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Opening Bids: Playing for Keeps

This circa-1900 pink-swirl marble is in what Dan Morphy calls “wet mint condition,” or as pristine as a marble freshly plucked from the end of a blowpipe...

This circa-1900 pink-swirl marble is in what Dan Morphy calls “wet mint condition,” or as pristine as a marble freshly plucked from the end of a blowpipe.

In playground games of marbles, it’s winner take all—making it a sport that turns its victors into instant collectors. Dan Morphy, the president and founder of Morphy Auctions in Denver, Pa., was one of them: He collected marbles as a boy, and he went on to develop them as a collectible category when he opened his auction house in 1997. 

This fall, at least 250 marbles will roll across the block at Morphy’s. Among the most covetable is a one-and-a-half-inch pink- swirl marble from the turn of the previous century (estimated at $1,000 to $2,000). Back then, at the end of the working day, glassblowers in the United States and Europe would use the leftover glass by fashioning it into huge, gorgeous marbles. “Anything over one and a half inches was made for the marble-blower to show off,” Morphy says. “They were not made to be played with—you’d break a finger.” 

Sale: Morphy Auctions, September 10–12, Denver, Pa.; morphyauctions.com

 

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