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A marble is a small spherical toy usually made from glass, clay, steel, plastic or agate. These balls vary in size. Most commonly, they are about 1/2 inch to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.54 cm) in diameter, but they may range from less than 1/30 inch (0.111 cm) to over 3 inches (7.75 cm), while some art glass marbles for display purposes are over 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Marbles can be used for a variety of games called marbles. They are often collected, both for nostalgia and for their aesthetic colors. In the North of England the objects and the game are called "taws", with larger taws being called bottle washers after the use of a marble in Codd-neck bottles.
Various balls of stone were found on excavation near Mohenjo-daro. Marbles are also often mentioned in Roman literature, and there are many examples of marbles from ancient Egypt. They were commonly made of clay, stone or glass.
Marbles were first manufactured in Germany in the 1800s. The game has become popular throughout the US and other countries.
A German glassblower invented marble scissors in 1846, a device for making marbles. The first mass-produced toy marbles (clay) made in the U.S. were made in Akron, Ohio, by S. C. Dyke, in the early 1890s. Some of the first U.S.-produced glass marbles were also made in Akron, by James Harvey Leighton. In 1903, Martin Frederick Christensen—also of Akron, Ohio—made the first machine-made glass marbles on his patented machine. His company, The M. F. Christensen & Son Co., manufactured millions of toy and industrial glass marbles until they ceased operations in 1917. The next U.S. company to enter the glass marble market was Akro Agate. This company was started by Akronites in 1911, but was located in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Today, there are only two American-based toy marble manufacturers: Jabo Vitro in Reno, Ohio, and Marble King, in Paden City, West Virginia.
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No 'hits' on other marbles were accounted to any player until he had successfully played his own marble into the bunny hole. [clarification needed]
"Firing" a marble meant that a player had to flick his marble from a stationary position of his hand. No part of the hand firing the marble was permitted to be in front of the position where the marble had been resting on the ground. Using that hand, he would flick or fire the marble from his hand, usually with the knuckle on the back of his hand resting on the ground, and usually using the thumb of that hand to do so. All shots of the game were conducted in this manner throughout except the very initial pitch towards the bunny hole that commenced the game.
Once a player was able to land his marble within the hole, he would immediately fire his marble at his opponents' marbles. However, if any player hit another player's marble before his own marble had been to 'visit' the bunny hole, the act would be referred to as "a kiss"; the game would be over, and all or both players (in the case of two players only) would have to retreat back to the starting line to re-commence the game, without result. This could be annoying or frustrating if a player had already built up quite a few hits on another player's marble, so most skilled players did not resort to this tactic.
The overall aim was to hit a particular marble three times after getting into the hole; then the player had to "run away", before the final contact shot was allowed to be played—which was called "the kill". Once a player made a kill on another marble, if the game was 'for keeps', (s)he would then get to keep the marble [bunny] (s)he had 'killed'. The format of playing this game was that each time the player successfully hit another player's marble, the player was to have another shot—even if it was not the marble the player had originally intended to hit.
The ploy was to hit the particular opponent marble three times, then 'run away' to the bunny hole, because once the player rested the marble into the hole, the player immediately had his shot again, thus leaving no opportunity at all for his opponent to retreat his marble before 'the kill' was made on it.
In the Australian school yard there were three common sizes of marbles. The smallest and most common, about 15 mm in diameter, was simply called "a marble". The two larger, and more valuable sizes were referred to as semi-bowlers and tom-bowlers, being about 20 mm and 25 mm in diameter respectively. Semi-bowlers accounted for about 2% of all marbles seen and tom-bowlers, about 0.5%. They were used in much the same way as ordinary marbles, although players of some games would not admit them because of the advantage of their larger mass and inertia. Often owner's of these larger sizes were reluctant to use them in games for fear of losing them to another player as "keepsies". They were usually the of clear "cat's eye" or milk glass type, just bigger.
The British and World Marbles Championship has been held at Tinsley Green, West Sussex, England, every year since 1932. (Marbles has been played in Tinsley Green and the surrounding area for many centuries: TIME magazine traces its origins to 1588.) Traditionally, the marbles-playing season started on Ash Wednesday and lasted until midday on Good Friday: playing after that brought bad luck. More than 20 teams from around the world take part in the championship, each Good Friday; German teams have been successful several times since 2000, although local teams from Crawley, Copthorne and other Sussex and Surrey villages often take part as well; the first championship in 1932 was won by Ellen Geary, a young girl from London.
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Marble players often grow to collect marbles after having outgrown the game. Marbles are categorized by many factors including condition, size, type, manufacturer/artisan, age, style, materials, scarcity, and the existence of original packaging (which is further rated in terms of condition). A marble's worth is primarily determined by type, size, condition and eye-appeal, coupled with the law of supply and demand. Ugly, but rare marbles may be valued as much as those of very fine quality. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule - "Condition is King" when it comes to marbles. Any surface damage (characterized by missing glass, such as chips or pits) typically cut book value by 50% or more.
Due to the large market, there are many related side businesses that have sprung up such as numerous books and guides, web sites dedicated to live auctions of marbles only, and collector conventions. Additionally, many glass artisans produce art marbles for the collectors' market only, with some selling for hundreds of dollars..
Marbles are made using many techniques. They can be categorized into two general types: hand-made and machine-made.
Marbles were originally made by hand. Stone or ivory marbles can be fashioned by grinding. Clay, pottery, ceramic, or porcelain marbles can be made by rolling the material into a ball, and then letting dry, or firing, and then can be left natural, painted, or glazed. Clay marbles, also known as crock marbles or commies (common), are made of slightly porous clay, traditionally from local clay or leftover earthenware ("crockery"), rolled into balls, then glazed and fired at low heat, creating an opaque imperfect sphere that is frequently sold as the poor boy's "old timey" marble. Glass marbles can be fashioned through the production of glass rods which are stacked together to form the desired pattern, cutting the rod into marble-sized pieces using marble scissors, and rounding the still-malleable glass.
One mechanical technique is dropping globules of molten glass into a groove made by two interlocking parallel screws. As the screws rotate, the marble travels along them, gradually being shaped into a sphere as it cools. Color is added to the main batch glass and/or to additional glass streams that are combined with the main stream in a variety of ways. For example, in the "cat's-eye" style, colored glass veins are injected into a transparent main stream. Applying more expensive colored glass to the surface of cheaper transparent or white glass is also a common technique.
There were a lot of businesses that made marbles in Ohio. One major marble manufacturing company is Marble King, located in Paden City, West Virginia, which was featured in the television shows Made in America, Some Assembly Required and The Colbert Report. Currently, the world's largest manufacturer of playing marbles is Vacor de Mexico. The company makes 90 percent of the world’s marbles. Over 12 million are produced daily.
Marbles are also made in China and may contain lead, arsenic, and/or cadmium due to the manufacturing process of old glass.
Art marbles are high quality collectible marbles arising out of the art glass movement. They are sometimes referred to as contemporary glass marbles to differentiate them from collectible antique marbles, and are spherical works of art glass.
Collectible contemporary marbles are made mostly in the United States by individual artists such as Josh Simpson.