Antique glass marbles


2015-06-26 11:16:26

Antique glass marbles

Antique glass marbles have been produced for several centuries and in a variety of different materials. Often used by children as a part of playground games; antique glass marbles are also favoured by those seeking to compose an affordable and attractive collection.
Antique handmadeCollector's information

Antique, handmade, glass marbles are highly prized by both marble and glass collectors alike. Most antique handmade marbles were produced in Germany from the late 1840s until around 1915. The swirl variety envelops an elegant coil of coloured glass - these are sometimes called "German Swirls", though most collectors simply refer to them as "handmades".

Antique glass marbles usually range in size from about half an inch in diameter to two and a half inches. As a very general rule, the larger the marble is and the better its condition, the more it will be worth. However, while condition and scale provide a solid approximate guide, the value of eye-appeal and rarity cannot be underestimated. Very rare and very beautiful marbles, even in non-mint condition have previously sold for considerable sums.

Popular types of handmade German marble include onionskins, clambroths, sulphides, indians, lutz, and mica.

Modern handmade

Impressive handmade marbles are still being created by talented glass artists today. Some are fashioned in the artist's individual style, while others are fashioned after the antique German handmade styles like the onionskin or lutz. Collectors of modern handmade marbles often expound upon the relative affordability of the past time, while contemporary handmade glass marbles are almost always found in perfect "wet mint" condition.

Logo marbles

A logo marble is any marble bearing the logo or character of a company or product. The vast majority were made after 1970. However The Peltier Glass Company produced a series of marbles in the 1920s that were imprinted with famous comic strip characters from the era. Some of these "picture marbles" are very rare and can fetch hundreds of dollars each when they appear at auction in mint condition.


A lutz marble is any marble containing goldstone, which is aventurine glass that glitters with an unmistakable reddish brown due to the presence of copper particles. In marble collecting circles an "aventurine" marble typically refers to the green variant of this shimmering glass.

Nicholas Lutz, the famous 19th century glass artist, used goldstone extensively in his glass works, and these lutz marbles are nicknamed after him despite the fact that he never made marbles.

Lutz style marbles are particularly dazzling and very collectible, especially antique handmades. Contemporary glass artists also produce some stunning lutz type marbles which, unlike most antique lutz marbles, are always in "wet" mint condition.

Onionskin marbles

Large onionskin marbles are extremely highly sought after by antique glass marble collectors. These handmade antique marbles resemble colourful onionskin due to the way the layers of glass and flecks of glass are stretched and swirled. Many onionskins also include flecks of mica or strands of lutz, and range in size from just over half an inch to upwards of two inches.

Sulphide marbles

Sulphides, or figure marbles, are large translucent marbles, which were manufactured in Germany from the mid-19th century up until the 1930s. Usually 1 1/2" or more in size, they always feature a figure encased in the center, which early collectors mistakenly thought was made from sulfur. In fact these figures are made from porcelain and are usually animals but the rarer ones include people or numbers or other objects. No one knows exactly how many different figures or objects were made, but many hundreds are known to exist.

On average sulphide marbles sell for about $215 but rare sulphides featuring painted people or extremely rare objects can easily sell for more than $2,000

Clay, Ceramic and Stoneware Marbles

Before glass marbles became ubiquitous, antique toy marbles were made from ceramics, including clay, stoneware, and china or porcelain. From the late 1500s through the early 1700s salt-glazed stoneware marbles were made first by the Dutch and later by the Germans.

Clay marbles were first made in America in 1884 by The Akron Toy Company. Prior to 1884 they were imported from Germany.

Billions of the plain clay marbles were made in the USA from 1884 until about 1950. Despite being antiques, these clay "commies" are still common today and not really collectible.

Notable American marble manufacturers

Akro Agate Marbles

Back in the early 1900s two residents of Akron, Ohio named Gilbert Marsh and George Rankin began making glass marbles. They created their own machinery to mass produce the marbles and found enough demand to start a company. So in 1911 they registered the trademark Akro Agate and manufactured marbles under that name, arguably the most famous and prolific marble manufacturers. They soon partnered with Horace C. Hill, formerly of the Navarre Glass Marble & Specialty Company and Akro Agate manufactured marbles for 40 years. In 1951, when Akro Agate closed, theirs was the last of more than two-dozen marble factories in America's marble making capitol of Akron, Ohio.

Akro Agate marbles come in a dizzying variety of styles including corkscrews, sparklers, oxbloods, moonies and many more. Corkscrews are Akro Agate's most popular and easily recognized marble style, to be found in an astounding variety of colours. Common ones have a white base colour with a second solid colour twisting around the marble from pole to pole. More desirable variations have a non-white base or three or more colours.

Alley Agate Co. Marbles

Alley Agate Company was founded by Lawrence Alley in 1929 in Paden City, West Virginia. Several companies produced swirl marbles in West Virginia, and it can be difficult to tell them apart. Collectors often lump them together under the name West Virgina Swirls. But given Alley's larger production and distribution, more often than not an unidentified West Virginia Swirl marble was likely made by Alley. Their best marbles contained more than two colours, and flame swirl patterns are especially desirable. In 1949 Mr. Alley sold his marble works and the company was renamed to Marble King, which still produces marbles today.

Champion Agate Co.

Champion Agate Co. was started in 1938 in Pennsboro, West Virginia. Any of their marbles made before around 1970 are considered collectible, but they have also produced some limited "New Old Fashioned" runs since then. Champion marbles are typically swirled and may be hard to tell from those made by other companies. They do not appear to have produced marbles for the past few years.

Price guide

  • A remarkable onionskin peacock lutz marble containing traces of mica sold for $11,000 at Dan Morphy Auctions LLC in December, 2011.
  • A very unusual lobed single pontil sold for $6,500 at Dan Morphy Auctions LLC in February, 2010.
  • A large onionskin clown marble sold for $3,000 at EDan Morphy Auctions LLC in December, 2011.
  • A lot of assorted handmade glass marbles sold for $1,600 at Dan Morphy Auctions LLC in December 2009.
  • An exceptional rare blizzard oilskin sold for $1,050 at Robert S Block in July, 2004.
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