I recently came across a dice set on a second hand platform that caught my eye, because it looked like the Chessex Opaque urea dice out of the Danish Dan-Tern factory, but it curiously had a bottom-read d4 in a mould I had never seen before. My curiosity piqued, I went ahead and purchased said set.
Upon receiving the dice, assuming they were going to be blue, I realised this was actually the same base colour as that of Chessex Opaque Purple w/red – a deep indigo rather than Chessex’s usual opaque blue.
Trying to find out more about the Danish bottom-read d4 and from what era this set might hail, I got in touch with Kasper from the Dan-Tern factory and learned a few interesting things about Dan-Tern and Chessex history that I’d like to share.
- Don Reents, head of Chessex, first approached Dan-Tern (the Danish dice factory) to collaborate with them in 1990. They then started serving as the factory that would produce the urea material designs in the Chessex Opaque and Speckled product range.
- Dan-Tern was already making dice before they started working with Chessex, which means anything out of Dan-Tern before 1990 would not be Chessex branded dice.
- Don Reents was one of the first to invent what Chessex calls the Tens-10 (what we often call the percentile or d%), although Gamescience had the same idea roughly at the same time – coincidentally they were developed in parallel. Gamescience first announced theirs in 1990, so we can assume the Chessex-made Tens-10 also hit the market around that time.
- Don Reents asked Dan-Tern to make a Tens-10 mould so that all Chessex polysets would subsequently carry a regular d10 and a two-digit percentile d10 rather than a regular d10 and a differently coloured additional d10 or only one d10.
- The top-read d4 was also a Chessex invention. The story goes that Dan-Tern originally used a bottom-read d4 (the mould in my photos further up). At some point, a neighbour asked the simple question as to why they don’t put the number at the tip of the pyramid. The factory and Don R. liked the idea, and thus the top-read d4 was created.
- It’s not exactly clear when the top-read d4 was first introduced, but there’s a TSR set dating back to 1991 that includes a Dan-Tern-made top-read d4, so that pins down the timeline to some time in 1990 or 1991.
As for my blue mystery set, we can deduce that it must be something that was available in this configuration for a limited time window some time around 1990/1991 because of the bottom-read d4 being retired around that time, and it was likely marketed under the Chessex name because it includes a Tens-10.