by Tina Manneborn
This dice identification guide is aimed at showing and explaining some basic differences to help you make conclusions about the manufacturer from the way dice look. It will focus mostly on plastic dice, as there is not quite the same abundance of manufacturers out there for metal, wooden, gemstone or dice made from other materials as for acrylic or plastic dice. We will also not include handmade dice, but focus on factory-made dice only.
Dice come in hundreds of different colors and color combinations, and it will be impossible to list general rules here for how to identify a die from their color or color combination alone. Very often, the identification of a die starts with pinning down what manufacturer it is from the mold that was used. Once you have the manufacturer figured out, it gets easier to narrow down what die exactly it might be by then looking at the color and design, material or mix.
There are some color combinations or ways to mix materials that are commonly seen, and they are often called differently by different manufacturers. We cannot give you an exhaustive list, but we will try to show a few popular designs and frequently used names for them.
Ink is one of the most variable and easiest to change features of a die, to the point where some collectors like to change the ink color themselves (a process called reinking). This can be done in several different ways, please refer to this blog entry that covers the topic in more detail.
In most cases, a dice line only comes from the manufacturer in one ink color, although there are also exceptions to that rule (one example being Ogopogo’s Frozen line that comes in four different ink colors). Frequently used colors are black, white, gold and silver. Sometimes ink colors get changed over time for the same dice line (e.g. Chessex Velvet with gold, which later changed to silver).
The color combination of a die, its material and the ink color can help in identifying similar looking dice, e.g. Chessex Cirrus Light Blue (which has white ink) and Chessex Luminary Sky (which has silver ink). However, please be aware that used dice may have been reinked by the previous owner, so ink color is not always a good indicator if you are looking for ID on used dice.
Feel and Weight
This is perhaps a no-brainer, but the material of a die can also easily determine ID, e.g. plastic vs. metal dice. However, there are also cases where this is not as clearly determined by visual means only, for instance for the Chessex Opaque dice, which are made from urea rather than resin or acrylic. Urea dice feel colder to the touch, and have more heft to them than acrylic or resin dice. Chessex Speckled dice are also made from urea.
Identification of Pipped Dice
Identifying pipped dice is a little more difficult, since we don’t have the advantage of seeing differences in font. There are different molds with a different orientation of the sides and where they are placed in relation to each other. One example of orientation is RH030, which is commonly used by Chessex for their 16mm pipped d6. You can learn more about the orientations and what they look like on the Lord of the Dice website.
In most cases, where identification of pipped dice is concerned, it comes down to recognizing the combination of material, design, die material color(s) and ink color, sometimes also the size of the die or where on the die face the pips are placed. A lot of veteran or knowledgeable dice collectors will be able to tell you what pipped die it is from just looking at it, but if you’re not there yet, don’t worry, one day you might be.
Now that you have all this information, how does that help you actually IDing your dice? First recommendation is to start with the mold. Find out if it’s Chessex, Crystal Caste, Wiz Dice, HD or something else.
Once you have (hopefully) determined what manufacturer it is, you should take a closer look at the color combination or finish or just overall design. Are the dice opaque, translucent, uni- or multi-colored? Some manufacturers don’t have that many different designs, which makes it easier to narrow down the ID. Others, like Chessex, have a multitude of designs, and it then helps to look at resources like the Dice DB or manufacturers’ websites to compare against photos of the different lines.
It also helps to have a general feeling for what the different Chessex lines look like (e.g. Festive and Vortex are swirly, Gemini are two-colored, Phantom are milky, Borealis are glittery), which in time you will learn if you actively follow the dice collecting community.
Lastly, if you’re not sure about the ID of your dice, it can also help to look at the ink color and check against existing databases or photos if your ink color matches the photos online.
And of course, if all else fails, you can take pictures of your dice and post them in the Dice Maniacs Club Facebook group or Discord server, asking for an ID. We’re always happy to help, and often very quick at it, too.
- Michael Schäffer’s Dice DB
- Kevin Cook’s Dice Collection website
- Jon Peterson’s ‘Identifying 1970’s Dice’ YouTube video and blog post
- HD website #1, HD website #2
- Mel Shaw’s HD Dice Comparison Spreadsheet
- Bescon website
- Chessex website
- Crystal Caste website
- Dice & Games website
- Game Science website
- Koplow website
- Kraken website
- Q-Workshop website
- T&G website
- Wiz Dice website
- Chessex Borealis Glitter Identification Guide
- Crystal Caste Silk vs. D&G Marble Identification Guide
- Kevin Cook’s dice mold identification guide
- Michael Schäffer’s Dice DB page on dice molds
- Orientation guide for pipped d6 by Lord of the Dice