Sid Sackson: A Remembrance by Greg Costikyan

To my astonishment, this week's New Yorker has a "talk of the town" piece about Sid Sackson and the recent, tragic auction of his game collection. (The piece is not on their website, unfortunately.)

Sid was one of the greatest American game designers of mid-century, designer of Acquire and Bazaar, among others, and author of A GAMUT OF GAMES (now out of print). He's still regarded as a major talent in Germany, where boardgames are taken much more seriously than in the US. He was a sprightly, gnomish little fellow who, when I was a teenager, often showed up at the SPI offices in a trenchcoat and suit, clutching the latest manuscript for the column he wrote for Strategy and Tactics magazine. I last saw him in the mid-80s, when I commissioned a game from him based on Lucas's Willow--the movie cratered, and the game was never published.

Sid was an enthusiastic boardgame collector, and had what was almost certainly the largest and most comprehensive collection of 20th century boardgames in the world. (I believe he had a few 19th century boardgames, but the Liman Collection, now in the hands of the New-York Historical Society, is far more comprehensive on that score.)

For years, Sid and his wife, Bernice, tried to find a university or museum to take their collection--but its historical importance, and the importance of preserving the history of games as games become one of the world's primary entertainment media, apparently escaped the people they contacted. As a result, the collection has now been broken up and sold off. My friend Eric Zimmerman went to the auction and bought a few.

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Sid Sackson Game Collection Auction
More than 10,000 games go up for sale
"In the small town of Keyport, New Jersey, on a cold and rainy Saturday, about 100 gamers and collectors gathered on the first floor of a nondescript three-story brick building as what was then the world's largest collection of board games was auctioned off. - It was November 16, 2002, and game collector extraordinaire Sid Sackson had passed away 10 days earlier at the age of 82 following a lengthy illness. The auction of his games had been announced some months before as a means of helping the Sackson family pay medical bills."

The Great Games of Sid Sackson

Liman Collection
"The board and table games comprising the Arthur and Ellen Liman Collection are not only beautiful to look at, but they are also revealing documents of cultural history. By examining them carefully, we can understand the values and prejudices of Victorian America and see how these attitudes have changed or survived over time."