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Collecting and identifying vintage marbles (A great hobby for all ages)

Updated on October 21, 2014
Onionskin on top and solid core swirl on bottom. Handmades.
Onionskin on top and solid core swirl on bottom. Handmades. | Source

Collecting marbles is exciting, educational and wholesome. Marbles aren't just glass, there's more to them than you may have known. Basic marble info ahead.

My 11 year old son and I collect marbles together though he started at the age of 5. We both enjoy this marble collecting hobby and spend anywhere from a few minutes to hours on a regular basis looking at our marble collection and trying to identify the maker and the style. This is much easier said than done since some makers used similar colors and styles for various marbles. We currently have close to 6000 marbles, give or take a few hundred. Marble collecting is a great hobby to take up for yourself, your children, and grandchildren. It's a wholesome hobby and the bonding time is priceless. Identifying the marbles and various makers involve research and a few marble books. I really struggle identifying machine mades but do fairly well with handmades which is our primary focus. We started collecting them in the late summer of 2007 and I'm far from an expert, but I have learned a lot in the last year. Finding them outside of the online world can be enjoyable by going to garage sales or antique stores trying to add some beautiful marbles to your collection. Even buying online can be exciting by looking at the photos and determing how much you should pay for them, or seeing some exquisite marbles that are beyond your price range and dreaming of owning them.

My son and I inherited about half of them from my departed grandfather who used to shoot marbles when he was a young boy until he was in 50's because then opportunities to shoot marbles became fewer by the 1970s, at least this is what he told me. He used to show me them when I was young and I always appreciated the beauty and stories behind some of his marbles. Grandpa had them stored in several glass jars. Unfortunately, the majority of his hand-made marbles disappeared before I received the collection. I prefer the old German Handmades and Vitro and Akro are my favorite machine made.

Most marbles currently are made of glass. In the past, clay was predominantly used. Glass marbles started to be made around mid 1800's from what I've heard/read and the earliest glass marbles came from Germany. Of course there are stone marbles and porcelain marbles have been made for some years. Some even used ball bearings called steelies to shoot marbles. I prefer glass marbles over others but everyone is different. Marbles generally range between 1/2"-a little over an inch. Typically a shooter is 3/4 or larger. Really small marbles are called Peewees; 3/8-1/2" are general sizes of most peewees but some have been made that are even under 1/4". Once you get involved in Marbles, I warn you, you could be hooked. Don't worry that's a good thing:) I've had marble collectors contact me and say keep up the good work but please feel free to add links and comments on the page. Make suggestions on polls or duels, I'd like to hear from you.

I'm also a member of LOM (Land of Marbles) and Marble Connection which are pretty cool sites for ID purposes/values/and just good, informative marble talk or to have questions answered. There are other sites as well but these are the two I use. I don't post much anymore but I browse quite a bit.

Some may wonder how do you measure a marble to get it's size and why is it important? If you ever buy and sell marbles, size is important because some marbles were made in various sizes and the larger ones almost always have more value. I use a caliper to measure a marble and using a tape to measure around a marble is not the correct way, that measures the marble's circumference. Electronic calipers can be be picked up at a reasonable price with a basic Centech brand model selling close to 15-20 dollars at Harbor Freight or online. Be careful when buying marbles because photos can be deceiving, the best way to evaluate a marble is holding in your hand and inspecting it yourself. At times when looking at marbles you should use a magnifying glass or jeweler's loupe to make sure it isn't a remelt or been polished because this cuts down on the value of a marble.

All photos belong to me.

American Machine-Made Marbles (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
American Machine-Made Marbles (Schiffer Book for Collectors)

I own this book and highly recommend it. One of my favorite marble id books with a lot of information about makers and packaging as well.

 

Marble info, suggestions, and thoughts

Info about identifying marbles, marble photo, and general info

Collecting marbles is a wonderful hobby and I try to promote it so it is picked up by younger generations. I welcome comments, advice, questions, and thoughts. The upper photo at the top and the one below are some of my son's and mine which consist of various handmades.

