Marbles

In the Forsyte Saga I remember Soames arriving home from a stroll and bemoaning the fact that nobody wore the correct hat for walking in the park anymore. Standards are slipping he said. I wonder what Mr Soames Forsyte would feel about my baseball cap and more to the point what would he think about the fact that nobody plays marbles anymore.

As a schoolboy I loved playing marbles and I worry that today’s child is missing the breathtaking excitement of the roll. However marbles have now become a popular collectors item.

Collectors look for marbles displaying complex patterns, the more complex and colourful, the more valuable. Symmetrical patterns and size also add a premium. Sulphides, which are clear marbles with a figural insert, are amongst the most popular

Probably the most desirable marbles are handmade, mostly German, from circa 1850 until World War One. They were made from brightly coloured glass rods that created swirling patterns of colour. The different patterned marbles created are known by different names including swirls, onionskins and corkscrews.

The telltale sign of a handmade marble is the slightly rough area called a pontil mark. This is the mark left when the marble is removed from the glass rod. It is important to distinguish these from the machine made examples coming from America after World War Two.

Machine made marbles are still very popular today, partly due to the scarcity and expense of handmade examples but also because of childhood nostalgia; many of today’s collectors played with these American marbles when they were young.

Manufacturers to look out for include Akro Agate Company, M. F. Christensen & Son and the Peltier Glass Company, but the exact value of individual marbles can vary enormously. Collectors are also beginning to take an interest in the innovative marble makers of today, especially as the Internet auction market booms.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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