Types of Marbles

Marbles come in an astonishing variety and are commonly classified according to their size, appearance, and materials they are made from. Glass marbles are probably the most popular today, but they can also be made from clay, crockery, china, real marble, stone ivory, agate, steel and other materials.

Generally, marbles are around 1/2-inch across, but they can range from less than 1/4-inch to more than 3 inches. Marble players often use terms like jumbo, pee wee, queenie, bumbo, bumboozer, and boulders to describe marble sizes.

Sometimes the names given to marbles describe the materials from which they are made and sometimes they describe their appearance. Here are some of the major classifications.

Alley or Real describes a marble that is made from real marble or alabaster. Alley stands for alabaster. These usually have wavy patterns with lots of color. Common names for these marbles include onyx, bumblebee, corkscrew, and swirl. Other examples include:

Oxblood—these have streaks that resemble blood.

Onionskin—which contain a pattern that looks like an onion.

Lutz—the name comes from a skating term, describing a pattern that resembles this marble's streak.

Toothpaste—distinct waves of black, orange, white, blue and red.

Cats Eye—these are created by injecting colored cores into the marble, which look like eyes in the center of the marble.

Croton Alley or Jasper should not be confused with the alley marbles listed above. Instead, they are made of either glazed or unglazed china that is marbled with blue. These are usually larger than the other alley marbles.

Commie or common marbles are usually brightly painted but are made of clay and don't often retain their finish over time. They generally don't have much value.

A Steely is just what it sounds like, made of steel.

Sulphide marbles are clear and have objects embedded inside of them.

China and Plaster marbles are both made from china. China marbles are those that have been glazed, while plasters are those that have not been. Both of them have lines of various colors that sometimes cross each other, forming plaid designs. They also form circles called bull's eyes. Like any other form of china, they are created in wooden molds, then baked, and painted.

An Aggie is made from agate, or sometimes carnelian and are usually quite beautiful. They vary in color from gray to blood red and sometimes have stripes or mottlings of different colors. When they are created, the rock is broken down into smaller pieces and then a hammer is used to form them into crude balls. They are then worn down on a grindstone until they are perfect spheres. They are then polished polished by hand. Aggies are perfect when you are making a difficult shot because of their balanced weight and symmetry.

Crystal or Clearie marbles are made of clear colored glass, and are often known as rubies, bloods, glimmers, or opals. They too are often beautiful but don't stand up to wear and tear. After they have been used, their finish becomes full of nicks and has a dull sheen. Sometimes these marbles are called agates, so the genuine agate is often referred to as "real" to distinguish it from the glass ones.

The terms galaxy, cloudy, swirly, mica, and milky are also familiar to many marble players.

Take a look at the categories on the right and peruse the selection of marbles available for purchase on eBay. Be careful, though, you might get hooked on collecting these beautiful toys or showpieces!