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Alley Agate Book

April 14th, 2014,

Alley Agate BookLarry E. Alley III, grandson of L.E. Alley of the Alley Agate Co., tells me about his book which I have heard very good things about :

The book of 144 pages is about three generations of men by the name Lawrence Everett Alley, with a major emphasis on the elder member of the family, L. E. Alley, Sr.

Lawrence E. Alley, Sr. had a significant influence on the glass industry in West Virginia during his life. He made fine glassware, marbles and toy dishes. In addition to taking a glimpse into his personal life, this book chronicles his several attempts to start businesses during the time before the Great Depression and takes a detailed look at the products made by Alley Agate, his company that succeeded and still exists today with the name Marble King.

His son, by the same name, started his career as a partner in his father’s business, The Alley Agate Co. During World War II he also taught math in the St. Marys High School. He moved in 1948 with his family to Florida, and the company was sold. In Florida he owned the Clearwater Hardware Company for several years. Later he and his wife taught special education classes in the public schools. 

His grandson, Lawrence E. Alley, III, had a career as an electrical engineer, and is the author of this book. He left Florida to attend M. I. T. and stayed in Massachusetts to work for The Raytheon Company for 35 years. After retiring he worked at Bose in the home audio division. This section is more personal, as he reflects on how various events directed the path of his life.

You can order this important piece of history about the "Father of West Virginia Swirls" directly from Larry's website.


2014 Orange County Marble Show is March 15th

March 9th, 2014,

Orange County Marble ShowThe 8th Annual Orange County Marble Show will be held this Saturday, March 15th, at 9AM - 3PM at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Fullerton. This the only show of its kind in California.

More than 40 vendors will be selling vintage or contemporary marbles. Even if you do not collect vintage marbles there will be many unique glass arts and craft items that would make very special gifts.

Admission and parking is FREE and the weather looks to be sunny and gorgeous.

Howard Johnson Hotel
222 W. Houston Ave.
Fullerton, CA  92832
For room reservations, call (714) 626-7832


Ashes to Ashes, Marbles to Marbles

January 3rd, 2014,

Cremation MarblesWhen a marble collector knuckles down for the last time, his family can playfully cheat death by giving their beloved a chance to play marbles for eternity. Literally. In fact they can even take a shot with him.

How? By encasing his ashes inside a glass Cremation Marble.

Cremation marbles are even more suitably ironic when one remembers that bone ash was a common ingredient in early machine made glass marbles. These seem perfectly suitable to marble collectors, and a little creepy to anyone else.

I consider the notion of spending the next few generations sitting among a nice collection of marbles to be great fun. I can picture a new collector picking me up, wondering what type of marble I am. The veteran collectors around him would try to keep from laughing, and when he asked them what company and style I was, they would say things like:

"That's a late contemporary, a one of a kind."

"That's a melted pontil ghost core."

"That's a clearie with an unusual bit of furnace debris."

"That's an Akro Agate Bob."

"Actually, that is Bob."


Trophy Agates

November 20th, 2013,

Three trophy agate marblesSeveral hand-faceted agate marbles in my collection have a flat area ground into their surface. Why would anyone vandalize these prized marbles of old?

The obvious answer is that somebody did not want the marble to roll anymore. That strikes me as sacrilegious, like permanently clipping the wings of a bird.

It then dawned upon me that this was not an act of vandalism, but a careful and deliberate act of veneration.

I call these marbles trophy agates. Their flat spot indicates special attention paid by its owner. It also proves these marbles were retired from active duty, but not thrown into a drawer and forgotten. Instead, they were modified to be displayed and admired, perhaps on a desk, workbench or mantle.

These were prized shooters and lucky marbles, some no doubt passed down from generation to generation. Their scars tell of countless battles fought, won, and lost. Most were likely trophies in the common sense of a prized memento; others were trophies from playing for keeps.

At some point in their history these cherished trophies lost their prominence. As their caretakers passed away, these marbles were tossed into junk drawers and shoe boxes, all but forgotten for decades, until they surfaced again in a family estate sale.

If you’re lucky you might find one of these tiny monuments. When I do, I place them on my mantle and restore them to their rightful place. If their owners had not vandalized them, I would never have known how special they were.

That’s not something you will hear a collector saying about any other type of marble.

Three trophy agate marbles displayed


The Vitreous Clay Package Company

September 8th, 2013,

Drying Marbles at the Vitreous Clay Package CoIn January, 1918, the Brick and Clay Record published an article on the Vitreous Clay Package Company of Ohio. It is a fascinating piece of American history, both for marble collectors and historians in general. Not only is it fascinating, but also it is quite an obscure bit of history, at least as measured by Google search results, for a search for "Vitreous Clay Package Company" yields only two or three results.

With so many American men still fighting "Kaiser Bill" overseas in World War I, labor was short. Imports of German marbles were blocked, making demand higher than ever. To meet that demand for marbles and other clay products, the Vitreous Clay Package Company employed women in a factory that could make up to five million glazed marbles and sixty thousand clay bottles per week.

In addition to photos of the actual factory and some of its equipment, the article goes on to describe in detail some of the methods used. I only wish they had printed close-up photos of the marbles themselves. I have to assume they were not thinking of the needs of marble collectors almost 100 years into the future!


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Marble Trivia

A 'clambroth' marble is made of milk glass (hence its brothy appearance) with many thin swirl lines on the surface of various colors.