This blog post is mostly aimed at people who are newer to dice collecting and are looking for more basic information. Call it a starter guide. 🙂
The sheer variety of different dice out there can be overwhelming, and unless you have a very keen eye, the differences between shapes, moulds, fonts and designs can be hard to figure out, especially if you’re a beginner. So where do you start?
Dice IDing is often a lot of information recall and knowledge of shapes, fonts and number placement. Different manufacturers use different shapes and fonts. Some dice types or designs are unique and easy to recognize, while others exist in similar fashion from different brands and are easy to mix up. For example, some dice have dots next to the 6 and 9, some have dashes under them, but there’s not always a consistent pattern to these things.
A good starting point for how to ID dice is probably a blog post I wrote a while ago, called Dice Identification 101. I’ve tried to cover the most frequently seen dice in there, with photos and explanations of different types of moulds and brands, but the guide is not all-encompassing.
Easily Confused Dice
There’s certain dice that look very similar and are easily mixed up. I have some blog posts up that cover a few of these, and hopefully I can add a few more in the future. Currently available are:
- D&G Marble vs. Crystal Caste Silk
- Chessex Vortex Orange vs. Vortex Magma (and other orange dice)
A lot of dice look pretty unique, which makes them easy to ID, especially when that design was only ever made by one brand or factory. It becomes really tricky when designs and colours are very similar or even the same.
One example here is translucent dice. Many, many factories make translucent dice, often in the same or similar colours. There are many different moulds out there, and it can be hard or even impossible to pin down what brand exactly you’re looking at. The only solution here is to know what brand uses what kind of mould, and try to tell them apart by the font and placement of the numbers. You can imagine that this becomes an incredibly difficult task for pipped dice.
King Cards Pearl
Some other easily confused dice that come to mind are King Cards and Crystal Caste Pearl. There are certain sets of pearl dice out there that go by King Cards Pearl. It is believed that these specific pearl dice were only sold by King Cards back in the day, although that’s hard to corroborate these days.
The King Cards Pearl dice were made by the D&G factory in England — same factory that makes Crystal Caste’s Pearl sets, although they are slightly different. The King Cards Pearl are said to have more depth to the pearly shimmer, and they always come with white ink (exception is the Pearl White set, which has black ink), while the Crystal Caste Pearl have gold ink, and the pearl effect seems flatter.
Possible exception to this is the Pearl White set. Others before me have tried to spot and outline the difference between the King Cards and Crystal Caste white pearl sets, and it’s extremely difficult. Maybe there isn’t any difference. Some of these things, we may never find the answers to.
Known King Cards Pearl colours are (names are not official):
- Dark Green
It’s uncertain whether there’s also a Light Blue line, or if the light blue dice are just a production variation of the Mint set that turned out slightly more on the blue side. Some of the sets have higher variation of colours between the dice than others, notably the lavender, pink and mint sets. Some collectors have started calling the different hues different names, but that’s solely a collector distincition and not anything that was officially sold that way.
Some people state that there’s also King Cards Pearl Brown, Gold and Silver sets. White it’s true that sets in the same mould in these colours exist, I e-mailed D&G about them a while back, and they confirmed that they used to produce dice with an Olympic theme in gold, silver and bronze in this mould, so I would rather label these D&G Olympic than King Cards Pearl. They are not to be confused with the Koplow Olympic dice, which are an entirely different mould.
King Cards as a Company
King Cards was a German company that went bankrupt and closed down its gates some time around the turn of the millennium, but their dice are still floating around. They sourced their dice from several different factories and sources, and there aren’t that many that were exclusive to King Cards.
If you look at their catalogues, you will see that they sold dice you can find with other brand names as well, such as Crystal Caste Satin, Chessex Rainbow, Chessex Speckled, Crystal Caste Silk, Crystal Caste Ice Cream, Crystal Caste Porcelain, D&G Gem, etc.
Among the lines that seem to have been exlusive to King Cards are their Rainbow dice (silvery pearl base with colour swirls) and certain Pearl dice, plus a few pipped dice such as their marbled (marmoriert) designs. Although this is not at all based on fact or any kind of documentation, I have a feeling that King Cards was the only brand that sold Crystal Caste Silk Jade as full polysets, which would explain their rarity as compared to the other Silk colours.
