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Marbles have been around since early times. Various civilizations used them for recreation, like they are used in modern times. The Egyptians believed that those that were made with animal bones could serve as spiritual mediums.
Although not as many people play marble games as before, they are still popular in different parts of the world. Aside from being used for playing, they are also made into a collection, especially the vintage pieces, which are pricier than their modern counterparts.
Mass production of marbles started only in 1800’s. Vintage marbles are only limited in number, which is why they are more expensive. If you want to start making them part of your collection, you should know how to identify vintage marbles.
Watch this video, summarizing a book on collecting antique marbles and identifying them by Paul Baumann:
This could help you determine if the item is authentic in order to get your money’s worth. Here are some ways to determine if a marble is vintage or not:
1. Look for the Pontil
Most vintage marbles were made by hand through the process called glassblowing. During this procedure, a stick is used where the marble is attached.
Once done, the stick is broken on its end. This leaves a tiny rough patch on the marble, which is known as the pontil.
Although most new marbles are made by machine therefore leaving them without pontil, there are still those that are handmade.
That being said, the pontil is just one of the factors to consider when determining if the marble is vintage or not. Other factors must still be considered in order to arrive with the right conclusion.
2. Check Their Appearance
Vintage marbles are typically more attractive and brighter than modern ones because they were individually made, compared to the new ones that were made in high quantities.
This may be a little challenging for new collectors, but experienced collectors would be able to tell the difference. If you know one, you may want to get their help.
Moreover, you may check on books that specialize on antique marbles. There are specific marble patterns that were made during a certain period or from specific countries. Familiarizing yourself with these could help.
Other ways to improve your knowledge in this area is by attending marble collector events. Pride of the Prairie Show and Orange County Marble Show are some of these.
You may also join marble collector organizations in order to connect and learn with people of the same interest who could impart their knowledge and experience to you.
Here’s a video that shows a collection of vintage marbles. See if your marble looks like any of them:
3. See the Flaws
Vintage marbles are usually not perfectly made. Since they were made by hand, it was difficult for glassblowers to come up with a perfect one.
"Vintage marbles are only limited in number, which is why they are more expensive."
This may not be the case with modern marbles. They are done precisely and flawlessly because they are made by machines that were designed for this task. Aside from the pontil, antique marbles typically have flaws including bubbles.
This doesn’t mean that you need to look for a damaged or broken marble, as this would affect its value. However, do not expect to see a perfect looking marble, because if you get one, it may probably not be vintage.
4. Determine the Quality of the Glass
The quality of glass used when making marbles in the old days was high. This is because they were used for playing so they shouldn’t easily break.
While modern marbles are also used for playing, the glass used is not as high quality as the old ones so they could easily break. They are cheaper and produced in mass volumes so they can be replaced easily even when chipped or damaged.
5. Consider the Seller
If the person selling the marbles is old, they are more likely to be old too. However, this is not always the case as it could also be possible that the marbles were purchased recently or someone might have just given them to him.
Make sure to ask the seller about the origin of the marbles. If in doubt, go back to the different factors discussed on how to identify an antique marble.
Even if you have determined that the marble that’s being offered to you is vintage, it doesn’t mean that you should get it at a high price. Consider the condition too. If it’s too worn out, it may not be as valuable as it would have been if it’s in good condition.