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Champion Agate Company (1938-present)

COMPANY HISTORY

The Champion Agate Company traces its roots back to 1938. At this time it was founded in Pennsboro, West Virginia, by Yucca Jones and Ralph Michels; over the years ownership passed through the hands of several members of the Michels family.

Champion's machines were made by Yucca Jones. At first, the company produced only game marbles (opaque Chinese checkers and "clearies"). Soon, however, opaque and transparent swirls, as well as opaque patches, were added to the line-up. In the mid-1970s production ceased of all types of marbles with the exception of Chinese checkers. However, from time to time Champion has produced limited numbers of swirl types, beginning with the red, white, and blue swirl in 1976 that was the company's contribution to the "Bicentennial Special Pack," a package of marbles containing examples from most of the companies still operating at that time.

Champion revived two old styles in 1983 and 1984, the "Whirlwind" and "Old Fashioned." Other types appeared in subsequent years, perhaps most prominently the "Furnace" or "Special Run" marbles of 1994.

IDENTIFICATION TIPS

Almost all identifiable Champion marbles are swirls, though the company also produced the ubiquitous Chinese Checkers marbles that are indistinguishable from those manufactured by other companies. They do not seem to have made many shooter-sized marbles and almost all are around 5/8".

PRE-1970s SWIRLS

Swirl marbles were part of Champion's regular run from 1938 up into the early to middle 1970s. Most of these appear to have been opaque white-based. On these marbles there is usually only one color in addition to the white, with swirl patterns forming ribbons that fill little of the base glass, as opposed to the swirls by many other companies that cover the majority of the white.

Transparent-based and translucent-based swirls were also manufactured, but for the most part these seem to have been made later in the company's history.

For the most part, early Champion swirls are difficult to distinguish from swirls by other companies unless found in original packaging.

There is one color-based swirl that has been the subject of some debate recently. This marble has a dull yellow and orange to orangish-red swirling pattern that often forms flames reminscent of Christensen Agate Flame Swirls. In fact, these marbles are often assumed to be Christensens but it is becoming the majority opinion that they are not. First, the colors are wrong (Christensen colors are much brighter). Second, these have never been found in original Christensen packaging. Finally, they are simply too common to be from a company that only produced marbles for a few years and whose marbles are very difficult to find.

Another older swirl marble that has long been assumed to be Christensen but now is being recognized as of probable Champion origins is the Coral. This is a marble with a transparent green base with white swirls in the interior and salmon red to pinkish red swirls on the exterior. Again, the same rules that apply to the aforemented swirl applies to this type. However, matters are somewhat complicated by the fact that there does appear to be a Christensen marble that may rightly be called a coral as it possesses the same basic traits as the Champion Coral. However, on the Christensen examples the swirling is much more dramatic and the colors are more vibrant.

1970s SWIRLS

As mentioned, sometime during the first half of the 1970s Champion ceased production of its swirls and switched to manufacturing only game marbles. However, from time to time they did produce limited runs of swirls. The first of these was probably a type manufactured in 1975-1976 for the Bicentennial marble bags, which contained a mixture of different marbles made by American companies in operation at that time. The Chamion bicentennial swirl had a white-base with an often intricate swirling of red and blue. These marbles are not common today and while not necessarily valued highly in terms of their monetary value are still very desirable to collectors because of their beauty.

Another Champion swirl that may have been produced around the same time is the ketchup and mustard swirl. This marble is completely covered by yellow and red swirls.

1980s SWIRLS

In the 1980s, Champion produced another limited run of swirl marbles. These are known as 'New Old Fashioned' swirls. There seems to be two types of these. One type includes shooter-sized swirls that are often multicolored and very attractive. These can easily be mistaken for older swirls by less experienced collectors. They are easy to spot, however, because they often have a very shiny, almost oily, surface, and because they frequently possess crimp marks.

The other type of Champion swirl that I believe is from this decade is smaller like their older swirls and is color-based (most often brown), either with transparent or opaque swirls. Some of these marbles are quite nice and may even have "electric" swirls.

1990s SWIRLS

Around 1994, Champion Agate produced a style of swirl that has become highly collectible and which for the most part is very rare. Considering the recent vintage of the marble, certain color combinations have fetched nearly $100 for a single marble! Their rarity owes to two factors. First, they were made in very limited numbers and never distributed to the general public. Second, they were made of a glass that easily fractures and therefore mint examples are hard to obtain.

