s brought cheaper versions made from cardboard. TILEWORK
Limke has been able to accumulate many of these styles. Using the Internet, thrift stores and skilled artisans, he has collected from sellers all over the world. Today, he has 120 mah-jongg sets in his collection.
He notes that many sets come encased in a box. Some are highly elaborate, with carved woods like mahogany or rosewood. Others are plain and simple. Most contain trays for tiles and rack storage, plus other accessories, like chips and dice.
Tiles typically are 1-by-three-fourth inches in size. Although consistent in shape, the artistic elements applied to each tile are what drive Limke to collect his sets. Symbols often were hand-painted, using such materials as the shinbone of cows or elephant tusks.
"The engraving can be so ornate," says Limke, who sometimes sports a triple-dot tile necklace he found at an import shop. "(Those) went for more money because it took time to create. ... The flowers are the most beautiful part."
One modern artist's work he collected was Texan Fred Tanner, whose wooden mah-jongg sets utilized laser-engraved wafer tiles.
"(Tanner) used panda bears in place of jokers and scorpions to act as dragons," he says. "He no longer makes sets because it became too expensive. It was $600 a set, and demand was low."
Although orders might be down, this long-standing cultural activity has seen resurgence in recent years. Limke and his circle of friends play weekly. Rivalries remain intense for this defensive pastime.
"It is good exercise for my mind, and (I like) the social aspect of it," he says. "I have met so many great people, had good food, exchanged recipes and developed a support group."