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Dianne, IAO Editor-in-chief has asked me to write this Forum for the dealers. I am not an expert, but I have studied marbles intensely, have sold some on-line and spoken by e-mail to collector websites. The following is what I have discovered.

Marbles have been around for centuries. On line there are many, many websites devoted to marbles and history and some with prices. Glass artists today make beautiful marbles (small paperweights) and they sell for $350 and up. There are marble clubs and marble shows through-out the world. I'm not a collector, but if I see them at yard sales I will usually buy them. I recently bought a deerskin "marble bag" full of marbles for 25 cents. I wasn't interested in buying the marbles, but took them anyhow. The bag alone is probably worth $50.
If you are a Dealer or attend flea markets (on-line sales are dismal) you should have a display of marbles.

Collectors are only interested in hand-made, antique marbles in the "Shooter" or "Boulder" size. All other marbles (to the collectors) are junk.

You as a dealer should know the difference. Look over your patron's marbles. Look at the bigger sizes. Look for pontils, wobbly spheres, oddities. Clay marbles are desired if they are boulder size and in different colors. Condition is tantamount: Look closely at the marble if you are going to buy it. It is glass and glass chips easily. Marbles are designed to chip-that is the nature of the game! Wet mint describes a marble in perfect condition. Some really old marbles sell for big bucks even if chipped. Like Heisey or Tiffany, you the dealer have to decide whether to buy something that is damaged, or not.

There are many beautiful marbles around. Many should read "millions" which keeps the price down. I love "cat-eyes", but there are billions of them and they are worthless. Modern marbles look like Carnival glass (they have an oily iridescence color) and are used in fish tanks and gardening for drainage.

They also collect MIB (mint in bag) marbles, marble pouches/bags and marble-related games, MIB (mint in box). Anything else is pretty much junk.

Basically there are 4 sizes of marbles: pee-wees, marble, shooter, boulder. "Marbles" are 5/8" diam. Pee-wees are about 1/4", shooter is 11/16 to 1" and boulders are 1-1/16" and over.

As a Dealer you should hone your inventory in line with what Collectors want. Do not buy marbles just for the sake of it. Or buy them dirt cheap and repackage them for little kids, or fish tanks or whatever, or give them away FREE to kids.

When you, the dealer, buy a collection is it really a collection, or just an assortment of marbles? In summation, the Dealer should look for Age, Hand-made, Condition, Size, and related items (bags, etc.). Zero in on the Shooters and Boulders. If you see something interesting make an offer for all the marbles, or if the patron wants too much buy just the single item.

When you acquire some nice marbles handle them with care. Use white cotton gloves and maintain separation from other marbles. This is choice glass!

Following marble pictures, in order are:
Catseye beachball, Ceramic-glazed blue&yellow, Bennington Clay brown, German handmade cane-letticinio; German handmade cane-Solid core; Marble bag, Persian-blue-corkscrew; Peltier deformed Zebra.
ALL MY MARBLES ARE FOR SALE-EMail me (see Members for my address)

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Comment by C. Dianne Zweig Editor's Desk on October 28, 2008 at 5:38pm
Thanks Tom for writing a superb introductory article on a complex topic. ...this is so exciting..now I am going to pay more attention to marbles.. I must say that most of the marbles that I have come across are quite ordinary compared to some of the examples you have shown.

You realy offered a well writen guide, thanks again, Dianne

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