Batima building game - predates Lego?

paul_mertonpaul_merton UKMember Posts: 2,951
Does anyone know anything about this? I have no idea how old it is, but it presumably predates Lego bricks and I am told someone brought it back "during the war" :)

The box is wooden, the pieces are in various colours of a clay-like material, and there are some wooden slider parts. I can't see any dates in the instructions, but the similarity to Lego is obviously quite striking.

I suspect @Istokg might know something about it, although I was surprised there's no mention of Batima anywhere else on the forum at all (until now!)

It's not mine, but I was asked to find out about it and see if it's worth anything!









Mr_CrossFowlerBricksricecakeBumblepantsGothamConstructionCo

Comments

  • Mr_CrossMr_Cross East Anglia (UK)Member Posts: 1,000
    edited March 2018
    The instructions look to be set in gill sans, which was first released in 1928, so during the war sounds about right for this, I've seen stuff in similar packaging from that era too. The colour choices ( for the bricks) and the logo also looks quite 'deco' to me, so that would also be about right. Other than that, can't offer any information, sorry.
  • BrickadierGeneralBrickadierGeneral PennsylvaniaMember Posts: 15
    First off, that's a really awesome find. It's great to see that the concept of an interlocking stud-based building system predates LEGO and even Kiddicraft. (Other examples include Minibrix, American (Plastic) Bricks, etc.

    I never heard of this before, but I was able to find something through a quick Google Patent search. Unfortunately, there is no way to access the actual patent itself. I tried to see if I could find it elsewhere but didn't have any luck. It appears as though a patent was granted in 1924? (if I'm reading it right). Patent number is: FR588985A  Asignee is Le Batima Soc.
    https://patents.google.com/patent/FR588985A/en?q=A63H33%2f088&assignee=batima

    Seeing as you are in the UK and the instructions are in English, it looks as though they had an export market. Valuing early construction toys is pretty tough because they can be all over the map in terms of price. I've seen some stuff from the early 1900s sell for $20 USD (with box). Some sell high. In this case, I think there would be some interest from LEGO collectors because of the stud-based system and that fact that it is so old. The box and instructions help, too. This could be a real "wild card." My guess is that, at the minimum someone might pay $100 USD. Then again, someone might even be willing to pay $300+ USD, depending on how much they value the unofficial LEGO connection. 

    Do you think your friend might be willing to make digital scans or nice, clear photos of the box cover and the instructions? I keep files on non-LEGO construction toys, and those would be cool to include. They actually kind of remind me of the American Bricks (later American Plastic Bricks) which were introduced in the 1930s. The studs on those were less pronounced.

    Good find for your friend!  And maybe a good find for you.  ;-)
  • BrickadierGeneralBrickadierGeneral PennsylvaniaMember Posts: 15
    Here is a lot that was sold via an auction house for $120 USD - below the auction estimate. It was identified as a circa 1905 piece, but I am not sure how they came up with that date. 
    https://www.pbagalleries.com/view-auctions/catalog/id/142/lot/97055/Batima-a-complete-set-of-building-blocks-with-original-box-of-the-Belgian-precursor-to-the-Lego
  • paul_mertonpaul_merton UKMember Posts: 2,951
    ^^ I'll try and get some more photos of the box over the weekend.

    This MoDIP page at http://www.modip.ac.uk/exhibitions/work-rest-play-plastics/play-construction-toys suggests Batima was the earliest plastic construction toy, and "was first made in Belgium in 1905 and was marketed with a booklet of building patterns."

    When I was told it came back from the war, I didn't think to ask which war :)

    Also, I hadn't appreciated that the bricks are actually a plastic, but MoDIP houses the Plastics Historical Society collection, so I guess they know their stuff!

    The font details are interesting, as I hadn't thought about that aspect, and it could suggest this set is from the 1920s/1930s like some of the examples I found via Google this morning. The pictures of the 1930s bricks on the MoDIP page look the same, albeit in a worse condition:



    I think the most interesting thing I've found out about them is that they are compression moulded from casein formaldehyde - literally milk curds hardened with formaldehyde!



