In the spring, a young person’s fancy used to turn to thoughts of marbles. As the sun warmed up, so those colorful little balls would appear to be displayed, traded and competed for in all manner of side-walk games. Around the turn of the century, they were so popular that important glass manufacturers made significant production runs of them. Berry Pink, the marble king of the ‘20s was turning out his popular rainbow mibs at the rate of 100,000 a day.
Marbles came in all sizes from the teenies of half-inch diameter to monsters two-inches across. Sears Roebuck listed clay marbles at 15 cents a bag of 150, while the famous sulphides sold for three cents apiece. Today, those same sulphides in good condition would cost you at least $20 .
The making of sulphides actually goes back to the Chinese. A figure of an animal, a child, or maybe a political figure is made from hard, white sulphides and dipped in molten glass to build up the desired diameter. The most sought after today are the monsters; these are more likely to be found in good condition since they were always regarded as too precious to risk in the rough and tumble of the game. A mint two-inch sulphides of President McKinley is listed in my price guide as $100 .
Other types which collectors look for are End of Day, made by work-men using left over glass in whatever combination of colors struck their fancy. These were made only for their own children and today may fetch anything from $5 to $50 . Cornelian agates were byproducts from semi-precious stones. Solid colors were made into gems but the streakers, visually more interesting if less pure, were made into marbles. Unchipped specimens sell in the $5 to $10 range and have actually been reproduced by tinting glass in a way difficult to detect.
Candle swirls were particularly fine examples of the glassmaker’s art. Different glass rods were banded together and heated to melting point. They were then twisted into a succession of balls. These were considered so valuable by sidewalk marble champions that, to win one, you had to hit it 20 times in a row. Miss once and you were out. Today they sell for $10 to $30 each.
Published around the 1950s-60s