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Vitro Agate Company (1932-1992)

COMPANY HISTORY

The Vitro Agate Company began in 1932 when the company was founded by Henri Arthur Fisher, Lawrence E. Alley, and Press Lindsey. It was moved to Parkersburg, West Virginia in 1945; Parkersburg had been used as a mailing address since the company's founding. In the late 1930s Alley sold his portion of the company to the other two and focused his attention on his Alley Agate Company (see Alley Agate page). Later on, Fisher bought out Lindsey and became the sole owner.

Vitro Agate was a strong contender in the marble market through the 1940s-1960s, being among the first of the American marble manufacturers to cash in on the craze for Japanese catseye marbles when the company developed its own in the mid-1950s. The knowledge for the manufacturing process of this particular marble style was obtained from Fisher's son, who had spent some time in the orient.

In 1969 Vitro Agate was purchased by the Gladding Corporation, who changed the company's name to Gladding-Vitro Agate. However, the original name was returned following the sale of the company to the Paris Manufacturing Company in 1982. Paris used Gladding label stock, however, until 1984, at which time they created their own labels. The following year Vitro Agate went bankrupt, only to be revitalized in September, 1987, when it was bought by Tim Sullivan and Dick Ryan of the Viking Rope Company for just over $360,000. Like the owners before them, they used their predecessors label stock before creating their own. In July of 1989 they moved the company to Anacortes, Washington.

Under the ownership of the Viking Rope Company, the name of the company became the Vitro Agate Corporation. In its Washington location, it was somewhat rejuvenated with the production of mostly game, decorative, and industrial marbles, though some marbles employing transparent and opaque swirls were produced in 1991. The company, however, went under in 1992 and was bought by Jabo, Inc. (see Jabo-Vitro Agate page).

IDENTIFICATION TIPS

Most Vitro Agate marbles are patches, though other varieties were also produced. The styles changed over time, so it is fairly easy to approximate the ages of their marbles based on a number of attributes. Vitro Agate patches come in two main styles, identified by their seams. One style has seams that are straight and have palpable crimps into the glass. The other style has one straight seam and other that is shaped like a flattened "U." The seams on both styles are opposite one another on the equator and are perpendicular to the poles.

BRUSHED PATCHES

Brushed Patches are among Vitro Agate's oldest marbles. The base is either transparent clear or opaque white and has colors brushed on the surface. Some of these have oxblood; sometimes the oxblood is "anemic." It should be noted that Victories adnConquerors are types of brushed patches, but are discussed separately, below.

VICTORIES AND CONQUERORS

A Victory is a brushed patch marble that has an opaque color patch on a transparent clear base. This patch covers about one quarter of the marble and, like many Vitro marbles, the patch is usually shaped like an oval with a small "v" or "hook" coming off one end. A Conqueror is basically the same type of marble, but on this variety the remaining three-quarters of the marble not covered by the patch contains brushed opaque white. One variation of the Conqueror is the "phantom conqueror," which has translucent white filaments inside the marble. The glass may be opalescent on this latter type. Finally, another variation of the Conqueror, which as yet has not been named but could be labeled the "veteran conqueror," has a dull patch as opposed to bright and brushed off-white as opposed to white. On these, the patch seems to often be shaped like a large "V." Victories and conquerors were distributed, as their names might imply, around the period of World War II.

TRICOLOR AND MULTICOLOR PATCHES

The Tricolored Patch is a two-seam marble with a transparent clear base. All or nearly all of the surface is veneered with colored patches, always white in combination with three other colors such as light or dark blue, green, orange, yellow, or lavender. One pole will contain the characteristic football-shaped Vitro patch with the "hook" on one side. One side of the equator has a wide patch of a second color, while the other side will contain two thinner patches, one a third color and one white. The equatorial colors meet at the opposite pole.

