Serious collectors of handmade non-glass marbles are few and far between. Other than having one or two examples of each type in their collections, most collectors do not seek out these marbles.
Clay and bennington marbles were produced by the millions, in both Germany and the United States, from the mid 1800s through the early 1900s. They were easy and cheap to produce, not requiring the technical knowledge or skill of glass marbles. The first marbles produced in the United States were clay marbles and the first marble-related U.S. patents are for devices that “mass produce” clay marbles.
While clays and benningtons are not in great demand, collectors are more interested in handpainted china marbles and agates. Some of the handpainted chinas are very colorful and beautiful. No marble collection is complete without a sampling. Handpainted chinas can also be quite rare. Scenic chinas rival most handmade glass marbles in terms of the price for rare examples.
No marble collection is complete without a sampling of hand-cut agates either. These marbles were the choice of marble shooters for many years, because of their ability to knock glass marbles out of the ring. Many hand-cut agates exhibit exquisite and complicated natural designs. A fine collection of different hand-cut agates could be created that has fantastic eye appeal.
Another choice of some marble players was the steelie. These were preferred by players because their density could easily knock glass marbles out of a ring and they don’t chip or crack. However, they were banned from tournament play. Many steelies are merely ball bearings, but some are handmade hollow spheres that required a great deal of time to make. Every collection should have at least one handmade steelie.
In reality, handmade non-glass marbles do not get much attention by marble collectors. These marbles tend to get caught in the shuffle of the pursuit for the prettier and more colorful glass marbles. However, you should take your time and look at them while building your collection. They were an important part of the game of marbles for years and some of them are actually quite attractive.