Spellicans - 1850s


An original set of Spellicans in a slide lid pine box from the 1850s.

There are 27 hand painted and lacquered spills with a variety of emblems, musical instruments, people, animals, etc. All with handwritten numbers to reverse. Plus approximately 50 plain bone spills cut in shape of tools and implements, again with handwritten numbers to reverse and one hook painted red. 


Also known as Spellikins and Jackstraws which are similar games which test the player's skill at removing straws or small sticks from a pile, one at a time. and without disturbing any of its neighbours. Any number may play.

The game originated in China and is played with a set of about 30 ivory, wood, or plastic strips. These thin strips have carved heads representing animals, people, and other shapes. There is also a carved hook for moving the strips.

The order of play is determined by a throw of dice or any other agreed means. The past person in the playing order then takes all the spellikins in one hand and drops them on to the table or floor. He must not interfere with any after they have left his hand.

At his turn, each player takes the carved hook and attempts to remove a spellikin from the pile without disturbing any of the others. Once a player has started moving a particular one, he is not permitted to transfer his attack to a different one. If he is successful, he keeps the spellikin and tries to remove another one from the pile. A player's turn continues until he disturbs a spellikin other than the one he is attacking. Play continues in this way until all the spellikins have been taken.

Scoring. Each spillikin has a points value and a game is won by the player with the highest score. Spillikins that are generally fairly easy to move have a low value and more elaborate and difficult to move ones heve a correspondingly higher value.

 Box dimensions: 13.4 x 4.5 x 3.5cm 


The game would be easier to play with a metal hook, like the sort you get when fishing but the game is in good condition, there are only a couple of snapped spills, but the game is very much playable, it does not have instructions but we can print these for you on request. Grade 2 under the Hoyles Vintage Grading System