I Wuz Just Thinking: Playing for Keeps

I would not label myself as a hoarder . . . but as a collector who has stored away a whole lot of stuff and often doesn’t know where it is.

A circle had been drawn in the dirt signaling the game of marbles is about to begin.   Each child is proud of his or her own marbles but also admiring those of their friends.

Daddy would bring home empty cigar boxes from work, and we were able to keep our collections of marbles for safekeeping.

A straight line is drawn in the sand and each child tosses or rolls their favorite marble, hoping theirs would get closest to the line, thus determining the first player.

These memories came flooding back yesterday. A phone call came from a stranger who inquired if I had any marbles.  My first thoughts were, “What have I messed up this time? Maybe the voice on the other end of the line believes I’ve not been thinking clearly.”

Betty Mahurin Baker

Actually, the person had been given my name and number by someone who had a collection of antique type agate or glass type marbles.  She was a collector and in search of old and rare marbles.

Most of you know I usually have just about anything someone could want.  I would not label myself as a hoarder . . . but as a collector who has stored away a whole lot of stuff.

I was not able to be of help at this time. I know I have had some marbles for years but not a clue where they might be tucked away.

She was able to meet up with some other folks who had marbles to sell and had purchased a few of them.  She was so excited she wanted to share her joy with me and my son.  She brought her newest ones over this morning and, for each one, she explained its names, its approximate age, its composition, and its value.

I learned that marbles are made from glass, wood, clay, steel, and many more materials and come in a variety of styles and colors.

There are two types of marbles, handmade and manufactured, as well as two categories: Standard marbles, sized one-half-inch in diameter, are referred to as “ducks” or “mibs”. The larger marble is called the “shooter.”  or “taw.” It is usually three-fourths of an inch in diameter, is heavier, and is better for shooting. The “shooter” does not have to be beautiful as long as it gets the job done.

One of the best-known shooters is called “Aggies,” or “Agates.” They are considered most valuable and made in Germany and the USA from ground Agate and dyed with various mineral dyes: typically green, blue, yellow, and gray.

Imitation marbles are called “Immie.” They can fool some folks because  They are made of glass and streaked colors to appear to be of the Agate family.  Even the imposters have their value and their beauty.

The “Alleys,” are alabaster beauties recognized the world over.  Most collectors either have one or are on the lookout for one. Alabaster is a soft stone related to actual marble and is very well-loved

A brown and blue glazed finished marble is called the Bennington.  Benningtons are easy to spot because they aren’t perfectly rounded as others were.

Everyone I ever played marbles with had some “Cat’s Eyes.” They are clear with distinctive vanes feathered within.

Some other names for marbles are “Corkscrew,” “Onion skin,” “Cloud,” “Mica,” “Commie,” “China,” “Mia,” “Plaster,” “Bull’s Eye,” “Plaster,” and “Super Man.”

The “End of the Day” marble is exactly just that.  The scraps, leftover pieces of glass,  at the end of the day are melted together to form these marbles.

Bumboozer or Bumbo is most often named for being the larger marbles. Peewee marbles are smaller than one-half-inch diameter marble.

Considered one of the most expensive marbles is the “Lutz” marble is named after its creator, Nicholas Lutz of Massachusetts in the 1800s.  In 2018, this opaque Lutz marble sold for $25,000.

Thinking back over sixty-plus years, I think of playing the game and being so excited when I would be the winner and able to take home my opponent’s marbles.  Sitting and looking at each marble and its unique appearance held my attention for quite a long while.

So, you may want to go into your attic and locate your old box or jar of marbles.  It just might be a gold mine for you.  Apparently collecting marbles is not always an inexpensive hobby.

In the meantime, I wonder just how straight my arthritic thumb might shoot the marble today . . . as I was just thinking.

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