The Multicolored Patch, sometimes called a Seven-Colored Patch, has recently come to the attention of collectors as a rare and beautiful marble. It has an opaque white base, some or none of which shows through veneered patches of colors that represent just about every color imaginable: red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and purple. Usually, there will be two different colored patches at opposite poles, and patches of other colors radiating from the two opposing seams to cover their respective halves of the marble. This type is often found with annealing fractures.

BLACKIES, WHITIES, AND ALL REDS

Blackies, Whities, and All-Reds are opaque white-based patch marbles with veneered colors. A Blackie has a black band encircling the equator and a colored patch on either pole (both poles will be the same color). A Whitie has a translucent colored band encircling the equator; these are hard to find as compared to Blackies. An All Red has a black band encircling the equator and a red patch on one pole and a patch of another color, usually green, blue, orangish yellow, or brown, on the other. Later All Reds lack the black band.

PARROTS

Arguably the most popular Vitro Agate marble is the Parrot, so named because it usually contains four or more colors. These marbles are white-based and have colors brushed on the surface; sometimes one or more of these colors form a "V" and the better formed the more valuable the marble becomes. Common colors on a Parrot include red, lavender, yellow, green, black, and light blue, and sometimes different shades of one particular color. Sometimes the green patches will contain aventurine. Parrots tend to be large, at least 3/4" and up to 1". More recently, Vitro-Agate produced a smaller version containing many of the same colors but which are veneered. These have been dubbed "Parakeets" by some collectors.

MISCELLANEOUS PATCHES

In addition to the aforementioned patch style marbles, Vitro produced many more that have yet to be categorized properly. This lack of categorization may be due not only to the fact that often they resemble Akro Agate patches, and certain patches from each company are often mistaken for one another. One good example is the "Popeye" patch, which has some of the same color combinations as the infamous Akro Agate Popeyes which formed patches because the cup creating the corkscrew effect was not spinning at the time of production. The Vitro patches that resemble these are worth much less than their Akro counterparts, and can often be distinguished from Akro examples by their obvious seams.

Another type of patch marble that is alternately assigned Akro and Vitro origins is the Helmet, which in truth may well have been a type of patch produced by both companies. These often fluorescent marbles derive their name from the trait they have in which if the marble is viewed from a particular angle, the patch looks like a football helmet on a head.

Recently, two green-based patches have been given names and therefore are becoming very popular. The Sweet Pea has a green base with red and yellow patches, and the Blackeye Pea has a green base with yellow and black patches. These patches often form characteristic "V's" or "U's" and sometimes the green base will have aventurine.

CATSEYES

Two basic catseye styles were manufactured by Vitro. The earlier style is a four or five vane variety; the vanes are wavy and common colors include red, light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, orange, yellow, lavender, and white. Frequently, the vanes will be tipped by a second or even third color. Though these are often referred to as "hybrids," they probably are not because they usually comprise more than half of the marbles found in original packaging.

The later catseye variety was produced in the 1970s while the company operated under the name Gladding-Vitro Agate. These are caged-style catseyes with five to eight strands which meet at opposite ends but widen out to fill the marble toward the center. On occasion these occur in aqua base glass but more often are in clear glass like most catseyes. Some examples are found in two colors.

A recently discovered Vitro marble that has a Caged Catseye-like appearance, but which is not exactly a Catseye, has been dubbed Four Fingers. This has a transparent color base with four finger-like bands extending from two opposing seams on either hemisphere, for a total of eight "fingers." Yellow-based examples seem to be the rarest, followed by red and dark purple. Other colors may be available, but the story has it that all originated from a single bag, so few have been seen.

ORIGINAL PACKAGING

Vitro Agate packaged its marbles in boxes, net mesh bags, and polyvinyl bags. The boxes include 100-piece stock boxes, salesman's sample kits, gift set boxes with pouches, Chinese checkers boxes with 60 pieces, cellophane-paneled boxes with 35 pieces, "Marble Champ" game boxes, "Circle-X" game boxes, and more.

