MACHINE MADE MARBLES
Until about 20 years ago, machine-made marbles were not considered collectible by many marble collectors. Most collectors ended up with machine-made marbles as part of collections that they were buying because they wanted the handmade marbles in them. They would generally throw the machine-made marbles in a box and forget about them. Very little attempt was made to identify or classify the many different types of machine-made marbles, either by appearance or by manufacturer.
There were some notable exceptions to this, especially in the area of some easily identifiable types made by Akro Agate Company or Peltier Glass Company. But, for the most part, machine-made marbles were not given much serious attention by the majority of collectors.For several reasons, all of that began to change during the mid-1980s.
An influx of new collectors into the hobby created a demand for handmade marbles that had not previously existed. This increased the prices of handmade marbles. As those prices began to move up at a rapid rate, collectors found that they could acquire many beautiful and colorful machine-made marbles for the price of a single handmade marble.
Another reason that machine-made marbles began to receive more attention was related to their historical significance. Virtually all handmade marbles were made in Germany and then imported into the United States (as well as other countries). Machine-made marbles were almost exclusively an American product for the first half of the twentieth century. The rise of the American marble manufacturing industry mirrors in many ways the ascent of the United States as global economic force. Many examples of original packaging still exist, making it easy to identify the different types and manufacturers of machine-made marbles. An interest arose in documenting and preserving this period of American toy manufacturing.
The final reason for the increased interest in machine-made marbles was nostalgia. By the mid-1980s, the kids who had played with mibs, aggies, immies, and commies in the playground had grown up. As occurred with many other collectibles over the past forty years, collectors began buying back the objects of their youth that had been lost to numerous location changes or to indifference.So, by the late 1980s, the time and environment were ripe for an explosion of interest in machine-made marbles.
The catalyst for this explosion was the publication in 1990 of the book Collectable Machine Made Marbles by Larry Castle and Marlowe Peterson. Previously (since 1976), the Marble Collectors Society of America had published identification sheets and prices for some machine-made marbles, but the Castle and Peterson book was the first attempt to classify most types of machine-made marbles by manufacturer. Since the publication of the Castle and Peterson book, the number of people collecting machine-made marbles has grown by leaps and bounds. This increased interest and demand has seen the publication of several additional books on machine-made marbles or their manufacturers (see the bibliography for a complete list).