Antique Marble Collecting

Buyer's Guide to Antique Marbles

by R. Renée Bembry

“Collecting marbles still a fun, fascinating, worthwhile hobby for kids...”

Antique marble collecting may be one of most fascinating types of hobbies there is. The colorful 5/16 to 2 inch, light catching, glass or stone spheres are awe inspiring. They're great for game-play - gently if you must - and for showcasing.

When buying antique marbles, whether as a one time deal, or to begin a collection, the first thing you might want to do is learn a little marble history. Knowing where marbles were made may help determine their value which in turn should help you determine how much you are willing to pay for them. For example, for a period beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing on till World War I, the United States tended to import German made marbles. For the most part, they came from Lauscha, which is a town bordering Nuremberg. These marbles may be identified by their swirly designs created by heating various colored glass rods or canes and then girdling them in liquefied glass. A tool called a marbleschere, or glass cutter, was used to help accomplish this process.

Prior to the invention of the marbleschere, Germans used excavated marble and alabaster from queries located in Coburg, Oberstein. In time, they made marbles from limestone, gemstone, brass and agate. Prior to this fancy marble making process, however, marbles were simply made from clay.

In the late nineteenth century, American made marbles became a lucrative business for a short time after inventor Martin Frederick Christensen patented a steel ball bearing making machine. This machine made marbles that were almost perfect.

Antique marbles can be valued form $5 to $100 or even more - a piece! Not knowing where or during what time-period spheres you're considering were made could lead to paying too much or later selling/trading for too little. This is why, as with any antique collection, learning where and when pieces were made is vital.

Evidence of value can be made using sulphide marbles as examples. These nineteenth century made marbles often had figures in shapes of animals, human busts, and even religious insignia in their centers. The ones with busts and those that were religiously inspired are harder to find than the animal type and, therefore, more valuable. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $75 for these and a little less for the animal figures.

Today's marbles, made from materials such as sand, silica, soda lime, aluminum, and zinc oxide, are obviously not antique - yet! Adding modern marbles to your collection, however could be a fun little investment since despite their minor value today, they could become a lot more valuable during the lifetime of someone to whom you'd like to pass them. But that's not all...

Playing marbles can be just as much fun as collecting marbles. So...

Next time you buy marbles from a toy store - buy some to collect and buy some to use while learning how to play marbles.

Learn how to play marbles games both indoors and outdoors.

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