Glass Marbles

Glass Marbles

Did you collect glass marbles when you were a child? Most of us would have owned the cheaply produced Cat's-eye marbles, which flooded the market from Japan in the 1950s.

The most desirable glass marbles are Sulphides. These use a technique discovered by the English and French in the early 19th century of fusing clay with glass to produce cameo reliefs.

However, marbles which contain clay figures of animals or people, were produced in Germany and America. Figures include American Presidents or famous people such as Kaiser Wilhelm, General Custer; Jenny Lind or Christopher Columbus.

Today, Sulphides are worth hundreds of pounds. Good quality coloured examples change hands for £5

,000-10,000 and even the more common clear glass Sulphides can cost up to £ 200  each.

Glass Marbles

Marble history

It isn't known exactly when people started playing games with marbles. There are frequent references in Roman literature, Shakespeare mentions them in his plays and Pieter Breugel included children playing marbles in his paintings too.

The earliest marbles were made from stone, marble or clay, but by about the 15th century, glass was being used.

It was common practice for marbles to be fashioned by glass workers from 'end of the day' glass, for their children to play with.

Glass Marbles
Eye appeal is important when collecting marbles and as clay marbles are very plain looking, they do not command prices as high as the more attractive handmade glass marbles.

Victorian clay marbles can be found for around £5 each, compared with mid-19th century handmade glass marbles which will cost £l0-£100.

The first marble-making machine, developed in 1870, made the manufacture of marbles truly commercial and desirable, as uniformly glass marbles with out a mark from the glass making rod made shooting much more accurate.

 America took over as the main producer of machine-made glass marbles until the mid-20th century.

However the heyday of marbles has to be the inter-war years, when many American manufacturers competed to produce more colourful and unique designs.

Glass Marbles

 Glass Marbles with names such as Popeyes, Peltiers and Peerless Patches, Akro Agates and Corkscrews, were regularly won and lost in children's playgrounds. It is these that most collectors will come across today, paying between £5 and £20 for each.

With so many different types of marbles around, it is important that collectors get to know their subject well, and don't get fooled into buying fakes.

  Buyer beware!

Modern marbles are being packaged in reproduction, fifties style polythene bags. Cardboard headers stapled to the bag may feature advertising or other collectible tie-ins.

"Many auctions are run by knowledgeable people selling high quality, correctly identified marbles but some auctions, particularly those run by individuals not familiar with marbles themselves, feature misidentified marbles.

Glass Marbles

Try to buy from reputable sellers who know the hobby, especially when you are just starting out."

Buying tips

Condition is king. Glass Marbles were toys, and so many of them have chips and bruises. Look for those in perfect condition. A single tiny chip, can halve the value of a marble.

Original packaging is very desirable, and can raise the value of even common Glass Marbles.

Collectibles Coach

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