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A7621 Construction set, Anker-Steinbaukasten (Anchor Stone Building Blocks), chalk / linseed / wood / metal / paper, made by F Ad Richter & Co, Rudolstadt, Germany, 1904-1963. Click to enlarge.

Anchor construction set by Richter & Co

Anchor building blocks are made of natural materials, chalk and linseed oil, and have the feel of building in real stone. They were developed in Germany by Otto and Gustave Lilienthal in 1875 and sold in 1880 to the German industrialist; Friedrich Ad. Richter, who made and marketed them as Anchor Stone Building Blocks, Anker-Steinbaukasten, in Rudolstadt, near Nuremberg. The purpose of Anchor Blocks was to enable children to construct buildings including fortified churches, castles, and …


Object No.


Object Statement

Construction set, Anker-Steinbaukasten (Anchor Stone Building Blocks), chalk / linseed / wood / metal / paper, made by F Ad Richter & Co, Rudolstadt, Germany, 1904-1963

Physical Description

The Anchor construction set is stored in a large wooden box with reinforced brass edges and metal handgrips at either side. The sliding-top box lid features a multi-coloured printed paper label with a drawing of an iron girder bridge with supporting towers either side and two piers in the river. River boats and barges travel under the bridge. Printed either side of the image are medallion motifs and large red anchor in a shield. The medallions refer to awards at exhibitions in Paris 1900 and St Louis 1904. The text is printed in German, Dutch, and French and English. 'Large Calibre / Transition Box'.

Detailed instruction manuals showed how to build different structures. The set contains Instruction Book No.19 of 26-pages with architecture plans drawn to scale and the 'The Practical Architects Guide' printed in 11 languages; Instruction Book No 13 of 18 pages; Instruction Book No.27 of 16 pages; and a printed lithographic box tray plan. The box is fitted with various cardboard boxes and four wooden trays containing the blocks together with the metal bridge girders, plates and bars.


Printed paper label adhered to the reverse of the box 'PASSWORT 20u BORKUM PT



185 mm


500 mm


390 mm



The blocks have a stone-like appearance and come in colours of buff, blue and light red. The blocks are made of quartz sand, finely-ground chalk and colouring which is then mixed with linseed oil varnish. The mixture is turned into moulds compressed then dried in an oven for about eight days.

The stones were made in two basic sizes, the KK sets (Klein Kaliber or small calibre) of 20 mm lengths and GK sets (BroB Kaliber or large calibre) of 25 mm. The major grouping of the sets is the AF (Alter Folge or Old Series) made between 1884 and 1898 and the NF (Neue Folge or New Series ) made between 1894 and 1963.

Basic boxes contained smooth surfaced cubes, cylinders, rectangular prisms and square pyramid-shaped bricks in red, white and blue which echoed the turrets, arches, pediments and pillars popular in German architecture at the time. More advanced sets included parts for bridge building that incorporated metal parts.

This set was known as number DS 20U and has the password, Borkum, which refers to it being a 'Large Calibre' transition box. The set originally comprised 378 stone, 361 roof stones and 357 metal pieces. It was meant to be used to extend and convert a much larger set, the GK-NF (large calibre, new series) set No. 20 to the full DS (Dach Stein) set No.27 with metal roofs covered with stone tiles. This was the largest set made in the series. By the time the sets got to be this large they were really toys for adults.

According to the Anchor construction set expert, George Hardy, this set would have been used to extend either the No.20 set or the No.34, Lyck, containing 3852 stones. The No. 20U set is rare and about 6 sets are known to survive around the world.



In 1875 Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) and his brother Gustav (1849-1933) developed, as an alternative to wooden blocks, precisely-shaped blocks made of quartz, sand, powdered chalk and linseed oil varnish. In 1880 the Lilienthal brothers sold their building block formula to the German entrepreneur, Friedrich Ad. Richter (1846-1910), owner of a chemical and pharmaceutical factory in Rudolstadt, Germany. Richter took out a patent on the blocks and began building a factory to produce them, employing artists, illustrators and architects to develop the building plans for the sets. The Richter factory was completed in 1882 and the first boxes sold under the label 'red squirrel'. The first series of four stone building sets was displayed at numerous exhibitions and by 1884 Richter could proudly announce in his catalogue that his sets had won 15 gold medals. In 1890 the number of different stone shapes increased from 175 to 338 and in 1895 the red squirrel trademark was replaced by an anchor (Anker in German) so the famous Anchor Stone Building Sets commenced.

Richter was unusual at the time for his aggressive advertising campaigns and the new toy quickly became very popular. Subsidiary and branch offices were established in Vienna, St Petersburg, London and New York. The sets were immediately popular with both adults and children. The German architect, Walter Gropius, was apparently an advocate for Anchor sets and in his ceaseless drive for sensational recommendations Richter even gathered accolades from the inventor, Thomas Edison and the then United States President Cleveland.

Richter died in 1910 leaving an empire with subsidiaries all over Europe and the United States. After the First World War his company reorganised into two public companies, F. Ad. Richter & Co Chemical Works and F. Ad. Richter & Co Block Factory. After the Second World War, as part of the German Democratic Republic, the production of Anchor Sets continued at a new location in Rudolstadt as a 'People's Owned Enterprise' (VEB Anker-Steinbaukasten). Production of the sets managed to survive both World Wars but production finally finished in 1963 when the East German authorities decided to shut down the factory. Some of the remaining boxes of stones were given away and the rest was disposed of near the plant. In 1979 an international club of Anchor stone enthusiasts, the Club of the Anchor Friends, was founded in Amsterdam in 1979 and devotees of the hobby have even excavated many of the stones from the original site still in good condition.

In 1995 Dr George Plenge, a professor of acoustics and Anker enthusiast, was the driving force behind the Anchor factory reopening and sets were once again produced by a newly-established company, Anker Steinbaukasten GmbH.


Credit Line

Purchased 1981

Acquisition Date

27 April 1981

Cite this Object


Anchor construction set by Richter & Co 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 June 2022, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Anchor construction set by Richter & Co |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 June 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}