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Handmade Glass Marbles

Identification of candy stripe type of spiral marbles and several types of machine-made marbles (which sometimes resemble them) can be difficult, even with the familiar cat's eye marbles. There are two main methods for identifying the old handmade spirals.

  • Rough spots at either end of the antique marbles where they had been cut and twisted off the cane. A few old marbles have only one such spot, having been made by a different process.
  • The threads and ribbons of color in the marble should all come together and meet at each end as a natural result of the production method which twisted and cut the marbles from a cane.

Modern marbles made by machine will not contain the two rough areas, and any swirls present in the marbles usually do not meet at both ends of the sphere. Note that these identifying marks have been removed by some by some collectors through grinding and polishing. If a collector had a badly chipped or frosted marble, he could hire someone at a glass factory or with a sphere machine to grind down the marble for him and polish it. This process removed the rough areas at the ends of the marble, and also the threads and ribbons of color in the marble would no longer meet at the end. The distance between the threads at this point depended on the amount of grinding done to the marble. How do you tell if you have a ground antique marble?

  • The spirals will not meet at the ends.
  • The marble will have a brightly polished appearance, much brighter than that which was originally given to the marble by the manufacturer.
  • Generally the larger marbles were worth enough to be polished done. Smaller marbles rarely present this problem in identification.

If very little was ground off the marble, the marble is usually worth as much as if it had no polishing done to it at all. It may even be difficult to determine if any polishing had been done. However, if the grinding left the colored swirls widely separated, the marble loses much of its value as a collector's item. Sulphides among the few marbles that can go through the polishing process without leaving any signs that it had ever been done.

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Whether children play with marbles or not, they are still fascinated with the small, shiny spheres. The recent display of my marbles collection at the local libray is proof of that. The children would gather around the juvenile display case to oggle at its contents. When I first placed the marbles on display, and when I picked them up, I had plenty of help... And plenty of offers for trade for some of the unusually pretty ones. Because of the popularity of this exhibit, I placed the antique marbles in a combination display for International Library Week in April, another child-stopping display! I hope to diplay them again, alone or in some combination with other children's toys/collectibles.

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Song: "Beauty and the Beast"