Marbles Have a Long History
Marbles have been part of cultures around the world for more years that you might realize. Marbles have been found mentioned in historical sources going back to the time of Egypt and Rome. Originally marbles were made out of clay and stone, and as glass became more common, glass marbles were produced.
In the United States, the first mass produced marbles were made in Akron, Ohio by S. C. Dyke in the 1890’s. These marbles were made of clay. The first glass marbles in the U.S. were also made in Akron, Ohio by James Harvey Leighton.
Now, marbles are usually made of glass, and mass produced, used in all sorts of board games, as well as various marble games. However, antique and vintage marbles have become sought after by marble collectors for their beauty, uniqueness, and historical value.
Antique Stone Marbles
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Antique Handmade Marbles
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Clay and Ceramic Marbles
The earliest marbles were made out of clay. Clay was cheap, readily available, and had enough weight to roll properly. Clay marbles were easy to make, and could be molded, then fired in small ovens. Clay marbles sometimes were covered with glazes which would make the marbles harder, and could add designs and color to the exterior.
Clay marbles eventually gave way to stone and glass marbles which were more durable than clay. Glass marbles also lend themselves to many more designs than clay or stone.
Antique Slag Marbles
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Antique Agate Marbles
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Glass marbles were first made in the late 1800’s, and they offered a beauty to marbles that could not be manufactured with either clay or stone. Glass has the ability to be transparent with color ribboned throughout, and also each marble can be unique, especially if made by hand.
Glass marbles can be manufactured, many at a time, or made by hand, one at a time. The handmade glass marbles are the most unique, because glass is fluid, and hard to control in the manufacturing process. Handmade marbles can be made in a glory hole, like blown glass, or on a torch, with a lampworking process like glass beads. Either process is very interesting to watch, and takes a trained artist to create.
Antique Latticinio Marbles
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Antique German Handmade Marbles
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The marble pictured above is called a toothpaste marble due to the design of the glass inside the marble. It really does look like toothpaste, doesn’t it?
There are many types of glass marbles. Here is a partial list:
- Toothpaste – wavy streaks usually with red, blue, black, white, orange
- Turtle – wavy streaks containing green and yellow
- Ade – strands of opaque white and color, making lemon-ade, lime-ade, orange-ade, etc.
- Oxblood – a streaky patch resembling blood
- Oilie or Oily – Opaque with a rainbow, iridescent finish
- Pearls – Opaque with single color with “mother of pearl” finish
- Lutz – a type of swirl, taken from the skating term
- Onionskin – swirled and layered like an onion
- Clambroth – equally spaced opaque lines on a usually opaque base
- Cat’s Eye or catseye – central eye-shaped colored inserts or cores (injected inside the marble)
- Devil’s Eye – red with yellow eye
- Beachball – three colors and six vanes
Vintage Cats Eye Marbles
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Vintage Corkscrew Marbles
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If you want to collect marbles, then there are several factors to consider in your collection, but the most important factor is condition. The best marbles for collectors are the marbles that are in excellent condition. The marbles must be clean, free of dents, chips, in a “like new” condition to be considered top notch.
After condition, other factors are the rarity, age, type of marble, manufacturer, and size. It is best to do some research on marbles before you start collecting. I have listed some excellent marble collecting books here below.
There are lots of sources for antique and vintage marbles on Ebay, and it is a great place to add to your marble collection. You can get details about each item directly from the seller, and determine if it is the marble you are looking for.
Marbles are a lot of fun to collect, and will bring back a lot of memories for anyone that is old enough to remember playing marbles. And if they aren’t, well, this is the perfect game to teach your children and grandchildren. Aren’t we always trying to get them off the TV anyway?
Marbles Identification Guides
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