lot of extra tiles and jokers for American play, and of course it can be used for Chinese play which doesn't use jokers. You can clatter the sparrows without worry of chipping a valuable tile or wearing off the painted characters. Plus you can avoid all the old set joker gyrations (finger nail polish, jokers converted from different sets that don't quite match and so forth).

      If you are learning American play may I suggest refer you to this post describing a very good beginners guide:

      Bev, how cool is it that you are that family member...the one that will give grandma's old set a loving home! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

      It is great to know that my post touched another person's heart. Hey you never know, the Irish may be the lost 13th tribe.

    2. Here is the same exact set I bought. I don't like the integral pushers on the racks that the other set has. We bought separate pushers and they work fine. I would rather have the coin pins on the racks.

  16. Hi, thnaks for all the info! I will look at all the links and consider what you said about not using my set for casual play. So far I have been playing at other people's houses with their sets, so have only taken mine out to look at. I aggree it could get banged up a bit and there is already a little wear visible on some of the tiles. It is a great game, I like playing the Chinese way better than the American way with the card, but I guess with time I will get more familiar with the card format Anyway it is a good activity to keep my brain working in my retirement! BTW my cousin married a lovely Irish man, so maybe there is something about being the 13th tribe, LOL.

    1. Bev,

      We don't play often enough to get good with the card and as a result we just sit with our nose glued to the card. We prefer the Chinese rules so we can just enjoy the game without feverishly looking for the card combinations. Plus the card changes every year, although there is no reason why a dedicated group could not use the same card, but to stay current in the game if you are playing in a wider NMJL you will have to learn a new card every year.

      Well good luck with the mahjong and good luck to the newly weds.

      Thanks for stopping by again and commenting.

  17. mahjong games are awesome games. i really love it....

  18. Absoluetly loved this - thank you so much. I just got hooked on/obsessed with Mah Jongg. My grandmother used to play all the time and sadly her set has been lost. I do have her extras. 4 flowers and two jokers and I hate to say it but I made a necklace out of one of the jokers! Just used wire wrapping method - so tile is undamaged.

    1. Mah Jongg obsessed, thank you for your kind comments. I am sorry that your grandmother's set was lost, it would be a wonderful keep sake for you. Thanks for not drilling the tile, I hate to see good tiles become ruined.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. Good luck with your Mah Jongg obsession!