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A marble is a small spherical toy usually made from glass, clay, steel, plastic or agate. These balls vary in size. Most commonly, they are about 1/2 inch to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.6 cm) in diameter, but they may range from less than 1/30 inch (0.111 cm) to over 3 inches (7.75 cm), while some art glass marbles for display purposes are over 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Marbles can be used for a variety of games called marbles. They are often collected, both for nostalgia and for their aesthetic colors. In the North of England the objects and the game are called 'taws', with larger taws being called bottle washers after the use of a marble in Codd-neck bottles.
The Marble originated in Harappan civilization in Pakistan near the river Indus. Various marbles of stone were found on excavation near Mohenjo-daro. Marbles are also often mentioned in Roman literature, and there are many examples of marbles from ancient Egypt. They were commonly made of clay, stone or glass and commonly referred to as a "Glass alley".
A German glassblower invented marble scissors in 1846, a device for making marbles. The first mass-produced toy marbles (clay) made in the US were made in Akron, Ohio by S.C. Dyke, in the early 1890s. Some of the first US-produced glass marbles were also made in Akron, by James Harvey Leighton. In 1903, Martin Frederick Christensen—also of Akron, Ohio—made the first machine-made glass marbles on his patented machine. His company, The M.F. Christensen & Son Co., manufactured millions of toy and industrial glass marbles until they ceased operations in 1917. The next US company to enter the glass marble market was Akro Agate. This company was started by Akronites in 1911, but was located in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Today, there are only two American-based toy marble manufacturers: Jabo Vitro in Reno, Ohio, and Marble King, in Paden City, West Virginia.
One game involves drawing a circle in sand, and players will take turns knocking other players' marbles out of the circle with their own marble. This game is called ringer but is also known by other names. Other versions involve shooting marbles at target marbles or into holes in the ground (such as rolly or rolley hole). 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 customized to the environment. While the game of marbles was once ubiquitous and attracted widespread press to national tournaments, its popularity has dwindled in the television age.
Popular in the early 1970s was a marble game called grids. Similar to rolly or rolley hole, the object was to be the first to land one's marble into a hole. However, a makeshift board was created using manhole grids. Each player would start at either end and attempt to thumb-flick their marble between the raised sections of the grid towards the removal hook holes. A player was not permitted to jump his marble over the raised sections, but only travel down the grid lines. Each player took turns until one reached the hole. In a "keepsy" game the winner would get to keep the other player's marble.
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 rock-paper-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 (namely, 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, from right back to center, from center to left, from left back to center, from center to top, from 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, surrendering 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 have had their marbles removed from play by the ghost.
In Canada, the game is played using a hole. Two or three people can play this way, either solo, or in teams of two. One simply makes a shallow or deep hole in the ground using the heel of his/her foot. Everyone then takes turns (in no particular order) shooting their marbles at the hole, trying to see who can get closer. The closest person gets to go first at flicking the marbles into the hole using the tip of the middle finger or the side of the pointer finger. In some games, feet are used to play. A player's two feet would create an upside down uppercase L shape, with the back foot pointing straight ahead and its toes touching or near the toes of the second foot, which was turned completely sideways, pointing either left (if the right foot was in front) or right (if the left foot was in front). The marble would be placed on the outside of the front foot, near the pinky toe. The back foot would then lightly tap the front foot, which would hit the marble in the desired direction. If the first person misses, the person who was second-closest will then go. This goes on until all marbles are knocked in. Oddly, the person to knock the last marble into the hole wins all of the marbles. No matter what, whoever plays must play for keeps unless the player says not to at the beginning of the game. If a player says "clearsies", then the player takes out all of the marbles, keeping them safe so someone else cannot knock the marbles out of the hole. If a player says "doctor", then they can get someone else to make the shot for them, but only one shot. If one is playing with "knockies", then both players play the same way, but the person to get closest does not go first—the person who gets furthest does. However, he/she must take their turn to move his/her marble back a little and the first person will try to flick the further marble to the closer one to try and knock it in the hole. After there is one marble left, you will play the last one normally. After this is completed the player with the most marbles wins.
