Everything you ever wanted to know about Scrabble tiles. Almost.

tile bracelet
I just tied the last knot to finish a custom order of 10 Scrabble tile bracelets. I'm happy that they're going to be part of a charity event benefitting foster kids. But I'm chagrined that my customer had to send me 5 extra C tiles to finish the order. I ran out. 

I've always been an avid -- some would say bloodthirsty -- Scrabble player. Don't stand between me and my Bingo! Some of the best times I shared with my parents was around a Scrabble board. 
Mom, Dad and I playing Scrabble
A blurry photo of me and my folks playing Super
Scrabble. My mom was a fierce competitor.
After years of playing, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the game. But when I started making things out of old games, I made a discovery: not all Scrabble tiles are created equal. 

What's that, you say. Aren't they all made out of cheap blonde wood, cut into squares and stamped with black letters? Like these?
Scrabble tiles

These are canonical Scrabble tiles. Blonde wood, blocky type (Arial, maybe?), the wood grain visibly prominent. Now take a look at these tiles below. Think they're exactly the same? Look closer.
Scrabble tiles
The letters are narrower, and the corners are slightly rounded. If you could touch these tiles, they'd feel smooth. In the light, they give off a glossy shine. These tiles are older than the first set. They're better made and, in my opinion, more attractive. 

Whenever possible, I use only original tiles in my bracelets. But, as you'd expect, it's harder to find old Scrabble games at thrift stores. It's the newer games that turn up (and sometimes without any tiles inside -- I learned that the hard way).

Now look at these tiles.
Scrabble tiles
Brick red tiles are even rarer than the older blonde ones. They're part of a limited edition game. Can you see that the B is different from the rest? I didn't realize until just now that even the red tiles come in "old" and "new" versions.

And what's going on here?
Jarnac game tiles
Looks like someone at the factory forgot to add the numbers! But these aren't Scrabble tiles. They come from a French game called "Jarnac" from the late 70s. I use these tiles sparingly, since I've only ever come across a single box at my local Goodwill.

Do you recognize these tiles? 
Game tiles from Upwords

They come from "Upwords," a lame-ish Scrabble wannabe. You can find them in every -- and I mean every -- thrift store you enter. Because they're hollow, the tiles can't be used in bracelets (at least I haven't found a way). 

I like these better. 
Game tiles from Last Word
They're part of "Last Word," a Milton-Bradley game from the mid-80s. The tiles are hollow and plastic, like the game pieces from Upwords. But look at that jazzy font--and the helpful underscore, subtly telling us this is an N, not a Z.

And now for something completely different:
Game tiles from Score a Word
It looks like a Monopoly house and a Scrabble tile got married and had kids, doesn't it? These hollow plastic tiles are mid-century treasures, part of "Score a Word" from 1953. Compared with Scrabble tiles, the B and G pieces here are more valuable. But poor "O" is still at the bottom of the point heap.

It's hard to call these tiles, since they're paper thin.
Tiles from Hangman game
Made of plastic, these come from different versions of "Hangman." I can tell they're different because of the serif vs. sans-serif fonts. (Looks like one of my cats got hold of the "O".) Small and attractive, these tiles are perfect for collages. I add them to journal covers and picture frames.

Lastly, here are my oldest tiles, from a game simply called "Anagrams." How humble.
Game tiles from Anagrams

Sadly, the B and N have gone missing. And as I was putting the G onto the scanner just now, its corner flaked off. They're part of the "eye-rest edition" -- I love that. Dense and textured, these tiles are a little bigger than their Scrabble counterparts and completely square. I'm saving them for a special word or phrase (one without "B" and "N," obviously).

So that's what I know about letter tiles, and a little tour of my collection. If you're curious about different game boards, check out this thorough history.  

What do you use tiles for, besides playing the game?