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The Story of a Marble Collector

My interest in marbles began as a young child.  Marble playing was a springtime tradition in our Vermont school (at that time--about 1970--the school was one building with grades 1-12).  We only played in the snow!  Marble season corresponded with what was--and is--called Mud Season in New England.  The subsurface ground was frozen and there was at least some snow, but the air was above freezing,  making it possible to hold a marble in one's bare hand.  The warm air also made the snow soft and packable to give a nice slick surface for the marbles.  The best place to play was the dirt parking lot on which the snow was kept well packed by cars and plows.  The ruts and puddles just made it more interesting!  The game we played was a variation on Conquerors, I think.  We just called it playing marbles.  It was the only marble game we had.  The first player would toss his/her marble out onto the snow and the othe player would try to hit it from the spot the first stood.  If the second player missed his/her marble was left where it landed and the first player would shoot at the second's marble from where his/hers had landed.  They continued taking turns in this manner until one hit the other's marble.  The winner kept the marble he/she hit.  We didn't have fancy "thumb" techniques for shooting, we just used underhand tosses.  When the snow melted Marble Season was over (though Mud Season continued for a while longer)!  Sometimes we tried to play in the dirt, but it just wasn't the same!  I won more than I lost and by the time I "outgrew" playing I had about 800 marbles.  I kept them and even scrounged out all the strays I could find when my father sold the house  (after I was grown).  I also took the handmade Chinese Checker board my grandmother made when my older siblings were young.   It is one of my most prized possessions--not only because it is marble-related!

I did not ""officially" become a collector until my daughter was 3, although when I married and all my new relations asked "what do you collect?"  I would reply, "Nothing, but I do have a lot of marbles."  My daughter was fascinated by my marbles from infancy and when she was old enough I thought it would be a fun hobby to share with her.  We enjoyed this hobby together for many years.

When I was just beginning to learn about marbles at the beginning of my "official" collecting I got on the internet for the first time in my life.  I found a website run by Bob Block and was overwhelmed by the size and organization of the hobby.  I had had no idea that there were clubs, shows, and tournaments!  I also had no idea that there could be so many potential pitfalls for a novice:  fakes, cheats, honest mistakes, reproductions!  AHHH!!!!  I almost packed my marbles away and stuffed them in the attic!  But...I saw references to marble making using beadmaking techniques.  I knew someone who made beads--it couldn't be very hard.  I went to the library and found Making Glass Beads by Cindy Jenkins.  I read it.  I could feel the glass when I read her instructions even though I had never even held a rod  of glass, much less heated and melted one. I understood nearly every technique she described perfectly.  I dreamed about working glass.  I had to try this.  Never mind that that our car died and we had to buy a new one.  I HAD to try this!  I researched online supply companies (after finding that there were no local sources), and asked questions, and made a list of what I would need.  Then I bought it.  The biggest frivolous expense of my frugal life!

For eight years I made marbles for myself, my family and friends, and to sell.  I made many bad ones at first--lumpy, cracked, poor color choices, and poor designs before I developed the coordination, skill, and "eye" to make the marbles I wanted, but it was fascinating right from the start!

Check my link exchange list at right for websites and storefronts that deal with marbles.

Jane Walker

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