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FAQ 7j. Tips For Buyers

Caveat Emptor. When you see an attractive mah-jongg item for sale, make sure it's really got everything you need. How many time have I heard, "I got a wonderful Chinese-style mah-jongg set but it doesn't have enough tiles," or "I got a wonderful Japanese mah-jongg set but I can't tell the Winds apart!" I've bought a lot of sets on eBay, and have learned about some specific things to watch for when buying a set...

Also read Column #547.

You can shop for mah-jongg stuff right here on this website!

Method 1: Exploring the Vendor Sites

Method 2: Exploring the "For Sale" Bulletin Boards

Method 3: Posting Announcements on the "Wanted" Bulletin Boards

Note: When you see items advertised for sale, here's what the grading terms usually mean (but there are lots of unscrupulous sellers - always compare these against the photos, and ask questions when unsure):

Notice: All trades or sales are private transactions between individuals--the Exchange is simply a listing point for those who wish to make such trades and is no way involved in any transactions, nor may it be held responsible for any problems.
Visitors to this site are especially advised to be wary of sellers' claims that an item is "ivory". See our FAQ 7c. What's It Made Of? page for assistance in how to tell ivory from bone. We have recently seen some eBay sellers tout their mah-jongg sets as being made of elephant bone. We don't know if sets were really made of elephant bone (cow bone was the usual material of choice), or how to tell elephant bone from cow bone. Note that it is illegal to import ivory - or any items made from endangered animals, such as elephants - into the United States!
And you are also advised to be skeptical of sellers' claims that a set is from "the Qing Dynasty" (which ended in 1911). We've even seen a Chinese seller on eBay tout his set as being "170 years old" (this would have placed the set's origin in 1834 - 20 or 30 years before mah-jongg even existed!). Don't believe this kind of exaggeration! Read FAQ 11 to learn about the history of mah-jongg. Much mah-jongg research is going on now - don't fall into the trap of believing the colorful myths about mah-jongg's origins.
Caveat emptor -- make sure you're sure before you buy. Or at least make sure the price hasn't been blown out of proportion by exaggerated sales claims.

Useful link: http://www.coololdgames.com was created by an anonymous collector of vintage Mahjong sets. The section about history, identification and restoration of vintage plastics is well done. (Thanks to "Nath Krismaratala" for the link.)

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