What is the value of antique marbles?
The most valuable marbles are those manufactured prior to 1950. The value is best determined by an expert in antique marbles; values can range from $20 to a few hundred dollars. Most collectors desire marbles made in the late 1800s through the 1940s. Around 1950, the Japanese started manufacturing the famous cat-eye style marbles which were very inexpensive to buy. Most of the American marble companies still around by this time went out of business following the advent of the cat-eye marbles.
When trying to determine the value of antique marbles you may find it useful to have a jeweler’s loupe (small magnifying glass) to look for chips and other flaws. A caliper (used to measure the diameter) can be used to determine the size of a marble; large and peewee sizes are typically more valuable and often in better condition. Marble circle templates can be useful for sizing machine-made marbles and also for distinguishing between machine and handmade marbles. You will also need an identification book written by an expert in antique collectible marbles.
1. Determine the history of your marbles if possible.
- Where did they come from?
- Do you know about their history?
- Are they from a parent, grandparent or other relative?
- Did you get them from an auction or antique store?
Knowing the age of the person you got them from can be useful in determining the approximate age of the marbles. Someone around 65 years old would have marbles from approximately 50 years ago, someone around 75 would have marbles from roughly 60 years ago and so on. Marbles from auctions or antique stores will be harder to determine the age unless the seller knows the history.
2. Establish the condition of each marble in the collection. Since antique marbles are collectible toys made of clay or glass, their condition is key to figuring the value. Just as with any glass antique, chips, cracks and scratches will lower the value. Since old marbles were used as toys it is not surprising that most will have some damage. As with most antiques, collectors want marbles that are in mint condition or very close to that. Marbles in poor condition will have very little value.
3. Identify the type of marbles you have. Antique marbles that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye may of more value to collectors as well as machine-made marbles that are opaque.
- German Handmade Glass Marbles – 1850s to early 1900s: One of the first styles of marbles imported to the U.S. It remains one of the most sought after by collectors worldwide.
- German Handmade Non-glass Marbles – 1850s to early 1900s: Numerous imported German marbles were made of clay or stone, some glazed and some un-glazed. The most popular styles were the hand-ground stone Agates. Benningtons were the most common clays and had a blue or brown spotted glaze. Other clays called “Chinas” had bulls-eyes, flowers and leaves painted on them.
- Glass Machine-Made Marbles – 1910 to 1940s: Manufacturing of marbles in the United States began in the early 1900s and lasted into the 1940s. The mass production of marbles took off with companies turning out one million a day.
- Glass Machine-Made Marbles – 1950 to current: By this time foreign marble makers had put most American companies out of business. A few remained that are still in operation today – Marble King and Jabo, Inc.
4. Consult with an antique marble expert for an appraisal of the value of your collection. . Before approaching an expert, sort your marbles into groups and eliminate the marbles of little value such as solid-color game marbles, all the cat-eye styles and any clear glass marbles of any color.
Marbles come in all sorts of colors, materials, etc. Some marbles can be quite sought after. A marble collector can and do pay $$$$$$for, rare and unique marbles of yesteryear. Go to your local library, look in the reference section, or ask your librarian to help you. Most libraries have an awesome section with nothing but Antique-Trader-Collectible Books, that show pictures as well as todays going prices. More than likely they will have one just on Marbles! If not go on-line, keyword, Marbles Prices and see what comes up. I took a small baggy full of misc. marbles to an antique buyer last year and was well amazed at what they offered me for what I thought were just marbles!