One day when I was about seven or eight years old, my father gave me an unexpected gift.
We weren’t poor, but we were far from wealthy, so any present that came on a day that was not Christmas or my birthday was unusual to say the least. There was nothing special about that day, so this gift came as a total surprise.
I could hardly contain my excitement as I opened the box to find it contained 200 more-or-less spherical balls. They varied quite a bit in size, but ranged from about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter.
I was confused – dumbfounded – I had no idea what they were or what they were for. Dad explained that they were German Marbles and that they were really special. I tried to hide my disappointment, but I doubt if I did a very good job.
Google German Marbles and you will find pictures of some of the most beautiful glass marbles ever made – clear glass with gorgeous swirls of color – but there were also German Marbles made of clay.
Those clay marbles were what I got. They all had flat spots and the colored glaze had so many bumps and pits and pockmarks that they often looked like the surface of the moon. None of them would roll straight, even on the smoothest surface.
German Clay Marbles were mostly made in the 1800s. Thinking back about them now, I suppose that they were actually genuine antiques and probably very valuable. The only use I could find for them was to pay off losses when we played marbles “for keeps.” My friends objected, but I stuck to my guns, and it wasn’t long before all 200 were gone.