    BumblepantsFizyxstlux
  • BumblepantsBumblepants DFWMember Posts: 5,826
     literally milk curds hardened with formaldehyde!
    Mmmm! Sounds delicious! 
    FizyxToc13
  • LegogeekLegogeek Orange County, CaliforniaMember Posts: 711
    The PBA auction was "valued" at $200-$300 and sold for only $120. It is a smaller set than your friend's set, and had the original box (cardboard), but no instructions. Your friends set has more pieces and an instruction book. Only question is if the box is original or not. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the inside of the lid looks like it might have had some sort of plate or label that is now missing.

    Irregardless of all that, I think it is a neat and unique piece of history.  If your friend is planning to sell it, I wish him/her good luck! If you decide to buy it off your friend, I congratulate you! ;)

    If you search Batima Blocks you'll find various pictures on Pintrest and Flickr. Maybe one of those users might have further information, so you might try contacting them. Some of the photos indicate they are from the Huis Van Alijn museum collection in Ghent.
    FizyxMr_Cross
  • paul_mertonpaul_merton UKMember Posts: 2,951
    Must admit, I am kind of tempted to buy it myself. What did someone say, $20? :)
    Mr_Cross
  • BrickadierGeneralBrickadierGeneral PennsylvaniaMember Posts: 15
    Legogeek said:
    The PBA auction was "valued" at $200-$300 and sold for only $120. It is a smaller set than your friend's set, and had the original box (cardboard), but no instructions. Your friends set has more pieces and an instruction book. Only question is if the box is original or not. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the inside of the lid looks like it might have had some sort of plate or label that is now missing.
    The trouble with value is that it is very subjective. Whatever someone is willing to pay for something is the going rate. This is even more challenging with really obscure stuff. If there were a greater awareness of Batima like there is with Kiddicraft, I don't doubt it could fetch a few hundred dollars on eBay. It's one of those things that you give it a try and "see what happens." If it does hit eBay, I would be happy to share it on social media. It's worthy of the exposure.

    Wooden boxes were often used to house earlier construction toys, so it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility. Cardboard might have come later.

    The Canadian Centre for Architecture also has at least one Batima set in their collection of construction toys.
    https://www.cca.qc.ca/en/search/details/library/publication/60711
  • LegogeekLegogeek Orange County, CaliforniaMember Posts: 711
    BrickadierGeneral said:
    The trouble with value is that it is very subjective. Whatever someone is willing to pay for something is the going rate. 
    Very true, which is why I don't get into value discussions. Same thing goes for the diecast cars I collect. I merely included that information to show what the small set had sold for. 

    I'm sure there is a very good chance that the box is original with the set, but philosophy is that unless it is known for 100% certain, it shouldn't be advertised as such and it could affect value if someone is considering going that route... not that many people would even know for certain themselves. 

    EDIT - Oh... I just decided to look on eBay and look, there is one available right now - Item 253521339603. 
    http://https//www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Original-Batima-construction-set-1/253521339603?hash=item3b070ca4d3:g:d8sAAOSw9t1auT2c
    It's in a cardboard box and the box image is the same as what is on the wooden box. The plot thickens.... now I'm thinking the wood box was used to replace a deteriorating cardboard box maybe?
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 2,468
    edited March 2018
    ^ I had to take the //https out of that link to make it work.

    Looking more closely at the lid of that wooden box, it really looks repurposed. There are a lot of extra holes, the shadow of some kind of plate, and a line across the near end on the inside.
  • LegogeekLegogeek Orange County, CaliforniaMember Posts: 711
    ^ I had to take the //https out of that link to make it work.

    Shoot.... I used the forum URL button and it added some extra to the link.... to late to edit. try this:
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Original-Batima-construction-set-1/253521339603?hash=item3b070ca4d3:g:d8sAAOSw9t1auT2c

    Astrobricks
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 2,468
    Legogeek said:
    ^ I had to take the //https out of that link to make it work.

