Submitted by jays on 28 January 2014 - 3:34pm

This Fan Tan set comprises 276 plastic buttons, a plastic cup and a black bag and was confiscated by NSW police during a raid in the 1980s. Fan Tan is a game of chance involving a square board or cloth, the sides numbered one to four. Players bet on one of the numbers and the game begins when the banker places a double handful of small objects - buttons, beads, dried beans - on the table and places a container over the buttons. A croupier uses a stick to take away the buttons in groups of four until a final batch of four or fewer buttons remain. Whoever bet on the correct number of buttons left is the winner. The game originated in China and was brought to Australia by Chinese migrants. During the early twentieth century NSW police launched many dramatic raids on houses in which Fan Tan was played. These houses were often fortified – on one occasion with barbed wire entanglements  – so police had to employ stealth and sledgehammers to catch gamblers in action.  The handful of players netted in such raids were charged with being without lawful excuse in a common gaming house.

Photograph: Jamie North, 2013
Melamine tea cup and two hundred and seventy-four cream coloured buttons from a Fan Tan kit, date unknown Fan Tan kit consisting of a black bag, melamine cup and cream coloured buttons, date unknown Melamine tea cup and two hundred and seventy-four cream coloured buttons from a Fan Tan kit, date unknown
Portrait
Justice & Police Museum
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JP2012/5-1:276