When I was a schoolboy in London in the late 1940s and early 50s we would play marbles in the gutter on the way to and from school. This game was called ‘Follows’ and is one of the three main types of marble games. The other two are ‘Ring games’ and ‘Hole games’ all other marble games are made up of these three elements. In the mid 50s the Japanese made a new type of marble the ‘Cats Eye’, this marble had a clear glass body with a leaf or twist of colour in the centre. Before this, machine-made marbles were a random mix of one, two or three different colour glass.
After playing for some time I became one of the better marble players and won more often than I lost. In this way I began building up my collection. After a while I began to look at them and saw the wonderful colours in the different types that I acquired. That was how and why I came to love marbles.
In 1956 I moved to Crawley New Town where my father had just got a job in one of the new factories. It so happened the home of marble – the Greyhound Hotel, Tinsley Green is very close, and so on Good Friday along I went with hundreds of others to witness this time honoured tradition, the first of many such trips.
When I started work in 1960 I had some money to spend and went round second hand shops looking for books and other bits and pieces. Buying any marbles I found for a few pennies, in those days there were no over priced Antique Shops.
I think my favourite marbles are the early machine-made ones, the colours are so vibrant, but I collect all sorts and in my collection I have many different types.
The oldest marbles I have come from the excavations of a roman villa, and are made of clay. There are stone marbles made of Tiger’s eye and Rose quartz plus agate from around the world and a selection of handmade Tennessee Flint marbles.
I have handmade glass German Swirls, Lutz (these have goldstone in them), Indians, Sulphides and Micas. The Micas are of a clear green glass with small flex of silver in them. The Sulphides are clear plain glass with a white figure pushed into the middle. The Indians are all earthy colours red, yellows, brown and orange; these are laid on to a dark or black glass body.
I also have many contemporary glass marbles; the ones that are made by David Salazar are like small round paperweights. Jody Fine and Steve Maslach make a more traditional type of marbles, whereas the late Joe St. Clair made Sulphides. In 1991 I took two ex marble champions to San Francisco where I met Ro Purser a marble maker of some note, for the exhibition he produced a limited edition Sulphide with a figure playing marbles inside. I am happy to say that I was presented with one of this limited edition.
I also go out and teach people from 9 to 90 how to play the game, how to shoot a marble and how to have fun. We use small half-inch single colour marbles for targets and three-quarters marbles for shooters are the most popular and are made by Marble King in America. They use recipe glass, which is as hard as steel and marbles from West Virginia, in my opinion are the best in the world. But there are lots of Mexican marbles in so many different designs and coloured, just the thing to start a low cost collection.
My collection is not catalogued, it dose not need to be, as I know and love each and ever one of them, when I need them I know just where to look and find them. There is nothing as therapeutic as running your hands through a bag of marbles, feeling them running through your fingers looking at the colours. I believe that if everybody had a bag of marbles the world would be a better place.