Same Dice, Different Names
This will probably not be a huge surprise and muddies the waters quite a bit, but sometimes the same dice go by different names. This is because factories don’t always produce or sell to one company or brand exclusively, and this rings especially true for the olden days some 20-ish years ago. Some where we know this is the case are:
- King Cards Tutti Frutti and Crystal Caste Satin
- King Cards Marble Cream and Chessex Rainbow
- D&G Gem Blitz and Crystal Caste Firefly
- D&G Magma and Crystal Caste Spectrum
(called Crystal Caste Magma by collectors, which is technically not correct)
- Koplow Glitter (old mould), Chessex Sparkle and Armory Glitter
- Weible Dragon Grey and Crystal Caste Silk Black
- Crystal Caste Interferenz and Otherworld
In most of these cases, the collecting community picks one of the names to ID the dice by, and that’s usually the one that sticks.
Same Dice, Different Look
Some dice have undergone material changes over the years, which can lead to the same dice from different eras looking noticeably different.
A prominent example are the Chessex Borealis dice, where they used different glitters that vary in appearance. Or the age-old discussion about OG and OOG, where some old glitter Chessex Borealis dice have a higher clarity than others. (Collectors call the high clarity dice OOG — old old glitter, which is actually a misnomer as the glitter is the same.)
Another example are the Chessex Scarab, Lustrous and some Festive dice, where the material mix has changed over time, and older lines have more distinctive swirls or more depth to them. These changes aren’t always immediately apparent, and can only be seen by the trained eye — and even then it’s often hard to say for sure.
Same Brand, Different Moulds
Certain brands have been or are selling dice that have wildly varying moulds. This isn’t so much the case anymore these days, but if you look at dice from the early 2000’s and before, you will find that some companies were selling dice that all looked very different.
If we look at Chessex, for example, there are at least four different moulds they’ve sold over the years.
- Taiwan mould (used for e.g. Translucent, Sparkle, Marbleized, Glo-Dice, Neon)
- Old German acrylic mould (used for e.g. Translucent, Frosted, Nebula)
- English D&G mould (used for e.g. Chessex Rainbow)
- Older Danish speckled mould
- Modern German acrylic and Danish speckled/opaque mould (used for all their modern dice)
Interestingly, some Chessex acrylic lines are available in two different moulds. Those that I know of that exist in both moulds are a subset of their out of print Nebula sets, Translucent and Frosted dice. I’ve also seen the occasional Chessex Mother of Pearl White d10 in the old mould pop up.
While we’re talking about Chessex… Chessex dice are manufactured in Germany and Denmark. Chessex no longer sources dice from factories other than those, with the exception of their metal dice which I believe are made in Italy (also in their custom modern mould). Chessex previously used the D&G factory for their translucent mini dice, but they have now switched to a newer mini dice mould that are in use at their German factory and uses the same font and layout as their regular size moulds.
Chessex’s regular sized dice are either acrylic or urea dice. The urea dice (Speckled and Opaque) are made in the Danish factory, the acrylic dice (all others) are made in the German factory, and the production process for both is different.
Urea dice have a different weight and feel to them. They are slightly heavier than acrylic dice, and they feel almost like stone in your hand, and are somewhat cool to the touch. People with acute hearing may also be able to tell the difference in how the dice clack together.
Fun fact: Urea is also utilized to make household materials such as toilet seats. 🙂
Unlike other dice brands, Chessex does not make resin dice.
As mentioned before, Chessex dice are mainly produced in Germany and Denmark.
Another well-known factory is D&G (Dice & Games) who used to be located in England, but has now closed up shop. Some existing D&G stock is still sold through eM4 Miniatures in the UK. D&G used to produce for Crystal Caste, King Cards sourced some of their dice from D&G, and the D&G factory made the modern mould Chessex Translucent dice for a number of years before production was switched to the German Chessex factory. The “dinosaurs” in the dice production business are Chessex, Koplow and Crystal Caste, who have all been around for over 20 years.