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A player defines a semi-circle in the dirt alongside a wall which represents the playing arena, with a radius of about 20 cm. Players take turns bouncing marbles and shooters (which we called Knockers) off the wall trying to hit any marble in the arena. If a marble is hit, the player gets all the marbles in the arena. If a marble misses and goes out of the arena, the next player places the marble where they want inside the arena.
This game takes little space and is fast pace, making it ideal for young kids on a playground as long as they have some dirt or sand which meets the side of a building.
A curious version of marbles which used the feet, rather than the hands, to shoot was played in Southern New Hampshire (Nashua-Derry region) in the mid 1960s through 1970s. Players first made a target hole, by pivoting on a heel in the dirt. Paired opponents would take turns to see who would get their marble into the hole first, starting from a distance of up to about ten feet. The marble was aimed and propelled (in the case of a right-footed person) by the left foot being placed touching the marble so that the marble was at the outside, widest part of the foot forward of the arch. Then, with that left foot planted, and requiring a bit of a knock-kneed stance, the right foot kicks the inside of the left foot (directly opposite the marble). This kick dislodges the left foot into the marble, hitting it into the direction of the hole. The basic strategy was that the first one to sink their marble into the hole won the game, and kept the opponent's marble. A distinct advantage was gained by getting to shoot first. Another version of marbles required players to flip a coin to see who goes first. The first person would try to make the marble in a hole, often known as poison. This allowed the player to knock others out of the game. Other players could not hit anyone unless they went into poison. Marbles had a defined value system based on size and style, with very large marbles (termed "Elephant Eggs") being the most valuable, and requiring an equally valued assortment of marbles to be included in the wager if play was to commence. Steel ball bearings of large marble size were also desirable. Due to the two-player nature of the game, and the many players, school-grounds sprouted hundreds of holes, with many simultaneous games during recess. Marbles also became a distraction in the classroom, where they often spilled onto the floor from pockets or from slippery admiring hands.
In Australia, during the 1950s and 1960s, a very popular game with variety in its play was "Bunny Hole". The winner of this game was he who was first able to hit the other player's marble four times, but this had to be achieved under certain constraints. A hole (called the "bunny hole") was dug by pivoting the heel of the foot into the sand or dirt. A line was then marked out some 20 feet [6 metres] away, and each player in turn then pitched his/her marble from the line to see who could rest the marble nearest the bunny hole. The person whose marble came to rest nearest the hole would go first. This player would then attempt to 'fire' his marble in a manner so as to rest it in the hole. No 'hits' on other marbles were accounted to any player until (s)he had successfully played his/her own marble into the bunny hole.
"Firing" a marble meant that a player had to flick his/her marble from a stationary position of his hand. No part of the hand firing the marble was permitted to be in front of the position where the marble had been resting on the ground. Using that hand, (s)he would flick or fire the marble from his/her hand, usually with the knuckle on the back of his/her hand resting on the ground, and usually using the thumb of that hand to do so. All shots of the game were conducted in this manner throughout except the very initial pitch towards the bunny hole that commenced the game.
Once a player was able to land his/her marble within the hole, (s)he would immediately then fire his marble at his opponents' marbles. However, if any player hit another player's marble before his/her own marble had been to 'visit' the bunny hole, the act would be referred to as "a kiss"; the game would be over, and all or both players (in the case of two players only) would have to retreat back to the starting line to re-commence the game, without result. This, of course, could be quite annoying or frustrating if a player had already built up quite a few hits on another player's marble! So, most skilled players did not resort to this kind of tactic.
The overall aim was to hit a particular marble 3 times after getting into the hole, then you had to "run away", before the final contact shot was allowed to be played - which was called "the kill". Once a player made a kill on another marble, if the game was 'for keeps', (s)he would then get to keep the marble [bunny] (s)he had 'killed'. The format of playing this game was that each time you successfully hit another player's marble, you were to have another shot - even if it was not the marble you had originally intended to hit.
