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Those Really Pretty Older Vitros That Used to be Called “Mystery Patches”


By Chris Carrington


Now, there’s a good example of a horrible title.  It’s also a good example of a horrible name for a marble!  I should know – that’s what I called some of my favorite marbles for months before I decided they needed a real name of their own.  I can’t begin to count how many conversations I had that went something like this;  “I sure hope I win that eBay auction: it has a ton of Those Really Pretty Older Vitros That Used to be Called Mystery Patches that I love so much”. …. “Wow, that’s one of Those Really Pretty Older Vitros – you know, The Ones That Used to be Called Mystery Patches!


                                                                Photo by Buddy Bowles


Besides being cumbersome and tedious, it was just a downright lowly way to refer to such an outstanding marble.  I thought they deserved to be called something that would convey their regal beauty and that was how the name Elite came to mind.  e-lite’ adj.  “selected as the best”  Yep, that sounded right.  Or it did to me anyway.  I asked what others thought; I posted about them:  I did some shameless campaigning….and now perfect strangers are asking how to identify them!


Excellent question!  Well, to begin with, I have to say that the name refers to a category of Vitros, mores than a specific color combination or pattern.  In other words, Elites would be a “type” in the same way that Parrots or brushed patches or Conquerors are a type, rather than being a specific style such as a Sweet Pea.  Elites are basically fancy, elaborate Helmets.


They’re pretty much constructed the same way as Helmets are, but with varying amounts of white that may be solid or wispy.  They have one or more areas (ribbons and/or patches) of transparent colored glass, and sometimes opaque colored glass.  They often have a clear area, but not always.  They will have at least one ribbon, often two (on opposite sides), and occasionally several. Where a Helmet's ribbon is usually one color; the Elites’ ribbons may have striations of color and may even include oxblood. It’s not unusual to see the seams set close together to create gorgeous “V” formations.


I would like to be able to add something about the history of these marbles, but I have to admit that I know little.  I believe them to be some of the earliest made by Vitro Agate.  They resemble Akro Popeye-Patches in a lot of ways, and can be confused with them.  (The Akros seem to have seedier looking glass.)  I’ve heard that some workers from Akro left that company to work at Vitro Agate, and the Elites possibly evolved out of this transition.  I’m not sure if they were made before the Helmets or at the same time.  I’d almost guess that the Helmets came after as a result of cost control.


Some may balk at a relatively new collector naming a marble; in fact, some already have.  But my feeling is that a name can only elevate these marbles to the status they deserve.  And if it saves us from forever using tortuous descriptors like Those Really Pretty Older Vitros That Used to be Called Mystery Patches, does it really matter who chooses the name?  Besides….one look at these, and I think most will agree they truly ARE Elite!

 Elites Chuck B.


This article first appeared in the West Virginia Marble Collector’s Club Newsletter.


Issue 1      July 2003



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