With the growing popularity of roleplaying games and particularly Dungeons & Dragons, more and more brands from China entered the market. One of the first expanding into the overseas market were Hengda Dais (HD Dice) and Bescon, around the mid-2010’s. The market has grown considerably since, with more factories like T&G, Udixi, YuSun or SueGao Craft in the mix — and that’s just the acrylic and resin dice. There’s more companies that specialize in metal and gemstone dice.
The production situation in China is somewhat unclear, and there are many mid-size gaming companies that source dice from the same Chinese factories, including Kraken, Die Hard Dice, Gate Keeper Games, Metallic Dice Games or Wiz Dice. The smaller shops with some exclusive dice also source from these factories.
What gets confusing is that a lot of the Chinese brands sell the same exact products. Particularly with the acrylic dice, you can see identical dice being offered by HD, Udixi or Bescon, so we can only assume that there are one or two factories that make these dice and offer them on to different companies.
Exclusivity is a touchy subject, and it happens very often that popular dice designs from handmakers are copied and then mass produced in China. One of the early examples of this was the Lucky Hand Dice teal with gold foil inclusions. They were very popular but only a handful of these sets existed. A year later you could see round-edged teal dice with gold foil inclusions pop up in stores for a tenth of the LHD price (granted, the quality wasn’t quite the same).
Moulding vs. Engraving
Most acrylic and resin dice have the numbers shaped into the mould, so that the die already has the grooves for the numbers when it comes out of the mould. However, dice can also be made with blank, planar faces, and the numbers then get engraved after the moulding process (this is usually the case for gemstone and wooden dice).
One company who is well known for engraved dice is Q-Workshop from Poland. The large majority (if not all) of their dice have engravings on their faces, which are often very intricate and rich patterns. In addition to polymer dice, they also offer metal dice, and most recently they have added a new technique they call Hybrid Dice where different materials are combined in one die.
Chessex offers custom engraving for pipped dice (either only the 1 face or only the 6 face or all faces). Companies like Crystal Maggie, URWizards or Level Up Dice have specialized in engraved gemstone dice.
Handmade and Handcrafted Dice
One of the first bigger names in the handcrafted arena was Lucky Hand Dice, though there are other early handmakers like Naevi’s Oddities or Würfelschmied. LHD started making a name for themselves with sharp-edged resin dice (most with glitter). They sold a few sets to get the word out about their dice, and then put up a large crowdfunding campaign for 20 different designs that was capped at a funding level of $100,000. That was in early 2019, and they have struggled to produce the dice ever since, with only very few of the crowdfunded dice having been delivered to backers to date.
Sharp-edged handmade dice became more and more popular after LHD’s crowdfunder. Right around the time that the first Dispel Dice Kickstarter went live in late 2019, the number of people handmaking dice in their own homes started rising exponentially. Resin jewellery factories in China became aware of this trend as well, including factories that Dispel had reached out to. Now we have several offering sharp-edged dice commercially (usually called handcrafted), as well as many, many handmakers who make dice at home that they sell either in the Facebook market groups, their social media or through Etsy or their own webstores.
Busting Common Myths
Chessex dice always have hooked 7s
Wrong. While this is true for their modern mould that has been in use for some 20-ish years, it does not hold true for their older dice that are from before or around the 2000’s. Before Chessex had their exclusive moulds made, they sourced dice from different factories that didn’t exclusively produce for them, and there are several Chessex lines that do not have hooked 7s. Here are some examples of Chessex dice not using their modern mould:
- Chessex Marbleized (Taiwan mould, 7 below the 20 on the d20, dice are somewhat knobbly)
- Chessex Translucent from the Taiwan mould
- Chessex Translucent from the old German mould with the open 4s (mould also used for Crystal Caste Ice Cream and Porcelain, Weible Dragon, Crystal Caste Silk, etc.)
- Chessex Rainbow (D&G mould)
Dice moulds are always uniform and consistent
Also no. This can be both confusing and frustrating, because not all dice sets have uniform or consistent moulds. There are brands that use a mix of fonts for different dice within a set. A lot of modern generic dice have dashes under the 6 on the d6 and d8 and dots next to the 6 and the 9 on the d12 and/or d20. Koplow even mixes fonts within dice sets, e.g. their Pearl or Olympic sets can have a d4, d6, d8, d10 and d% with a straight 1, and a d12 and d20 with a horizontal line under the 1. Some sets have a d4 with a 3 that has a jagged top, and a rounded top on other dice.