Of course, the ploy was to hit the particular opponent marble 3 times, and then 'run away' to the bunny hole, because once you rested the marble into the hole, you immediately had your shot again, thus leaving no opportunity at all for your opponent to retreat his/her marble before "the Kill" was made on it.
The British and World Marbles Championship have been held at Tinsley Green, West Sussex, England every year since 1932. (Marbles has been played in Tinsley Green and the surrounding area for many centuries: TIME magazine traces its origins to 1588.) Traditionally, the marbles-playing season started on Ash Wednesday and lasted until midday on Good Friday: playing after that brought bad luck. More than 20 teams from around the world take part in the championship, each Good Friday; German teams have been successful several times since 2000, although local teams from Crawley, Copthorne and other Sussex and Surrey villages often take part as well; the first championship in 1932 was won by a team from the Black Horse in nearby Hookwood.
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Marble players often grow to collect marbles after having outgrown the game. 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). A marble's worth is primarily determined by type, size, condition and eye-appeal, coupled with the law of supply and demand. Ugly, but rare marbles may be valued as much as those of very fine quality. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule - "Condition is King" when it comes to marbles. Any surface damage (characterized by missing glass, such as chips or pits) typically cut book value by 50% or more.
Due to the 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 two general types: hand-made and 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. Clay marbles, also known as crock marbles or commies (common), are made of slightly porous clay, traditionally from local clay or leftover earthenware ('crockery'), rolled into balls, then glazed and fired at low heat, creating an opaque imperfect sphere that is frequently sold as the poor boy's 'old timey' marble. 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, and rounding the still-malleable glass.
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. Color is added to the main batch glass and/or to additional glass streams that are combined with the main stream in a variety of ways. For example, in the "cat's-eye" style, colored glass veins are injected into a transparent main stream. Applying more expensive colored glass to the surface of cheaper transparent or white glass is also a common technique.
The world's most expensive marble, made from pure Tesion Diamond, was appraised for $2,300,000 in 2009
There were numerous businesses that made marbles in Akron, Ohio. One major marble manufacturing company is Marble King, located in Paden City, West Virginia, which was featured in the television shows Made in America, Some Assembly Required and The Colbert Report. Currently, the world's largest manufacturer of playing marbles is Vacor de Mexico. The company makes 90 percent of the world’s marbles. Over 12 million are produced daily.
Collectible contemporary marbles are made Mostly in the United states by individual artists.
Art marbles are high quality collectable marbles arising out of the art glass movement. They are sometimes referred to as contemporary glass marbles to differentiate them from collectible antique marbles, and are spherical works of art glass. Contemporary glass artists are making some spectacularly beautiful marbles, and collectors are snatching them up, especially oversized pieces that can be displayed easily. Other contemporary marble artists include Richard C. Hollingshead II, Kevin Ivey, Sabina Boehm, Ro Purser, Chris Juedeman, Mark Matthews, Josh Simpson, Zach Jorgenson, Douglas Ferguson, Josh Sable, Gateson Recko, James Alloway, Geoffrey Beetem, Drew Fritts, Chris Rice, Travis Weber, Aaron Slater, Andrew Groner, Mike Edmondson, Bryan Chaille, Andy & Sara Gregorich, David Salazar, Jesse Demoss, Kevin Nail, Mike Gong, Nathan Miers, Jason McGhee, Paul Katherman, Ben Barracas, John Kobuki, J.D. Anderson, Chad Trent, Ken "Spider" Schneidereit, John Bridges, George Pavliscak, Matt & Misha Gieseler, Scott Young, Brad Brandolino, Jeff Mentuck, Stephan Hagstrom and Ray Laubs.
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Lettris is a curious tetris-clone game where all the bricks have the same square shape but different content. Each square carries a letter. To make squares disappear and save space for other squares you have to assemble English words (left, right, up, down) from the falling squares.
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