These swirls have been alternately called "Special Run" or "Furnace" marbles. They all possess a transparent base with opaque to transparent swirls, usually of several different colors. Sometimes the colors are highlighted with other colors and the effect is dazzling. The story goes that Champion Agate's glass furnaces were scraped, and the resulting residue was made into these marbles. Unfortunately, as noted, the glass tends to fracture, and examples with no fractures are rare.

Based on my own observations of these marbles, I have identified at least 14 different color combinations. It is worth describing each of these in ascending order of relative rarity.

Style One is about the common, and is always the least fractured. In fact, shining a light through more than 100 I found none that contained annealing fractures. Unfortunately, it also has the least eye appeal. This style has a clear base almost completely filled with dull yellow and white swirls. Most are around 5/8".

Style Two is probably the second most common style. After inspecting a sample of these I found that exactly 30% were undamaged while the remainder had at least one sizeable fracture. This style has a clear base with bright yellow swirls with red, and sometimes greenish, highlights. Most are around 19/32".

Style Three is the third most common from what I've observed. Many have annealing fractures. This style has a clear base with red and yellow swirls with purple highlights. Most are around 5/8".

Style Four is the fourth most common from my observations and most have fractures. This style has a clear base  with greenish yellow swirls with brown highlights. This style often exhibits flames and most are around 5/8".

Style Five is rare. It contains yellow, pink, and purple swirls in a clear base. Most are around 5/8" and these are tough to find without fractures.

Style Six is fairly rare. It contains yellowish orange swirls in a transparent red base. Much of the swirling is inside the marble, not on the surface. Most are around 5/8".

Style Seven is rare. It contains yellowish orange swirls in a transparent dark amber base. The swirls are usually inside the marble. Most are around 17/32" and typically seem to be fractured.

Style Eight is rare. It contains orange swirls with purple and yellow highlights in a transparent red base. Most are around 5/8".

Style Nine is somewhat rare and almost impossible to find without fractures. In fact, out of about a dozen I found all had serious fractures. It contains yellow, brownish purple, and light blue swirls in a clear base. The swirls almost completely fill the marble and often form complex flame patterns. Most are around 5/8".

Style Ten is very rare. It contains yellowish green, orange, red, and purple swirls in a transparent red base. Most are around 5/8".

Style Eleven is rare. It contains blended yellow and orange swirls in a dark transparent base. Most are around 5/8".

Style Twelve is fairly rare. It contains salmon swirls in a dark transparent red base. Most are around 1/2".

Style Thirteen is very rare and is similar to Style Eleven. It contains yellow and pink swirls with green and pale blue highlights in a transparent red base. Most are around 5/8".

Style Fourteen is very rare. It contains green, brown, red, and purple swirls in a clear base. The one example I've seen measures 19/32"

Style Fifteen is fairly rare. It contains yellow and red swirls in a clear base, and differs from Style Two in that the red is more defined, there is more clear glass, and there is less of an amber-tinge to the yellow. The one example I've seen measures 19/32"

Style Sixteen is very rare. It contains yellow swirls with red and green highlights in a transparent amber base. This type, which usually measures around 19/32", typically forms frames and is rarely seen without fractures.

Style Seventeen is uncommon and seems to found in 5/8"-21/32" sizes. It does no seem to fracture as easily as many others. The base on this type is transparent cherry red, with bright yellow swirls that blend to orange where it meets the red base.

CHAMPION MARBLE GALLERY
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White-Based Swirl

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White-Based Swirl

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Color-Based Swirl

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"Coral"

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"Coral"

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Transparent Swirl

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Transparent Swirl

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Translucent Swirl

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Translucent Swirl

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Translucent Swirl

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Wirepull Swirl

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Wirepull Swirl

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Bicentennial Swirl

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Ketchup and Mustard Swirl

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Electric Swirl

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"New Old Fashioned" Swirl

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"New Old Fashioned" Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

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Special Run (or "Furnace) Swirl

Other Marble Companies

Hand Made Glass Marbles

Hand Made Non-Glass Marbles

M.F. Christensen and Son Company

Christensen Agate Company

Akro Agate Company

Peltier Glass Company

Master Marble Company/Master Glass Company

Marble King, Inc.

Vitro Agate Company

Heaton Agate Company

Champion Agate Company

Ravenswood Novelty Works

Alley Agate Company

Cairo Novelty Company

Jackson Marble Company

Davis Marble Works

Playrite Marble and Novelty Company

Alox Manufacturing Company

Jabo-Vitro Agate, Inc.

Vacor de Mexico

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