Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

October 17, 2007

Losing my mind but not my marbles

I've always loved coloured glass of all kinds. I grew up surrounded by coloured glass as my mom has a really pretty collection of small glass pieces that she keeps in a sunny window on the inside porch off the kitchen. Many a morning I'd be munching on my cereal, transfixed by the sun shining through the beautiful cobalt, ruby, amber, emerald and amethyst pieces. My hometown, Sandwich, used to have a functioning glass factory for a few brief years in the mid-1800's. It shut down after only a short time, and Sandwich glass is now one of the most expensive kinds of collectible glass you can find. I even saw a pair of Deming Jarves dolphin candlesticks in the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, which surprised me.

So it's no surprise that I fell in love with marbles. I would never, ever play "keepsies" with the other kids because I didn't want to lose my precious marbles to anyone. I had a very small bag of marbles until my First Communion in 1972. My Aunt Glady & Uncle Yimmy couldn't make the trip up from Yonkers for the big event, but they sent a gift that I will never forget. Marbles. Loads and loads of them. I'm not sure what the story was, but I think someone they knew was getting rid of the collection so they asked if they could have it to give to me. Here are the regular cats eye-type:

These are glass but they call them "aggies", since old marbles were made from agate.

It seems that marble terminology varies from region to region. I've heard these called "shooters" but where I grew up, we called them "boulders". The really super large marbles we called "jumbos".

These are my very favourite kind of marble. Again, in my area we called them "crystals" but they are also called "clearies" because you can see through them.Here are some that were given to me by friends.

I bought these in an antique store in Sebastopol, CA. Nothing too valuable, just your basic pretty marbles from the 1950's, including an old metal jack and jingle bell.

This is a collection I got off eBay really cheap.

I bought this jar of them at an antique show in Tacoma a few years ago.

Now we are getting into the "cream of the crop" when it comes to serious collecting. I paid A LOT of money for this large, 2" sulphide of a dog, but I wanted to have at least one near-mint sulphide. They are extremely expensive because they are very old. I've seen them sell for up to $1,500 and higher. Some marble makers have gone back to making sulphides, but the antiques are the ones I really love. They may not look like much, but every serious collector needs at least one sulphide in their collection! I have 3 sulphides, which is about all I can afford. This is another dog. The third smaller one has a chicken.

These are called "onionskins" and they too are very old, usually made in Germany. When I say "old", I am talking early late 19th to early 20th century.

These are called "swirls" and they are most often German as well, and produced in the same time period as onionskins. They usually have a latticino core surrounded by the swirls of colour.

But when I see a modern-era art marble, I often can't resist buying one.
Or two.

Or three.....These are super old "Bennington Clays". This particular set was found somewhere near a Civil War battlefield in Virginia. Most Benningtons were produced in the mid-1800's, but unlike the German glass marbles, they are not terribly expensive or valuable.
Finally, this set of 6 oddly shaped marbles are ones that I made a couple of years ago. I took a marblemaking class at The Bead Factory in Tacoma and lemme tell ya, it's really hard to make a perfectly round marble. Mine don't roll, so much as wobble. But hey, at least I can say that I made marbles!


  1. Sadly I can't see all the pictures :( But the ones I can are beautiful.

  2. They are beautiful, but for a non-housework sort of a person like me, they say TOO MUCH DUSTING!

  3. val- i was thinking about dusting them too! haha!

    gorgeous pics joj, what a cool collection! i luv it when you show us your stuff:)

    i really like the onion skin ones. and how cool that you got to make some! i never knew there were so many different kinds. we called the big ones boulders when i was a kid too..

    how do you tell that you're looking at a real, genuine, old one or something new and cheap?

  4. Dngrkitty3:10 PM

    Oooohhh, they're gorgeous!

    It kills me that I've managed to lose the collection my grandfather gave me. I've moved too many times... I know there were micas and really pretty crystal pinkies.

    Henry is starting to take an interest in playing marbles. We bought a cheap set at a local store ($1.00 for a bag of 100 cat's eyes). I was marble champion in the 5th grade (thank you Mr. McCullogh, God rest your soul). The memory is foggy but the rules are still there, rattling around.

  5. Dngrkitty - Ah yes, good ol' Mr. McCulloch and the Marble Tournaments at the HT Wing Elementary School. I never participated in the tournies b/c I didn't want to lose any of my marbles.

  6. Kristy6:16 PM

    I vote for the onionskins--those are cool!

  7. Saw a thing on the History Channel about how marbles are made. Very cool.

  8. I can't say I agree 100% with the title, but we sure do have some awesome marbles!!

  9. I have quite a few "clearies", but they are all the same color!

    Oh, Jojo, these are beautiful things to have around you, huh? Fortunately, when we play "keepsies", I get everything back. My children are very soft-hearted, and don't like to see me sad over losing my favorites, so they always let me win!

  10. what a cool thing to collect. i love colored glass, and have collected it in various forms for many years. my favorite thing is antique bottles. have found some beauties in many colors. also, we have a beach north of us called glass beach. it was a dump, decades ago. lots of cobalt and green bits.

  11. Anonymous1:42 PM

    I remember the marbles very well, use to play with my brothers and then play keepsies with other kids, could play good enough to win most of the time.
    Yours are beautiful, I have some but not an avid collector, just buy them when they come up at a sale. Commentary was great as well Jo, keep up the good work, always enjoy your blog. Jean

  12. Annie - I've been to Glass Beach many times and I have 2 jars full of glass collected there! Fort Bragg is one of my fave places!!

  13. jojo, one of the things i miss about living near the ocean is beach glass...any glass you find on the great lakes is usually still with sharp edges.
    your collection is beautiful...but, like kris said, who dusts them?

  14. I like all of them :-)

    The ones in the glass bowl,and jar must look spectacular when the light shines on them? But as has been said already..the dusting!!!

    I grew up with a grandfather that collected china and glass with a passion,but all I really remember is my poor grandmother having to keep them all clean,sort of put me off ornaments of any kind

  15. I have a very old well what I believe to be very old marble wondering if someone would take a look at it

    1. I would love to take a look at it....I'm not very good with specific identification but I could try. If you are on Facebook, friend me, or you can join the group Antique Marble Collecting on there too. They are great!