8 Most Expensive Chess Sets Worthy of the Grandmaster Title

From diamond-encrusted pieces to quaint travel folios, these are the most valuable chess sets that checkmated all the others at auction.

Published June 10, 2024
man hand moving gold Chess King figure

The Queen’s Gambit put a new spin on what many people felt was an old man’s game. Yet, this centuries-old activity doesn’t get nearly the creative credit it deserves. From master jewelers' creations to legendary enamellers' pieces, these are the most expensive chess sets that deserve to be admired.

8 Most Valuable Chess Sets That Checkmate All the Others

With young Gen Z dabbling in chess in their free time, there’s a renewed interest and respect for the game’s artistry. Yet digital chess and the decorative sets you can find at luxury retailers during the holidays don’t hold a candle to these out-of-this-world expensive chess sets.

Most Valuable Chess Sets Record Sales Prices
Pearle Royale Chess Set $4 million
1866 Tsar Alexander II's Chess Set $2.5 million
The Battle of Issues Chess Set $1.98 million
Isamu Noguchi Chess Table  $655,200
Early 18th Century German Chess Set $533,004.50
18th Century Johannes Mann & Emanuel Eiches Chess Set $383,520
Marcel Duchamp Pocket Chess Set ~$200,000-$300,000
Man Ray's Chess Set $219,443.62

Pearle Royale Chess Set: $4 Million

A decadent work of art, the Pearle Royale chess set comes encrusted with 513 carats of ethically sourced GIA-certified diamonds, AAA Ceylon blue sapphires, and South Sea pearls.

Inspired by the Staunton standard sets he played as a kid, Colin Burn – the artist who brought this luxurious set to life — nailed his dream of making the world’s finest chess set. As a custom-built piece, you can commission one for the lofty price of $4 million.

Need to Know

Some people claim the Jewel Royale chess set to be the most expensive set ever made. But there’s very little documentation to back up their claims, and some even propose that only a proof-of-concept model was created.

1866 Tsar Alexander II's Chess Set: $2.5 Million

The most expensive antique chess set sold thus far went in a 2014 Christie’s auction for just over $2.5 million. The chess table and set were designed by Albert Willms in 1866 and created by Elkington & Co. It’s inlaid with silver, silver gilt, ebony, and ivory.

Naturally, a chess set as old and opulent as this would garner a high price tag at auction. But what really put it on the map was its owner. Tsar Alexander II sent this chess set to be exhibited in the Exposition Universelle of 1867. The Russian Empire was well-known for its superior enameling techniques, and this chess set displays the country’s talents in all its splendor.

Related: Antique Chess Tables: Identification, Values, and Where to Buy

The Battle of Issus Chess Set: $1.98 Million

Let’s jump back into commissionable pieces. You can commission the Battle of Issus chess set right now if you have a spare $1.98 million lying around. The colorful enamel, 14K gold, and semi-precious stone-encrusted set depicts the ancient Battle of Issus between Greece’s Alexander the Great and Persia’s King Darius III.

Usually stagnant, this chess set was designed with mechanical components. Each of the chess pieces has a different action and animation. For example, Alexander can lower his sword, and the horses can shake their manes. It’s a truly unique chess set that elevates the game’s basic tools.

Isamu Noguchi Chess Table: $655,200

Isamu Noguchi was an acclaimed American fine artist and architect. His sloping and curved chess sets came out of the Modernist and Abstract Expressionist tradition. Not one to be limited by movements, his sculptural figures were all his own.

Today, Noguchi’s art brings in major audiences at auction. One black chess table from 1944 that hints at the atomic age shapes which would grow in popularity a decade later was presented in a Christie’s auction in 2022. Looking like something you’d find in Mr. Spock’s cabin on the Enterprise, this table sold for $655,200.

Early 18th Century German Chess Set: $533,004.50

While 18th-century chess sets aren’t exactly hard to come by, they’re not so common that they don’t draw a crowd at auction. One extremely fine chess set from 1705-1709 made its mark at a 2018 Christie’s auction.

The stunning carved set features stained ivory, inlaid tortoiseshell, and silver-gilt-based ivory pieces. It’s lush and yet austere in its design — a true hallmark of German taste. Thanks to its age, materials, and noble connections, it went for over half a million dollars. 

Fast Fact

One of the most expensive chess pieces — discovered in the famous Lewis Hoard on the Isle of Lewis — is over 800 years old and valued at ~$1 million.

18th Century Johannes Mann & Emanuel Eiches Chess Set: $383,520

Another 18th-century chess set from the Ausburg region came to a Sotheby’s auction in 2012, this time with an Eastern-inspired design. Featuring mother-of-pearl inlays, gilt, ebony, and more, this chess set stands out from the Western tradition.

Featuring Meissen porcelain Pagoda King and Queen figures and chinoiseries panels on the chessboard, it’s strikingly different from what you expect to see. Naturally, someone took the piece home for $383,520.

Related: 7 Famous Opening Chess Moves: Your Path to Victory

Marcel Duchamp Pocket Chess Set: $200,000- $300,000

When you hear the name Marcel Duchamp, miniature urinals probably come to mind. Duchamp was a major participant in the Dadaism movement and cemented his pop culture status with controversial pieces like the aforementioned “Fountain” and “Prelude to a Broken Arm.”

Curiously, one of his pieces projected to sell for around a quarter-million dollars at auction wasn’t something as flashy. His unique portable chess set, which looks more like a leather folio than a chess board, had an estimated worth of $200,000-$300,000.

Man Ray Chess Set: $219,443.62

Man Ray — not to be confused with the iconic SpongeBob supervillain character — was a Surrealist artist and photographer from the 20th century. His photographs may sell for millions of dollars at auction, but his household goods do pretty well on their own.

A mid-century chess set featuring the abstract pieces so popular during that time period and bearing Man Ray’s signature was sold for $219,443.62 at a Christie’s auction.

The Game’s Not Over Yet for These Chess Sets

Chess has been a popular game for centuries, crossing generation, class, and economic barriers. Pop on down to the local mall, and you’re bound to find a chess set of some kind. But the game’s not finished for these extremely valuable chess sets. Whether you love the look of yesteryear’s sets or dream of the glittering luxury of the most expensive chess sets, each of these is a prize worth winning.

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8 Most Expensive Chess Sets Worthy of the Grandmaster Title