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By George Sourlis


            For many marble collectors slags (or onyx marbles as they were originally called) are wonderful marbles having great allure.  They are the oldest mass-produced machine-made marble.  M.F. Christensen literally flooded the world with them when he produced millions during the early1900s.  A collector looking at a handful of dull chipped slags might well wonder if Will Roger, Tom Mix or some other well-known hero may have played with some of them.


            Many collectors, especially new ones, think that slags were produced well into the 40s and even into the 50s, but it is doubtful that they were even produced in the mid-1930s.  This is a startling statement, but it can be deduced through a little speculation, and it can be supported with some hard facts.


            Let’s speculate from the viewpoint of a child during the early 1930s.  At that time slags had been around for quite a while.  Dad had even played with them.  By 1930 Akro Agate had just started producing colorful spirals (corkscrews), and somewhat later they produced the dynamite tri-onyx marbles (popeyes).  Peltier sometime in the 20s began producing 3-color opaque swirls on their Miller machine.  These were essentially 3-color opaque slags that later became patterned rainbos.  Some of these beauties we now call Christmas trees, supermen, rebels, patriots, mustard and ketchups, and golden rebels.  Christensen Agate in the early 1930s was making gorgeous flames, swirls, and guineas.  If you were a child in 1930 looking at all of the above wonderful stuff, would you go out and buy them, or would you spend your money on those old passé onyx marbles that dad used to use?  Besides, those old slags had just two colors, and one was always white.  Boring!


            Now let’s speculate from the manufacturers’ point of view.  If you were running a marble company at that time, and suddenly you saw the demand for slags evaporate would you continue to make hundreds of thousands of items every day that no one would buy?  Now way!  You’d try something different but competitive with the hottest selling items.


            That’s exactly what the newest marble companies coming into existence did (time for some facts).  Between 1929 and 1932 four new marble companies were started.  They were Alley Agate, Ravenswood Novelty, Vitro Agate, and Master Marble.  Did any of them opt to produce slags?  No.  Alley and Ravenswood made swirl types that collectors now call ‘old-fashioneds’.  Alleys were especially attractive.  They used a number of unusually striking color combinations that are sometimes confused with Christensen Agate swirls and flames.  Ravenswood’s are usually less colorful, but at the time still a distinctly new style different from slags.  They used a lot of white, clear, or transparent (cheaper) glass in their marbles, but they made some very attractive 3-color old-fashioneds.  Vitro Agate produced mainly patched and ribboned types.  Master produced patches and sunburst.  They even bought colorful Akro patches and sold them under their name.  Yet, none of these companies made slags.  There are no boxed sets of Alley, Ravenswood, Vitro or Master Slags. 


            Only Four companies made slags – – M.F. Christensen, Akro Agate Company, Peltier Glass Company, and Christensen Agate Company.  All were established well before 1930.  M.F. Christensen began by making a ton of money as he developed a world –wide market for the onyx (slag) marble.  Seeing that there was money in marbles, the others came into the business by 1925, and they began by making marbles like the current best-sellers – slags.  Many of theirs were more attractive and ‘newer’ because they introduced new colors – peach yellow, aqua, etc.. Their initial success came selling great volumes of slags.


            The youngest of these was Christensen Agate, which began n 1925.  From then until at least 1927 they were producing boxed set of slags.  Their production is evidence that slags were produced late into the 1920s.


             There is no doubt that slags were sold (not manufactured) well into the early 1930s.  Marble companies had poor inventory control at that time, and most likely had large inventories of what used to be a great seller.  So sales persisted into the 1930s.  The latest listing I’ve seen for slags is in a department store catalog from 1932 showing boxed sets of Akro Cardinal Reds, but there are no other onyx marbles listed in that catalog.


            Without seeing actual company records the end of slag production can’t be stated exactly.  However, Christensen Agate Company went out of business in 1932.  Also, Groper’s No. 5 and No. 10 contents changed from Peltier’s National Onyx line in 1930 to their National Rainbo line in 1931.  So I like to thing of 1932 as the last year of slag production.  But 1932 was not the end of the slag.  For many it continues to be a highly desirable and collectable marble.  It always brings a smile of my face to think that I might have one that was owned by Stan Laurel or Oliver Hardy or Ben Turpin


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