Gambling die

An unusual 33-sided gambling ball, an ivory teetotem, likely dating from the late 17th - late 18th century. The numbers range from one to 32 and includes a crown. The crown denotes that the ball is evenly weighted so all numbers are equally likely to be rolled, which makes it different to dice.

According to various website pages, these balls were “used for gambling and lotteries, the latter first becoming an acceptable means of raising money around 1568 during the reign of Elizabeth I when there was an urgent need of funds for repairs to the harbours and fortifications of the country, then under threat of invasion from the Spanish. Lotteries were later enshrined in law through various Acts of Parliament, becoming a popular and lucrative means of increasing government revenue and they were regularly conducted, both in London and the country, by appointed contractors. Lotteries were not confined to monetary prizes, stakes could also comprise jewellery, paintings, tapestries, silver, books, land and even animals, such as the live deer of Syon Park. English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), refers to a 32-sided ivory ball in his 1693 publication ‘Some Thoughts Concerning Education’, suggesting a teetotum similar to that used for the Royal Oak Lottery, introduced by Charles I to fund the carrying of water to London, could be used to teach children to read.”

Object Summary

Accession Loan No.
Collection Class
Toys dolls and games
marine ivory?
Common Name
gambling die
Simple Name
Inscription Transcription
numbers 1-32, the number 6 has ‘six’ underneath, a crown
Production Town

Production Country
United Kingdom
Production Person Initials

Production Person Surname

Production Year Low
Production Year High

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gambling ball