Most Americans that were children predating the Internet and cable TV probably had a jar like this in their closet or on a bedroom shelf. Marbles were beautiful colored balls of glass that are a part of American history. Now, they’re being collected for their beauty and rarity. The marble is one of the most beloved forms of historical glass in the US.
When Marbles Were Mainly For Kids
Marbles was a game that almost all kids played at one time or another. It was primarily played by boys, but there were girls that enjoyed it too and could give the boys a run for their money.
On nice days, kids would grab their jar (or bag) of prized marbles and head outside to find a smooth, level spot to play a game against friends. The game was usually played by flicking a marble to knock the opponents’ marbles from a circle drawn on the ground.
Rules were often made up and flexible. Some games were just played for fun. Everyone went home with their own marbles. These games were called “friendlies” or “fairsies“. Other times, the games were competitive and played for “keepsies” where the winner kept the opponents’ marbles. Losing a prized glass marble in a game of keepsies was a crushing blow.
Even with kids in the past, glass marbles were collectible. When one child had a super neat one they could often get a good trade. Adults that kept their glass marbles from childhood have American treasures.
History of Marbles
Marbles have been around for years and were part of a favorite kid’s game mainly during the mid 1900s. However, the first clay balls believed to be marbles were found in Egypt tombs and a 200-300 AD Indian mound. Handmade glass marbles from Germany were made that are still treasured by collectors today.
The glass marbles that Americans are most familiar with began to be machine produced around the 1900s. Marbles were produced in America for years until “cat’s eye” marbles from China came into production. Every child wanted those beauties and the end of the popularity of the American glass marble had begun.
Even famous presidents have been reported as being fans of the game of marbles. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other prominent figures were big fans. In fact if you visit the house of John Adams you can see why marbles were so popular, there was nothing else to do in the old days!
Tiny Glass Spheres of Art
There were hundreds of different kinds of glass marbles produced in America and around the world. While the original marbles were affordable to kids, selling for a couple of cents each, today’s collectors pay thousands of dollars for exquisite examples.
There were many types of glass marbles. Some were named for different purposes in the game (shooters, mibs), and others had names describing their look or materials (clambroths, sulfides).
A few examples of American glass marbles that are highly collectable are:
Comic Peltier Marble “Sandy”
This comic marble depicts Orphan Annie’s dog “Sandy” on a white marble. On the reverse side there is a milky royal blue patch. Comic marbles were made for a limited time and are fairly rare. This marble is valued by its collector at $125.00
Akro Agate Limeade Oxblood Ace UV
The unique thing about this glass marble is its ability to glow under UV light due to its uranium oxide content. This unusual marble is valued by its collector at $250.00.
Christensen Agate Co. Clear Guinea
A patchwork of colors of green, orange, yellow and brown swirl around this clear beauty with a white center. This marble is valued by its collector at $495.00
Transitional Leighton Oxblood
From the period of 1880-1910, this highly collectible oxblood marble is valued at $1200-$2000.
The American Toy Marble Museum in Akron, OH is a great place to learn more about this historical American glass.