Identifying your marbles can be very confusing and/or difficult at times, something I can relate to. I have the Big Book of Marbles by Grist 3rd edition and it helps out. I bought it new at Borders for about 20 dollars. I also purchased American Machine-Made Marbles by Dean Six, Johnson, and Susie Metzler because one book doesn't always cover everything from a fellow mib collector on Marble Connection. Most marble collectors have several books they use for reference. There are also many good books by the Blocks: Stanley, Mark, and Robert. Paul Baumann has a few good books as well. Just trying to promote some good marble books for ID purposes/rough estimates of a marble's worth. I have links throughout the lens for a couple of good marble forums as well where fellow mib collectors congregate and welcome the newcomers.

Best advice I can give because recently I picked up a bunch of machine mades and couldn't identify very well with books only because I wasn't familiar with all their styles is have a marble collector who is knowledgeable help you out. Attend Marble shows. I haven't done either of these as of this writing and my knowledge has suffered because of this. I plan on hitting the Kokomo show in the near future. Many will say that you learn more in a day about marbles at a show and talking with fellow knowledgeable collectors than spending weeks pouring through books and the web alone. I need a lot of help on machine mades and until I do this, I will always struggle with them.

Marble Collecting Books on Amazon - Books that collectors can choose from

Everett Grist's Big Book of Marbles 4th Edition
Everett Grist's Big Book of Marbles 4th Edition

I want to purchase in the near future. i have the 3rd edition.

 

Beautiful handmades. Large 1.25 Solid Core, 33 awesome peewees minus the board and others. Recent purchase

Beautiful handmades. Large 1.25 Solid Core, 33 awesome peewees minus the board and others. Recent purchase
Beautiful handmades. Large 1.25 Solid Core, 33 awesome peewees minus the board and others. Recent purchase | Source

What type of marbles do you collect?

Your primary type of marble you collect?

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What is your favorite marble maker?

What company is your favorite that produced marbles?

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Marble Mania
Marble Mania

I don't own but have heard many say this is a must have marble book.

 
Collecting Antique Marbles: Identification and Price Guide
Collecting Antique Marbles: Identification and Price Guide

Since I collect Antique marbles this book is one I need to purchase. Has good reviews.

 

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    • profile image

      ScentsWithBling 4 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I love marbles and find it hard to part with them when they sell. I could spend hours looking at them.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      What a lovely trip down memory lane. A great simple game and collection.

    • rayray131 profile image

      rayray131 5 years ago

      I collect as well. I just love looking at these little pieces of art.

    • Inkhand profile image

      Inkhand 5 years ago

      A colorful lens filled with rolling marbles.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      As a kid I used to play with my siblings and I'm sure we have marbles lying around the house somewhere.

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      I have never collected them, but I did play with them as a child.

    • bamajaw profile image

      bamajaw 5 years ago

      I love collecting marbles.

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 5 years ago from Idaho

      Great information, just started collecting! Blessed! Happy Labor Day!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Fascinating! I've never collected marbles but certainly played them a lot as a child. You provide excellent information and I think it is so cool that you and your son share this wonderful hobby together. Once, when I was in 1st grade, a 6th grader won all my marbles. My sister, who was in the 3rd grade found me crying and walked away with determination. At the end of the say, she returned all my marbles. She had challenged the 6th grader to play with her and won all his marbles during recess.

    • retro-gamer profile image
      Author

      Howard 6 years ago from Michigan

      @resabi: Thank you. I am honored.

    • profile image

      resabi 6 years ago

      Thought you'd like to know that this lens is featured in my Ten Intriguing Collections lens. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Snakesmom profile image

      Snakesmom 6 years ago

      I remember playing with marbles and how popular they were way back in elementary, I have always wished that they would make the huge comeback. This is a great lens and congrats on such a cool hobby with your son. :)

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Although I don't have a formal collection, I do have a number of marbles picked up at various times. I still have marbles I actually "shot" with in the 50s. Enjoyed the lens.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 6 years ago

      Let me be the first to give you an April Fools Day blessing! No, really, no joke!