Clay marbles are the most common old marble that you will find. These marbles were the easiest to produce and millions still exist. Unfortunately, Clay marbles do not have nearly the eye-appeal of any other marbles and therefore are the least collectible of any marble.
Clay marbles were made in both Germany and the United States. It has been reported that Clay marbles were used as ballast in the keels of ships that sailed to America from Germany, and were then removed and sold in this country. On the American side, some of the earliest U.S. marble-related patents are for devices that fashion blobs of clay into round spheres, which were then fired to harden them.
Clay marbles are usually found in their natural tan color, but they may also be dyed. The dyed marbles are usually found in red, blue, brown, green or yellow. Colored Clay marbles were referred to as “polished”. Foil clays are small (usually less than 1/2” diameter) Clays with a metallic coating on them. These were produced in Germany after the turn of the twentieth century and are usually found in Mosaic games.
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Crockery marbles are a type of Clay marble that is made from two or three different colors of clay. Some are merely opaque white or off-white marbles that were fired at a higher temperature than clays, making them somewhat denser. There are also some lined Crockery that are opaque white with thin blue and/or green swirls mixed in. These are rarer and somewhat collectible. The lined Crockery marbles were made by rolling together the different colors of clay. You can achieve the same effect today with a little experimentation with Sculpey® clay. Crockery marbles were all fired to harden them. There are glazed and unglazed varieties of Crockery marbles. Some have very intricate designs in the swirl patterns and are quite attractive.
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Bennington marbles are a type of glazed clay marble. They are not very dense. The marbles are fired clay with a salt glaze on them. Benningtons are readily identifiable by both their coloring and the little “eyes” that they have on them. These are spots where the marbles were touching each other while they were being fired, resulting in those spots being uncolored and unglazed.
The term “bennington” is actually a misnomer. There is no evidence that they were ever made in Bennington, Vermont, or that they have any lineage to the Bennington pottery that they resemble and from which they get their name. It appears that all Bennington marbles were imported from Germany. Some boxes have been found that contain them and that are labeled “Agates - Imitation / Made in Germany.”
Benningtons are usually colored brown or blue. Green or black Benningtons are rarer. Marbles that have both brown and blue on them, as well as a little green, are referred to as “fancy Benningtons”. These are rarer than the single color variety. There are also some very rare examples with pink on them.
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Carpet balls are glazed, crockery spheres that are used in a game similar to bocce. Most carpet balls were made in England, predominately at Sunderland.The majority of carpet balls are in the 3” to 3-1/2” range. They have varying designs painted on them. Some of the designs (from most common to least common) are: Lined, intersecting lines-single color, intersecting lines-multiple colors, crown and thistle, flower. There are also Carpet Balls where the decoration is a transfer, rather than being painted. Designs are the more common type of transfer, although scenes have been found.
Another type of Carpet Ball is the Mochaware. These use various colored clay, similar to lined Crockery. Mochaware tend to be slightly smaller than standard size Carpet Balls.
Some Carpet Balls are small sized (about 2-1/4”). Opaque white balls are the jack. This was the target ball. Sometimes, the name of a store is printed on them. There were also lady or child-size balls (about 2-1/2”). These are less common.
Recently, many reproductions have begun to appear. These can be identified by several features: They have a thick clear glaze; many have small circular hit marks that just crack the glaze; and if they have small chips then the interior is a dark white or tan color (original carpet balls have chalky white interiors).
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