Marble identification by manufacturer is sometimes difficult, in many cases
it is impossible. What is most important is that a marble is attractive and
appealing to you.
Marble construction characteristics are one of the best ways for a collector
to identify the manufacturer. Most people who have been collecting marbles
for any length of time would look at a nicely "corked" marble and recognize
it as having been made by the Akro Agate Company. Those marbles are the
easiest to identify with a high degree of certainty. Seams of a marble can
sometimes be an indicator of a manufacturer. Veneering, another
manufacturing process that was utilized by several companies may also help
to determine who made a marble. The reason that these marble construction
characteristics can often be used to identify the maker of a marble is that
different companies used different machines to make marbles. Akro's spinner
cup, for example, produced the readily identifiable corkscrew marbles of
which there are many varieties. The evolution of marble making machines
often resulted in an overlap in the construction and design of marbles
between different companies because each company used each others ideas and
sometimes the same machines. From the time that M.F. Christensen first got
the ball (marble) rolling to the time that the last marble making machine
was manufactured, the technology of how to make the machines was not an
absolute secret although companies tried to keep it as such. There are
plenty examples of how information to make a marble machine got spread
around. Horace Hill, who left the M. F. Christensen company to go to the
Akro Agate Company, took marble making information with
have to reinvent the wheel. The Peltier Company sold machines directly to
marbles are among the hardest to identify because they often had the same
shops make the machines. The owners and workers often worked at different
companies at different times and sometimes even worked with each other to
get the job done. Therefore, while each company had their own machines
these machines were sometimes similar as were the marbles thus making an
absolute identification difficult.
Related to marble construction is design / style which sometimes helps to
identify which company made a marble. The first machine made marbles are
now called slags. Many, but not all, MFC, Christensen, and Peltier slags
are fairly unique. However, the majority of slags are probably Akro (at
least they can't be positively ID'd as another company). Slag’s evolved into
transparent swirls in the 1930's. Most of these are very difficult to place
with a certain manufacturer. Opaque swirls are hard to identify as well.
Some swirls stand out as clearly Alley, Champion,
etc. However, many swirls can not be pinned down to a specific manufacturer
with 100% certainty. Akro also made swirls as did Alox, Jackson, Playrite
with experience. Patches are hard to identify. Some Akro, Master & Peltier
patches are fairly obvious, some not so much. Most patch & ribbon marbles
are probably Vitro or Marble King and can easily be identified by
Color is another clue as to who made a marble. True oxblood in a marble is
limited to Akro with MFC bricks being an exception.
However, several other companies did occasionally have a color many collectors
also call oxblood. It usually is not true oxblood.
Some companies had very distinctive colors. Christensen, Akro and Peltier
used colors that collectors readily recognize as specific to that company.
Ravenswood's tan/brown and blue is also quite distinctive as another example.
Cullet used by many companies sometimes helps determine a manufacturer.
Since cullet wasn't exclusively available to one marble manufacturer
identification by cullet is less reliable. Finally, corporate espionage
leads one to suspect that a few formulas/recipes for color were not as
proprietary as the originators would have hoped.
Provenance. My favorite is "I know a guy who lived around the corner from
the xxxx company. When he was a kid he picked the marbles up from their
parking lot so they must be the real thing". Just because a marble came
from a companies property doesn't necessarily mean that company manufactured
it. More likely provenance is when marbles have actually been dug at a
valid former manufacturers site or are identical to those that have been
dug. Probably the best provenance is when marbles come from original
packaging that hasn't been tampered with or are identical to marbles in
those packages. Even that provenance isn't perfect as it has been
documented that most marble companies at one time or another bought and
packaged marbles made by other marble companies. Sometimes people claim
that they have a jar or box of marbles that hasn't been touched for 50 years
or more. Maybe they are right. But, even when the person is honest, a
possible flaw with that claim is that many times a batch of otherwise old
marbles has Jabo's or new foreign marbles mixed with the old marbles. It
In summary, I've done the best I can to identify marbles on my site. Please
excuse me if you find a misidentified marble here. For many marbles, a 100%
guaranteed ID may be the exception and not the rule. There is a well known
and respected collector from
say something like "I believe it is 70% Alley, 30% Ravenswood". Given all
the variables used in identifying a marble that is a wise way to do it.
People who have spent years learning this hobby and studying marbles take
into account all of the variables above and more to make an educated
decision about a marble's manufacturer. Sometimes all that can be said
about a marble is that it is a "pretty marble". I have enlisted the help of
several people in creating this site. So, marbles that are correctly
identified is a credit to them, the ones that are wrong are me "taking a
swing at it". If you see something that you question please let me know.
Thank you, Joe Street