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On Marble Collecting

Here is a piece about early catalog prices -

Looking at marble advertisements in old catalogs is a mouthwatering experience for a collector. After going through a couple, one wonders first of all where all of the thousands you saw there have disappeared to, and second, why your parents or grandparents didn't have the sense to stockpile a few hundred at those prices. In 1902, small stone marbles imported from Europe (usually of a limestone type material) were sold by sacks of one thousand.

If the stones were unpolished they sold for fifty cents a sack. When the same stones were polished the price rose to sixty cents a sack. One sack weighed ten pounds, which is a lot of pounds of marbles. Since this type was sold only in sacks of one thousand, they were probably bought only by stores for resale or by youngsters who like to play for keeps but who weren't very good at it.

Also in the 1902 catalog were black onyx or agate marbles priced at five cents apiece for the small ones, eight cents apiece for the medium-sized ones, and ten cents apiece for the large ones. Blood carnelians were priced the same as the agates except that the medium-sized ones were only seven cents apiece. One of the mixed bags consisted of ten No. 1 chinas (the author was not sure what sizes the different numbers represent, except that the size increases as the number does), ten No. 2 imitation agates, ten No. 1 glazed jaspers, ten No. 2 brandies, five No. 1 opals, and five No. 2 glass tipple and threaded. This group of fifty marbles, which included by 1902 both some of the more modern-made imitation agates and teh hand-produced threaded or spirals, sold for the reasonable price of ten cents.

Another bag of imported marbles from the 1902 catalog included, along with those types in the previous bag, some glazed bull's-eyes and some No. 8 threaded glass bowlers. This particular group weighed at two and one-half pounds and sold for twenty-five cents a bag.

By 1914 the advertisements for the swirls were becoming fewer while the imitation agates, made by machine, were being offered in more colors and varieties. Samples from this catalog include on offer of brown, green, and yellow imitation agate with two each of jade and turquoise and four imitation carnelians. The diameter of these marbles was about three-fourths of an inch, they weighed eight ounces collectively, and sold for a quarter. Of the handmade type there were advertised a mixed group of spiral and onionskin marbles. Most of these were five-eights of an inch in diameter, but several large shooters (size not given) were also included with the group.

They amounted to a total of one hundred marbles at a weight of two pounds and sold for the price of thirty-three cents. This last mentioned group is the only group of the handmade type of marble still being advertised in the 1914 catalog, although there are four other groups of the machine-made type besides the one mentioned.

By 1918 the catalog no longer had any of the earlier German spiral type advertised. Instead, all of the marbles in the catalog were of the machine-made type. Listed were twenty-five imitation agates in brown, green, and blue, and brown marbles (onyx) for a quarter and six large glass marbles in green, yellow, and blue onxy for fifteen cents. The onyx referred to was imitation onyx and not the stone, as it was evident by the colors which the marbles come in. Nineteen eighteen was the last year of World War I, and represents the end of the production of handmade glass marbles in any great amount. Most of the German factories which produced these marbles were destroyed in the war. None of them was ever started again because the machine method of producing marbles, which was refined after the war, made the old hand method obsolete.

Created July 15, 1997 by EMC ~ Updated 1/27/2007.
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