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Master Marble Company/Master Glass Company (1930-1973)

COMPANY HISTORY

The Master Marble Company formed in 1930 following the departure of several key employees from Akro Agate. These former employees, John F. Early, Claude C. Grimmett, John E. Moulton, and (later) Clinton F. Israel, set up their fledgling company in Anmoore, West Virginia, and began producing marbles almost immediately, perhaps first from an Akro Agate machine modified by Early and then from one designed by Early.

In their first year of business, Master Marble received an offer by Akro Agate to buy them out. However, they refused, setting off a price war initiated by the latter company. Akro even went so far as to send an employee onto the company grounds to spy; this person was caught and eventually jailed. Frustrated, Akro Agate tried the legal route to destroy Master Marble through litigation, as they believed their competitor's owners (former Akro employees) had infringed on Akro's patents. This law suit endured from 1933-1937, terminating in Master's favor.

Master Marble Company gained prominence when, in 1933, they exhibited millions of marbles at the Chicago World's Fair. A collector's "College Edition" box was produced for the event. These boxes, which were available in several sizes, are now exceedingly rare and valuable.

By 1936 both Grimmett and Moulton left the company, followed soon by Early. This perhaps precipitated the closing of the company in 1941. The equipment and supplies were purchased by the sole remaining founder, Clinton Israel, who re-established a marble company in Bridgeport, West Virginia, as Master Glass. The Master Glass Company produced marbles that were similar to Master Marble Company marbles, as the same machines were used, and also sold Akro Agate marbles and jobbered its own marbles in Akro boxes following the closing of that company in 1951. Production continued until 1973, when the company closed its doors for good. Israel died two years later.

IDENTIFICATION TIPS

All marbles produced by Master Marble and Master Glass utilized the same type of machinery which was similar to that used by Akro Agate but which never involved the "Freese improvement" that eliminated the cutoff marks at the poles by offsetting the rollers. Therefore, all Master marbles, even the clearies and opaques, possess tiny crimp marks and feathering at either pole. These crimps will occur in conjunction with the seams, which usually form a "V" or "U" shape. Generally, the "U"-shaped seams apparently occur on older examples (Master Marble) while the "V"-shaped seams are associated more with later ones (Master Glass).

An addition method, and perhaps a more reliable one, to differentiate between Master Marble and Master Glass marbles is that generally brighter colors were employed on the former, while duller colors were used on the latter. This trait is seem on most American machine made marbles, which switched to cheaper, and therefore less vibrant, glass during the 1930s.

In terms of size, Master Marbles were almost exclusively limited to the 9/16"-25/32" range. While some smaller specimens have been reported, very few larger ones exist.

SUNBURSTS AND TIGEREYES

The Master Marble Sunburst appears to have been an effort to reproduce the handmade onionskin marbles of an earlier era. These marbles have a clear transparent base which may be partially to entirely filled with colored glass filaments. The filaments run from one pole to the other and may be opaque to translucent and in a variety of colors. A variety of colors occurs, but most Sunbursts have only three colors or less in them. This trait helps differentiate them from Akro Agate Sparklers, which usually have more and brighter colors than do Sunbursts. However, some multicolored Sunbursts with four colors do exist.

A specialized variety of the Sunburst is known as the Tigereye and is fairly rare. This marble is essentially a Sunburst where the filaments occur only in a wide flat band that forms a ribbon stretched from pole to pole. It has been noted that most of these are white, black, and orange.

Some Sunburst-like marbles with a colored transparent base have been identified as Master marbles. One type that has been called "Crab Claws" has a transparent green base and yellow filaments and strands. These appear to be rather scarce.

METEORS, COMETS, AND CLOUDIES

Another class of Master marbles are their patches, which can be categorized into three major varieties. Meteors have a wispy translucent patch on an opaque base, Comets have an opaque patch on an opaque base, and Cloudies have a wispy translucent patch on a wispy translucent base. Most Cloudies have a white base, while on the Meteors and Comets there is a wide variety of colors. Aventurine sometimes occurs on the patches. Master patches are easily recognized by their "V" and "U" seams and associated crimp marks and feathering.

Another type of Master patch is the brushed variety. This marble, which appears to be a later (Master Glass) type, usually has a wispy white patch on a transparent black (actually very dark purple) base.

