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Antique Treen Teetotum Gambling Balls – 1600s to 1700s

A teetotum was a many faceted spinning top with each side numbered, similar to a dice but if made true there was an equal chance of any number turning up. A rare variant of the top is the gaming or gambling ball. These were made in ivory and wood and if made true had a crown or the initials of the reigning King or Queen on.

An English philosopher 1632-1704, referred to a 32 sided ivory ball in an article “Some Thoughts Concerning Education” where he said “what if an ivory ball were made like that of the Royal Oak Lottery, with 32 sides”. The Royal Oak Lottery was popular in the 17thcentury, introduced by Charles I to cover the expenses of carrying water to London. and then outlawed as the game caused widespread losses among all sections of society.

Lotteries first became acceptable during Elizabeth I reign to raise money to fortify England and repair harbours due to the threat of Spanish invasions. Later successive parliaments used lotteries to increase government funding both in London and the country. It wasn’t just money that was gambled such things as land, silver, jewellery and even animals were used as stakes.

The image here shows a rare antique treen dating from the reign of George I, it has 32 sides numbered from 1 -32, similar ones can also be found in ivory. Both the wood and the ivory ones are difficult to come across though!

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