In other words: Mould consistency is not really a thing.
Dice lines always look the same
Not quite. Some brands have lines that have undergone mould changes over time, and this list is long and quite varied without clear patterns. We don’t really know why this is — there could be several explanations, such as a) moulds wear out with use and need to be replaced, b) factories have more than one machine in use and they don’t have consistent moulds, c) the company changed factories over time (i.e. the same dice line was manufactured in different factories).
To make this even more complicated, it’s not always the mould for all the dice in a set, sometimes it’s just single shapes, like the d4 or d8.
Some lines where this has been observed are Chessex/Koplow lines from the Taiwan factory (Translucent, Glitter/Sparkle, Marbleized, Glo-Dice, Neon), Chessex/Crystal Caste/King Cards lines from the German acrylic factory (Ice Cream, Satin, Porcelain, Silk, KC Rainbow), Koplow Olympic, Koplow Glitter (which has at least three different moulds), certain Wiz Dice sets, or certain Yusun sets.
Store Name = Dice ID
The majority of retail stores source their dice from the same handful of brands or factories. Unlike Chessex, most brands don’t require resellers to use official brand-assigned names, which often leads to different retailers selling the same exact dice under different names (example: The same swirly set of purple and white dice are sold by Fennek & Finch as Eldritch Blast and by Beholder’s Gaze as Blackberry Cream, when the actual official name is HD Milky Purple).
It’s not always easy to figure out which stores sell exclusive dice, and which are just resellers. Below is a list of stores that sell dice exclusive to them. The list is not exhaustive, and most of these stores don’t only sell exclusive dice. For more information, please refer to this Google Sheet, which has a column for whether the store sells exclusive dice or not (please note the different tabs for the different geographical regions at the bottom).
- Dakota Irish
- Dice Envy
- Die Hard Dice
- Eclipse Dice
- Fennek & Finch
- Heartbeat Dice
- Ice Cream Dice
- Kraken Dice
- Legendary Pants
- Lindorm Dice
- Little Dragon Corp
- Metallic Dice Games
- Ogopogo Gaming
- Paladin Roleplaying
- Role 4 Initiative
- Sirius Dice
Everyone in the Facebook groups knows about dice
No offense to anyone, but not everyone IDing dice is always correct (myself included). My advice would be: Employ a healthy amount of doubt when asking for dice ID or pricing in the Facebook groups, and wait for others to confirm, or wait for some of the more veteran collectors to chime in.
Many people in the dice groups are fairly new to the hobby. Most are eager to learn and soak up information as they see it, and then spread that information further. This usually isn’t done maliciously, and it’s only natural because we’ve all started somewhere. Just be aware that the information you read from other users may not always be correct.
Dice valuations can be skewed to either low or high value, depending on whether the commenter has a stake in the valuation. Someone wanting to sell the same dice will likely valuate them high, someone wanting to buy them will more than likely valuate them low. Some people quote the highest price the dice have ever sold as the market value, when the average price is often significantly lower.
Good advice is to always check eBay for sold listings and use an average, or use the search function in the Facebook market groups (Dice Market and Goblin Dice Hoard Acquisitions) to get a feeling for prices from previous sales and auctions.
All Chessex Borealis Dice are worth $$$
Not quite. There’s a longer history around the Borealis dice, but in a nutshell there are different versions of Borealis dice out there with different types of glitter in them. Chessex was forced to change the glitter around the year 2016 when their original glitter became a controlled substance because it was being used in Euro bankhotes.
The old version of the glitter has a different look and is seen by most collectors as superior to the new glitter, which makes them quite sought after, and collectors will pay several hundred dollars for a full polyset. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, in 2021 Chessex changed the new glitter Borealis to versions with additional glow-in-the-dark luminary particles inside — at the same time they discontinued the versions without luminary.
Chessex old and new glitter can only be told apart by the way the glitter looks, as Chessex didn’t change their item code when they switched to the newer glitter (only the luminary Borealis got a new code when the switch was made). More information on how you can tell the different glitter types apart can be found in this blog post.