CATSEYES

The final type of Master Glass marble is the catseye, a variety that was not made when the company operated as Master Marble. These catseyes usually have an opaque to translucent three-vane core. Some are filled with small bubbles and have "banana"-like core. A few color-based examples have been found. Master Glass catseyes are arguably the least attractive of their contemporaries, with dull colors (purple, white, orange, light green, light blue) and vanes that can either occur in the center of the marble or pushed off to one side. Sometimes the vanes are well-defined but at other times they form almost amorphous blobs.

ORIGINAL PACKAGING

The first packaging by Master Marble appears to have been its "College Edition" boxes produced for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, at which the comapny had an exhibit. These boxes were made in three different sizes, each featuring a panoramic aerial view of the fair on the inside cover and a simpler picture of the fair in red print, along with the company name and "Century of Progress Chicago 1933" on an outside slip cover. Another rare box made for the World's Fair, but marked "1934," contained a single hand ground agate.

Other early boxes by Master Marble include retailer stock and display boxes containing 100 specimens of a single type of marble, colorful gift set boxes (often with "Sunbeams," rainbow-colored rays radiating from the circular company logo), stenciled game marble boxes, and game marble boxes containing smaller cellophane-covered boxes (three or five) with single colored opaque marbles.

Another type of "Sunbeam" box was the No. 13 box containing thirteen marbles. These oblong boxes were made by both Master Marble and later by Master Glass, though the former are more rare. They contained oval cut-outs to allow the marbles inside to be viewed, and the backsides of the boxes often contain advertising for such companies as "Popsicle" or for people running for local and political offices.

Master Glass also commonly distributed its marbles in the No. 5 box, which was blue and red with ten oval cutouts on the front, along with the company logo. These are reported to have been recently reproduced, though the originals are fairly common and therefore inexpensive. The No. 10 box is much more scarce and is essentially the same as the No. 5 box, but twice the size and with 20 oval cutouts. The No. 10 boxes usually have the rules for the game of "Ringer" printed on the rear.

The final type of original packaging is the polyvinyl bag, which was made by Master Glass but not by its predecessor. These bags differ from those of other companies in that they do not possess the rear vertical seam but rather were heat sealed along the top. The headers consist of thin peach-colored paper situated inside the package, not outside, and the heat-seal lies approximately through the center of the header. The marbles in these packages are typically Catseyes and Clearies.

MASTER MARBLE/MASTER GLASS MARBLE GALLERY
(click on thumbnails to see full image)

master1.jpg (18218 bytes)

Sunburst

master10.jpg (16513 bytes)

Sunburst

master9.jpg (22255 bytes)

Sunburst

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Sunburst

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Sunburst

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Sunburst

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Sunburst

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Sunburst

master16.jpg (18118 bytes)

Sunburst

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Sunburst

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Sunburst

master24.jpg (21413 bytes)

Sunburst

master25.jpg (22189 bytes)

Sunburst

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Sunburst

master33.jpg (24432 bytes)

Sunburst

master35.jpg (23488 bytes)

Sunburst

master18.jpg (16794 bytes)

"Crab Claws"

master2.jpg (14675 bytes)

Meteor

master7.jpg (15564 bytes)

Meteor

master6.jpg (13173 bytes)

Comet

master5.jpg (12406 bytes)

Comet

master3.jpg (14363 bytes)

Comet

master34.jpg (17548 bytes)

Comet

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Comet with Aventurine

master4.jpg (16929 bytes)

Cloudy

master8.jpg (14705 bytes)

Cloudy

master19.jpg (20651 bytes)

Brushed Patch

master20.jpg (23070 bytes)

Catseye

master21.jpg (22190 bytes)

Catseye

master22.jpg (23265 bytes)

Catseye

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Catseye (blue-based)

master27.JPG (41401 bytes)

No. 13 Sunbeam Box

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No. 13 Sunbeam Box (reverse)

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No. 13 Sunbeam Box (reverse)

master30.jpg (76937 bytes)

No. 5 Master Glass Box

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Master Glass Poly Bag (Catseyes)

master32.jpg (33793 bytes)

Master Glass Poly Bag (Clearies)

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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