How It's Made: Marbles - video powered by Metacafe

Marbles is a class of children's games played with glass, clay, or agate balls usually about ½ inch (1.25 cm) across. However, they may range from less than ¼ inch (0.635 cm) to over 3 inches (7.75 cm), while some art glass marbles for display purposes are over 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Marbles are often collected, both for nostalgia and for their aesthetic appeal.

Marbles were made from clay, or marble, hence their name.

Marbles are often mentioned in Roman literature, and there are many examples of marbles from ancient Egypt. They were commonly made of stone, metal, or glass until the 18th century, when ceramic marbles become more common.

Ceramic marbles entered inexpensive mass production in the 1870s.

Glass marbles entered mass production in the early 20th century, when World War I cut off their importation from Europe, causing American innovation to be applied to the task, producing a mechanized method of glass marble production which became the most common system in the world. Glass marbles, too, became the most popular variety, and have remained so to this day.

In some developing countries children use steel minerals or large rocks as a less pricey marble substitute.

One version of the game involves drawing a circle in sand, and players will take turns knocking other players' marbles out of the circle with their own. This game is called ringer. Other versions involve shooting marbles at target marbles or into holes in the ground. A larger-scale game of marbles might involve taking turns trying to hit an opponent's marble to win. A useful strategy is to throw a marble so that it lands in a protected or difficult location if it should miss the target. As with many children's games, new rules are devised all the time, and each group is likely to have its own version, often customised to the environment.

One such specialized game is called gaipar, popular in Bengal. Each player contributes four marbles, which are positioned on the edge of a rectangle. One special marble (the gai) is placed in the center. Players take turns to hit the marbles on the rectangle with a bigger marble (often called a boulder or matris). The marbles hit by the matris must be propelled out of the rectangle. If they are hit but remain within the rectangle, the player plays one more marble as a forfeit which is placed within the rectangle. The aim of the game is to hit the central gai and take it out of the rectangle. This is not easy when there are marbles on the periphery. If a player can take out the gai, he wins all the marbles. However, other players then get a chance to hit the gai-taker's boulder and, if successful, all the marbles change ownership.

Yet another specialized version of the game (as played in Taiwan) involves a five-holed course and can be played by two to six players. This version is typically played on a flat hard-packed clay surface. Five divots, approximately 2 cm deep and 4 to 5 cm wide, are excavated in the four corners of a 1.5m by 1.5m square. The fifth divot is excavated in the center of the square where the square's diagonals intersect. The players each begin with one marble and a series of games of "paper-stone-scissors" determines the starting order of the players. The beginning player starts at one of the holes in the corner of the square and this hole becomes the designated "home" hole for the remainder of the game. The first player shoots for the center hole. If he or she successfully shoots his or her marble into the center hole (videlicet the marble comes to rest in the hole without bouncing out), then he or she gets to shoot for the hole to the right. In the event of a miss, the next player in line gets to start and he or she also can proceed until a shot misses a hole. The idea is to shoot the marble from the home hole to center, from center to right, right back to center, center to left, left back to center, center to top, top back to center, and finally from center back to home. The first player to complete this course becomes the "ghost" and is at liberty to shoot at the other players' marbles as they attempt to complete the course. If the ghost successfully hits another player's marble, the ghost then wins that marble and the losing party removes the marble from play and surrenders the marble to the ghost immediately. Although the ghost wins the match immediately upon completing the course, the game is not over until all players have either completed the course or had their marbles removed from play by the ghost.


* "Keepsies" (or not "for keeps") is a variation in which players win the marbles used by their opponent.
* Various names refer to the marbles' size. Any marble larger than the majority may be termed a boulder, masher, or shooter.
* Marbles are also called by their colour.
* Quitsies: Allows any opponent to stop the game without consequence. You can either have "quitsies" (able to quit) or "no quitsies" (unable to quit).
* "Goli Gundu" is a Tamil term used to refer to both a game played with marbles, and the marbles themselves.
* "Tawz" meaning to intentionally displace an opponent's shooting marble. Common usage "I'm gonna tawz you to Mars!"

Marble collecting is a hobby enjoyed by thousands of people around the world including the respected Larry Farry whose collection, as documented in the Daily Bruin, spans over 1500 unique marbles. As with any collecting hobby a great deal of specialization occurs.

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). Each of these ratings is used to calculate the marble's worth, with the final value influenced by overall demand. Ugly but rare marbles may be valued as much as those of very fine quality.

As with any collectible toy, the value seems to first peak when the collectors with the fondest memories enjoy recalling their childhoods through their acquisitions.

Due to a 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 marbles for the collectors' market only, with some selling for hundreds of dollars .

Marbles are made using many techniques. They can be categorized into three general types: hand-made, machine-made, and semi-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. 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.

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. Colour can be added by dropping dyes onto the marbles while they are still liquid.

Early mechanical methods were similar to modern ones, but used as assistance in manual production rather than automated mass production. Marbles made in such a way are difficult to classify and generally grouped as "semi-machine-made".Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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