The earliest known marbles were made of stone, marble or clay. Colored glass marbles were used in 15th-century Germany. China and pottery marbles were used in the 1800's. Varieties of blown glass marbles were available from 1870 to 1890 in many colors and patterns. Agate, marble and stone marbles continued to be popular until the first machine for creating marbles was invented in 1890. Older marbles in good condition are hard to find, as most were used to play marble games, and can be very expensive.
Extremely Rare Marbles
Sulphides are the most sought-after marbles. These are made of clear glass with a clay figure in the center. The figures may depict animals, famous people, flowers, trains or many other subjects. Sulphide marbles can bring you several thousand dollars in the marketplace. Colored sulphide marbles are very rare. End of the Day marbles were made with leftover glass at the end of the manufacturing day. These marbles will have a pontil mark left by the glass blower's rod on one side and are extremely scarce. Ruby Red Mica Snowflake marbles also sell for thousands of dollars. These transparent glass marbles come in all colors and contain mica chips.
Very Rare Marbles
Swirl marbles produced in England from 1870 to 1920 have retail values of $1,000 to $2,000. Venetian Swirl marbles sell for less, at an average price of $200 to $300. The Leighton Oxblood marble made in the United States from 1880 to 1910 brings an average price of $1,200 to $2,000 each. Agate Swirls were made from 1927 to 1929 and can be valued as high as $600.
Highly Prized Marbles
Hand-painted china marbles made from 1860 to 1890 were produced in Germany. These are valued from $150 to $250 each. Handcrafted and designed marbles are slightly more valuable, selling for $275 to $350. Carnelian, cobalt, malachite, jade, jasper, onyx, quartz and tiger eye, among others, can still be found. The price range can be $50 to $500, depending on how badly a buyer wants to add a marble to a collection.
Lower Value Marbles
Solid Core Swirl marbles, made in 1998, surprisingly have a value of $25 to $40 each. Older clay, handmade marbles are simple and lack decoration; prices for these may be less than $50. Steelies are metal marbles normally made for industrial use, and are fairly common. Almost every marble collection contains a few inexpensive Steelies.