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First Published Marbles Identification and Price Guide

First Marbles Identification and Price Guide Ever PublishedI recently acquired what is reputed to be the first identification and price guide for marbles ever published, appropriately titled Marbles Identification & Price Guide, by Mel Morrison and Carl Terison.

Apparently self-published in Maine during the late 1960s, this softcover booklet contains but 18 pages. The photos are in color, however, and the descriptions are fascinating in what they do and don't describe.

All vintage marble collectors must be historians to a degree, so they should all enjoy this book for its history alone in addition to its content. It is quirky and fun.

The introduction contains a very interesting statement that gives us yet another reason to invent a time machine:

"...barely 100 people in the United States can admit to being a marble collector & boast of a sizable collection. Here is an item that can still be bought very cheaply, and yet has enough beauty to decorate any china closet. Like anything else, when more people get into the hobby, the old law of 'Supply & Demand' will prevail and prices will soar."

Keep in mind that this book was for collectors of antique handmade marbles, and while the authors do mention machine-made marbles once or twice (specifically, Marble King), they say this about them:

"These are very often mistaken for swirl marbles, because of the swirling effect running through the glass. However, a collector usually just refers to them as 'Mibs'. They aren't really collectible to an advanced collector, but are still well liked by those who can remember playing with them."

First Marble Identification Guide OpenedThere are many other little anecdotes and descriptions in this short book that caught my eye, and I will list a few of them here. These are marble history themselves, made at time when the hobby was very young and what was lacking in facts was made up with imagination (something we still do today):

* Black Indian swirls were made in India and not for export.

* Bennington marbles were made in Bennington, Vermont, and got their spots from touching other marbles while baking.

* Lutz marbles were made by Nicholas Lutz at the Sandwich Glass factory.

Much of the quirkiness in the book exists in the fact that the authors claim to have more than 7,000 antique marbles, but they leave out certain information one would expect, while information one would not expect is there. For instance, they mention purple slags and vaseline slags but never mention any other slag colors. They dedicate half a page to a 3" polished granite 'marble' but confess it is the only one of its kind.

In other words, this book is great fun to read for any lover of marbles and their history. Scare though this book is reputed to be, I found this one quite easily and priced quite reasonably. In fact here's one for sale right now.

If any serious marble historians are reading this, I am curious to know  more about the authors Mel Morrison and Carl Terison, and about the state of their vast collection today.

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Marble Trivia

Machine-made marbles known as 'sparklers' and 'sunbursts' were attempts to mimic the earlier handmade marbles called onionskins.