Net mesh packaging predates polyvinyl packaging. These were used primarily to distribute their Conquerors and Victories, though they also contained Brushed Patches. The mesh material is usually either red or yellow in color, with an often yellow but frequently orange header.

The earliest poly bags used by Vitro Agate appear to have been those with white headers with red labels with undulating borders. The bags typically hold Brushed Patches. Such marbles were also given away by beverage companies in bags with headers possessing holes so that they could be fitted over a bottle's neck. Later bags have red headers with red, black, and white print. These usually have All Reds or catseyes. Still later, probably in the late 1960s to early 1970s, Vitro poly bag headers were white or yellow. When the company was renamed Gladding-Vitro Agate, the bags were attached with red, white, and blue headers with an American flag printed on the left side. Later Vitro bags often were filled with catseyes, "clearies," or opaque game marbles. Finally, when Vitro regained its original name, but before it was sold to Jabo, it manufactured a poly bag with 45 smaller marbles and one shooter; the headers were a sturdy card stock of a tannish color.

Two other packaging types warrant mention. First, there was a large thick polyvinyl bag with a drawstring. A picture of a cowboy riding a bull and brandishing a lasso was printed on this bag. The other type of packaging was a cellophane sleeve which held six catseye marbles and which was used as a premium giveaway in bread and cereal boxes.

VITRO AGATE MARBLE GALLERY
(click on thumbnails to see full image)

vitro1.JPG (16716 bytes)

Brushed Patch (transparent)

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Brushed Patch (transparent)

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Brushed Patch (opaque)

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Brushed Patch (transparent)

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Brushed Patch ("V"-style)

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Brushed Patch ("oxblood")

vitro58.JPG (15168 bytes)

Brushed Patch (Oxblood "V")

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Victory

vitro3.jpg (15881 bytes)

Conqueror

vitro26.jpg (17214 bytes)

Conqueror (multicolored)

vitro35.JPG (12695 bytes)

Conqueror (patch "V")

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Conqueror (clear "V")

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Phantom Conqueror

vitro46.jpg (18207 bytes)

Phantom Conqueror

vitro4.jpg (17947 bytes)

"Veteran" Conqueror

vitro7.jpg (19192 bytes)

Parrot

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Parrot

vitro9.jpg (14253 bytes)

Tricolored Patch

vitro11.jpg (19116 bytes)

Multicolored Patch

sweetpea.jpg (18848 bytes)

Sweet Pea

vitro12.jpg (19436 bytes)

Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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Patch

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"Popeye" Patch

vitro17.jpg (21572 bytes)

"Popeye" Patch

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"Popeye" Patch

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"Popeye" Patch

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Helmet

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Helmet

vitro14.jpg (19055 bytes)

Blackie

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Blackie

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Blackie (Swirl)

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Blackie (hybrid)

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Blackie (hybrid)

vitro47.jpg (25180 bytes)

Al Red (early style)

vitro43.jpg (18434 bytes)

All-Red (late variety)

vitro30.jpg (19205 bytes)

Vane Style Catseye

vitro31.jpg (24698 bytes)

Vane Style Catseye ("hybrid")

vitro56.JPG (10953 bytes)

Vane Style Catseye ("hybrid" with aventurine)

vitro57.JPG (7916 bytes)

Vane Style Catseye ("hybrid" with three colors)

vitro32.jpg (26829 bytes)

Cage Style Catseye

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Cage Style Catseye

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Cage Style Catseye (two-color)

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Four Fingers

vitro48.jpg (49674 bytes)

Conquerors Net Mesh Bag

vitro49.jpg (38171 bytes)

Tricolor Patch Poly Bag

vitro50.jpg (30896 bytes)

Brushed Patch Poly Bag

vitro51.jpg (35280 bytes)

Catseye Poly Bag

vitro52.jpg (42678 bytes)

All Reds Poly Bag

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All Reds Poly Bag

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Catseye Poly Bag

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Catseye Poly Bag

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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