Factories or companies care about colour consistency
They don’t. Because let’s be honest: Collectors are a picky bunch. We care about dice having the exact same hue so that the set matches. We care about nice swirls or absence of bubbles or perfect ink. A lot of casual gamers don’t. And factories know that, so they cater to the wider audience and not specifically to collectors.
I’ve seen people claim things like Crystal Caste selling Fire Opal sets as “light sets” and “dark sets”. Not true. The factory made batches of them and threw the sets together as they came, which resulted in a wild mix of either light, or dark, or mixed sets. And they were all sold with the same label for the same price.
Most factories produce dice not as sets but in batches of shapes that aren’t necessarily made at the same time. A factory can produce a batch of d4s one month, and make matching d6s, d8s, d10s etc. weeks or months later. This can account for variations in colour or other aspects, as temperature or other environmental factors can have an effect on how dice turn out.
Most factories also don’t just have one machine to make their dice. They have several that they use simultaneously, and sometimes they make the same dice with different machines at different times. This explains why, for instance, you can have Chessex d20s of the same design that can have minor mould differences, like the 2 having a longer or shorter curve or the 2 and 0 being closer together or wider apart.
This die doesn’t exist
There are some dice or dice sets that don’t come as full 7-die RPG sets. For a lot of the older sets from around the 1980s, percentile dice weren’t made at all or weren’t made until much later, resulting in either the sets being sold as 6-die sets or 7-die sets with an extra alternative colour regular d10. Examples for this are Chessex Sparkle, Chessex Glo-Dice, Chessex Marbleized, Crystal Caste Silk or some Crystal Caste Satin sets.
Because a lot of the percentile dice for these sets were only made in later production runs, there are naturally a lot less of them floating around. Sometimes these are so rarely seen that people say they don’t exist when actually they do. There have been multiple instances where even veteran collectors have said die xyz doesn’t exist, and then someone posted an actual photo of one, proving that they do. Most notably, this has happened for Chessex Marbleized Apricot or Kind Cards Pearl Mint.
The random one-off speckled dice from the Chessex Pound o’ Dice bags notwithstanding, there are dice in popular designs that only exist and single dice without a matching full set. Some examples are Crystal Caste Silk Yellow (d12 only), Chessex Butterfly (d4, d6, d8, d10 and d20 only, sold exclusively as jewellery), some Würfelzeit dice that only exist as d20s or d10s and d20s or some Chessex acrylic dice specifically made for the Pound o’ Dice bags in limited shapes (e.g. Pearl Brown with glitter, milky red, black & purple Vortex design).
Dice always look as good as their stock photos
Sometimes they do, often they don’t. While there’s nothing wrong with good product photography, some stores will use HDR effects or image editing software to enhance saturation, brightness and contrast. Particularly glitter dice are often photographed from the angle that makes the glitter look the most sparkly, or swirly dice are pictured to show off the best sides with the nicest swirls.
If you buy dice online, I would exercise caution if the photos make the dice look stunning or very vibrant, or at the very least have an innate expectation that the actual dice won’t be as vibrant or saturated or crisp as the stock photos.
One example where this was a big complaint was the Kraken Kickstarter. The majority of backers was very disappointed in the final product, which often looked nothing like the renders or photos in the Kickstarter. Kraken is still known for heavily photoshopping their stock photos, and it’s not unusual for people to complain afterwards that the actual dice look nothing like the store photos.
Among the companies that are known for over-editing and unnaturally lighting their product photos so that the dice will often look much more stunning and vibrant in the stock photography than in hand are Kraken Dice, Dispel Dice and very often also Kickstarters, e.g. Regal Rollers.
Discontinued Kraken dice are gone forever
If I’ve learned something over the years, it’s that Kraken statements about discontinued dice cannot be trusted. It’s happened over and over again that the owners have said, “These are discontinued/limited and we’ll never make them again,” and then, a few months later, they did. Or they “unexpectedly found” more of them in their warehouse.
One of Kraken’s successful business strategies is to create a sense of ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO), so that people buy up their dice very quickly. Of course there’s never a guarantee that limited or out of stock releases will come back. There is no rhyme or reason to what they decide to remake, so waiting on a later restock is always a gamble.