No one really knows when the first marble was made or when the game of marbles began. Many ancient civilizations played with marbles like the Greeks, Romans, and the Egyptians.
Also, marbles have been found in Mohenjo-Daro and in some Native American tribes. The earliest examples were made from stones; they were also made from clay or glass. In Roman literature, there are references that the game of marbles was played with nuts.
Mass production became possible in the nineteenth century when a German glassblower invented special marble scissors. In 1884, a factory owned by Sam Dyke of Akron, Ohio, thanks to his simple invention of a wooden block with six grooves, started to create a million clay marbles per day.
The first glass marbles were made in 1903, when Martin Frederick Christensen, also from Akron, Ohio, invented the first machine for glass marbles. A lot of businessmen were interested in this toy and soon Akron became the marble capital of the nineteenth century.
There are half-dozen slang terms to describe the marbles according to their shape. For example, “aggies” are made of a stone called agate. The one made from alabaster is called “alley,” which is the large marble used to knock the smaller ones. The glass marbles with a handmade German swirl of layered colors are the antique “Onionskin,” and there are still many more.
The game of marbles became so popular that every year since 1932 a championship has been held in England, called British and World Marbles Championship, which is played at the Greyhound Inn and Pub in Tinsley Green in West Sussex every Good Friday. The event is open to anyone of any age. The first winner, in 1932, was Ellen Geary, a young girl from London.
Due to the large market, today there are hand-made glass marbles created by artists from around the world which are called art marbles and they are very unique. One of the most famous glass marble artists is John Simpson, and many of his remarkable pieces have been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums. These unique marbles are highly prized and they are high-quality collectible marbles.
Today, marbles are made from all sorts of materials, but glass remains by far the most popular.