Marble Tournaments

For most people, thinking about the game of marbles probably conjures up scenes of a lazy small-town summer day and a group of children playing in a park. There is another side to this game, though, which involves a surprisingly large number of people who have organized marble play into a series of annual marble tournaments and competitions. Here are a few that might be of interest.

The American Marble Tournament was first organized in 1990 and was originally known as the Mountaineer Marble Tournament. Based in West Virginia, the tournament was formed with the idea that adults who have fond memories of playing marbles in their childhood should pass the fun onto their own children. The children who attend this marble tournament are the winners of other, smaller tournaments that have been sanctioned by the American Marble Tournament. Any marble tournament that wishes to be sanctioned must meet various requirements, such having at least 100 participants, having a division for both boys and girls, not charging an entry fee, and the players must be under the age of 14. The American Marble Tournament also provides thousand-dollar college scholarships to the winners. Funds for the scholarship are raised by selling bagged marbles.

The Mountain Man Marble Tournament, also based in West Virginia, is an example of a smaller tournament that qualifies players for the American Marble Tournament. Even though it is a qualifying tournament, it is well known in its own right. Usually held over Labor Day weekend, the tournament uses Ringer as its official game. Players enter into either the standard mountain man division or the jubilee, which is reserved for those who finished high in the previous American Marbles Tournament. Although the main competition is for children 15 years and younger, there are also divisions for young adults and adults. Like so much of the marble playing community, the Mountain Man Marble Tournament is very interested in the "tradition" aspect of the game. They have researched the history of the rules of the ringer game and provide demonstrations of the way it was played in the past. The pre-registration fee is $5.00.

The oldest and probably most prestigious of the tournaments is the National Marbles Tournament, which is held in Wildwood, New Jersey, in June. First held in 1922, it is run by a group of volunteers from around the country who all have a common interest in, and love of, the game. Each year the mibsters (marbles shooters) who were the winners of local and regional tournaments, meet over the course of four days and pit their skills against the best of the best. Winners receive scholarships, various prizes and awards, and of course the distinction of national honors. More than 1,200 games are played during the National Marbles Championships which, like most tournaments, uses Ringer as its official game. In addition to the competition, the mibsters also enjoy the fun amusement park atmosphere of the Jersey boardwalk.

What all of these marble tournaments share is a love for the game, and a simple wish to take the joys of childhood and pass them onto the next generation.