    Shoot.... I used the forum URL button and it added some extra to the link.... to late to edit. try this:
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Original-Batima-construction-set-1/253521339603?hash=item3b070ca4d3:g:d8sAAOSw9t1auT2c

    That works :)
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,789
    It is surprisingly easy to make plastic from milk and vinegar, you can leave out the formaldehyde step, it just doesn't harden quite as well. It is not so different to making homemade mozzarella. I've done way too much kitchen chemistry in my time ... My Nan used to have a very similar set that I remember playing with in the 1970s, that were my Dad's which presumably he played with early 1950s.
    Fizyx
  • BrickadierGeneralBrickadierGeneral PennsylvaniaMember Posts: 15
    Legogeek said:
    ....I'm sure there is a very good chance that the box is original with the set, but philosophy is that unless it is known for 100% certain, it shouldn't be advertised as such and it could affect value if someone is considering going that route... not that many people would even know for certain themselves..... 

    EDIT - Oh... I just decided to look on eBay and look, there is one available right now - Item 253521339603. 
    http://https//www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Original-Batima-construction-set-1/253521339603?hash=item3b070ca4d3:g:d8sAAOSw9t1auT2c
    It's in a cardboard box and the box image is the same as what is on the wooden box. The plot thickens.... now I'm thinking the wood box was used to replace a deteriorating cardboard box maybe?
    I agree with you 100%. The ideally search for information would include searching through period toy trade journals or mail order catalogs for Batima advertisements. Unfortunately, access to that material is not the easiest. 

    Also, good find on eBay. It will be interesting to see what it fetches. That one has French instructions. I'm more interested in the OP's friend's set with English instructions since it shows they had a presence in English-speaking countries (maybe just UK). If the box was re-purposed, it could have been a cigar box. It kind of has that look with the hinges. Or was the wooden box used under circumstances.

    I was able to find some older eBay listings through worthpoint.com Unfortunately you have to pay for a membership to see what the items sold for. :-( 

    Here is one that has a boxed set similar to the one you shared:
    https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/x-vintage-building-block-games-lotts-513458826

    Here is a boxed set that looks like none of the others. It comes in a huge brown box that appears to be official. The box appears to have a faux wood-printed inlay. Seller wrote, "My grandfather brought it back from Normandy during WW2 as a gift for my father, then 12 years old."
    https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-batima-construction-set-1883715424
    Legogeek
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    Those blocks look familiar, and the name sounds familiar too... but I could find nothing in my clone bricks archive about them.  Sorry I can't help.

    I'm still trying to find the origins to these... Ceramic Coburg Building Blocks.... partly because that's the name of the town in Germany where I was born, before coming to the USA at age 5.

    I only have this one image... and have not found any other.  Looks like a wondrous toy though.... except the box top images are almost always deceiving!  ;-)


  • Pumpkin_3CK5Pumpkin_3CK5 CaliforniaMember Posts: 768
    Without the print on the front and the instruction sheet, I'd have thought that was unearthed in Pompeii. 
    sid3windr
  • AdelecAdelec UkMember Posts: 163
    Talking of old pre lego bricks, these are old mini bricks that we played with in the 50s! They are made of rubber.
  • Bosstone100Bosstone100 USAMember Posts: 1,394
    Does that cheese slope have a crack?
    AstrobricksSwitchfoot55mak0137dmcc0
  • AnkhrosAnkhros TexasMember Posts: 28
    edited April 2018
    Were these old building toys made with those rounded corners, or did that happen to them over time? Maybe it was a measure to make sure it didn't hurt to step on them. :p
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,789
    Adelec said:
    Talking of old pre lego bricks, these are old mini bricks that we played with in the 50s! They are made of rubber.
    And don't forget Bayko sets ... all the fun of aligning those rods and making sure you got the right length first time ...

  • paul_mertonpaul_merton UKMember Posts: 2,951
    So they've decided to sell it now. How much do you think it's worth as it is, with the English instructions? And where's the best place to sell it?
  • BrickadierGeneralBrickadierGeneral PennsylvaniaMember Posts: 15
    @paul_merton The best place is probably going to be eBay. If your friend lists it there, you have a guaranteed bidder here...  :-)  I collect LEGO ephemera, as well as "clone brands" and would be potentially interested in adding this to what I have.

    The French version that was referenced a few months back sold for less than $60 USD, so it's really hard to say what this will sell for. My advice is to just list it and let the market decide what it will sell for.

    When the listing goes live, share it here. I'm sure you will generate some more interest.

    Good luck!
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