The first playing marbles were from marble or stone used for a game developed by the Dutch. Companies making playing marbles used clay, china, crockery and glass for much of the production from the 1600s through the 20th century. The United States and Germany made most of the glass marbles available up through the 1930s, but Japan started producing cat’s eye marbles for export prior to World War II. After the war, Japanese cat’s eyes were the favorite marble of the American schoolyard. Mib is the Latin name for marble. A mibster is a marble player and mibology is the study of marbles.
“Mib” and “taw” were common terms children used in the first half of the 20th century. The “mib” was any marble not a shooter. The “taw” was the shooter, the large marble most prized by the marble player. Players “knuckle down” or keep a knuckle on the ground when shooting. If you lift your hand off the ground before shooting, you “fudge.” Mibsters would play even the best players “for fair” with each player getting his marbles back. Playing marbles “for keeps” was a school recess game, and the players might come back to class with a pocket full of marbles, or nothing but the taw.
Mibs and Mibsters
The term “mib” was not a shooter marble in the early 20th century, but according to the American Toy Marbles website, “mib” has become a name for any marble. This site suggests that “mibster” is a combination of the words “mib” and “youngster.” The “mibster” was a child who played marbles but has evolved to include anyone who plays marbles.
Ring taw was a game for glass marbles much like billiards with a pocket dug in the dirt. A player would knuckle down and shoot the opponent’s mibs, attempting to knock them in the center hole. The player could continue shooting until the taw fell into the center or all the marbles were gone. In a “keepsies” game, the player kept the marbles he won. A more common marbles game required a circle in the dirt and two players. The object was to knock the mibs out of the circle while leaving the taw in the circle.
The beauty of handmade marbles attracted children at the turn of the 20th century through the 1960s. Nostalgia and art attract the collector. Clay and very early marbles have not held the same interest for the collector as the hand-worked glass marbles from Germany and the United States or new art glass marbles. Finding vintage glass marbles in excellent condition is always a challenge, as the nice ones went to school rubbing against other marbles in a pocket. Those same marbles saw the circle in the dirt and someone else’s taw banged them at recess. They often show surface wear and have chips, eyelash fractures or internal fractures. Art lovers often collect both old marbles in good condition and new art glass marbles made for the collector’s market.
Linda Richard has been a legal writer and antiques appraiser for more than 25 years, and has been writing online for more than 12 years. Richard holds a bachelor's degree in English and business administration. She has operated a small business for more than 20 years. She and her husband enjoy remodeling old houses and are currently working on a 1970s home.