Marbles—for players and collectors


I grew up in the ‘70s, and one of my fondest memories is shooting glass marbles in the schoolyard. Where I live, in the upper Midwest, our terminology and game rules differed a little from other places, but the underlying experience was the same.


We carried our marbles around in a pouch, a jar, or in our pockets. I can still smell the earth as we dug our pots in the ground. After deciding whether we were playing for “keepsies” or “funsies,” as well as the number of marbles we were going to risk (onesies, twosies, tensies, etc.), we stood at a predetermined line and threw the marbles toward the hole. The owner of the one that landed closest would go first, flicking the marbles into the pot one at a time, getting another turn each time he or she was successful. The person who got the last marble in the pot won them all.

We called the clear ones puries and the solid ones with swirls of color aggies. Not surprisingly, the cloudy-looking ones were cloudies. Cat-eyes or cats’ eyes are self-explanatory, as are milkies. Those a little larger than the standard size were queenies. The biggest were, of course, boulders, and steelies were the ball bearings.

Boulders were worth 10 regular marbles. A queenie was worth 3 to 6, depending on its quality or beauty. A steely was also worth several marbles, depending on its size.

Introduce your children to the fun of an old-fashioned marbles game. We all need to get a little dirt under our fingernails now and then!