The Cue Collector - Articles about Collecting Cues
E.J. RILEY WEIGHT STAMPS by Andy Hunter and Gordon Radford
Second Type – Early 1900 to late 1930s/1940s – Single Number
After the early 1900s, the weight stamps on Riley cues change from the “side-on” weight stamp to a weight stamp that comprises a number and nothing else. The “single number” weight stamp seems to appear on Riley cues that were made from the early 1900s through to the late 1930s and, more probably, the late 1940s.
The uppermost number is the manufactured weight of the cue but no-one is absolutely sure as to the meaning of the letter and number that appear lower down.
One theory is that the letter represents the year in which the cue was made, so that cues with the letter “A” were made in the first year (presumably, being the first year after introduction of this type of weight stamp). This is unlikely.
It seems irrational to have used letters to signify years and, in any event, it is not clear why Riley would wish to record the year in which a particular cue was made.
Secondly, if it were true, one would expect to see more Riley cues with letters that are later in the alphabet. In fact, the letters most commonly seen are the letters from A through to H.
Thirdly, this theory doesn’t explain the meaning of the second number (or, sometimes, letter) which appears at the bottom of the weight stamp.
E.J. Riley Limited
E.J. Riley started business in 1878 as a manufacturer of cricket bats, sports goods and toys. The manufacture of billiard tables didn't begin until the 1890s. Over the period from the 1890s until the 1970s, there appear to have been three distinct types of weight stamps used on Riley cues.
Over this period, the numbers change slightly in size. Smaller numbers appear earlier and, later, comparatively larger numbers.
Old E.J. Riley catalogues show that, on more expensive cues, a letter was added under the number.
The E.J. Riley catalogue from December 1928 contains a picture of the EJR snakewood butted cue and the George Gray Facsimile Cue, both of which have a letter below the weight stamp.
A similar picture appears in the E.J. Riley catalogue included in Riso Levi’s book, “Billiards: Strokes of the Game - Pots, Cannons and In-Offs”, published in the mid-1930s.
The letter is likely to have identified the individual who made the cue.
Interestingly, Riley Ladies Cues do not appear to have been weight stamped. This is confirmed by pictures in old E.J. Riley catalogues.
It is possible that weight stamps were not put on Riley Ladies Cues because the stamping process would have damaged the two ivory rings that encircle the butt of the cue.
E.J. Riley Side On Weight Stamp - 1890s to 1900s
First Type - 1890s to early 1900s - "Side On" Weight Stamps
On the earliest Riley cues, the weight stamp contains numbers above the letters “oz”. The weight stamp is placed “side-on”, along the shaft of the cue, rather than across the shaft.
An example of this weight stamp appears on the Riley Tournament Cue, as shown in the photo to the right.
It appears that this “side on” weight stamp was used from the 1890s until the early 1900s.
E.J. Riley Weight Stamp - Early 1900s to 1930s/1940s
Third Type – Late 1930s/1940s to 1970 – Numbers and Letters
The final type of Riley weight stamp contains three parts, with a number on top of a letter, on top of another number, as shown in the picture below. On some weight stamps, the number on the bottom of the weight stamp has been replaced with a letter, although this is not common.
This weight stamp seems to have been used on Riley cues from the late 1930s or 1940s until at the least the 1970s.
E.J. Riley Weight Stamp - 1930s/1940s onwards
It is more likely that, in fact, the letter in the middle of the weight stamp identifies the Riley employee who made the cue or was responsible for some important aspect of its manufacture. This is consistent with the 1930s weight stamps on more expensive Riley cues, which contained letters identifying the cue maker.
The number or letter at the bottom of the cue probably signifies the quality or source of the wood that was used in the shaft.