Collecting Antique Glass Marbles. Marbles are highly collectable.  I used to make marble bags and sell them at school for tuck shop money and at play time I would try to expand my marble collection by competing with friends. If someone had an unusual marble I wanted, I could play for it though I might have to risk five of my own marbles for the chance. I was delighted to find later in life that there existed antique marbles that are much more beautiful than those I had played with as a boy. My collecting bug was reignited.  Many of us can now source marbles that we didn't even know existed when we were children.


Marbles have been played with throughout the ages and have been made from different materials including  stone (marble, agate, limestone,  precious stones), and from porcelain, china and clay. This guide focuses on perhaps the most popular collecting area: hand made glass marbles made from the 1800's through to the early part of the 20th century.


 

Brief History. Thuringen, Germany was the main centre for the production of hand made glass marbles. These sought after marbles can be identified by the marks formed where the marble was broken from the pontil rod during production. Such is the variety of marbles made from glass in the 19th century that it is possible to make collections within  a general  collection of hand made marbles.


Types of Hand Made Marble. The most often found category of handmade marbles are "swirls" and there are sub categories within this type: latticino core marbles (a decorative core that looks like lattice work); solid core marbles (either cylindrical or with ridges); divided core swirls (with multiple strands in the centre); single or double ribbon core marbles; and complex core marble with multiple variations within the core.


Sometimes, at the end of a day the glass artisan would use his left over materials to produce a "one-off" marble. Needless to say these "end of day" marbles can be highly prized and valued.




 There are many other types of hand made glass marble to collect including: peppermints (opaque and  predominantly white with suface swirls or threads); solid colour swirls with variations of colour (including "joseph's coat" and "onionskins"); and micas (which are essentially glass and coloured glass marbles with flecks of silver inside).


Lutz marbles are also very sought after. They incorporate swirls of goldstone which is a glass made with copper crystals which produces beautiful glittering effects. The technique was first pioneered in the glass making trade in Venice centuries ago but only used in marble production in the years preceding the First World War. Another popular style of marble is the sulphide - a clear marble with a small figure of an animal in the centre (bears, birds, dogs, etc). 


Production of hand made glass marbles ended after the second world war when cheaper means of mass machine production came to the fore.





Getting Started. It would be wise to purchase one or two marbles at a time and build up from there. You will get a better feel for market value and learn about the different types and patterns. Some marbles have been over-polished to remove surface play wear but this is likely to affect value and collectability. Through experience you will discover what amount of "play wear"  is acceptable (depending for example on  the rarity of the marble). Structural cracking can render a marble worthless but a few surface "fleabites" will not.


Check that the marble is not a modern hand made marble (unless that is what you want to collect - extremely fine handmade marbles are still made). The most common patterns of antique marble are relatively inexpensive - a few pounds for a small marble in fairly good condition. Single marbles can however fetch many thousands of pounds. Value depends on various factors: rarity; size (generally the bigger the marble the higher the value); condition; type; pattern.


Collecting is easy once you get going. The field is and always has been popular and your collection should hold its value with time. All of these years later I am still on the look out for unusual marbles to add to my collection.


I try to stock a selection of antique marbles here at GreenParrot Antiques & Collectables. Please see the 

Photo Gallery for examples of recent or current stock.