Marbles may be the most ancient and universal of toys, but until recently there have been few efforts to study or classify them. Some good places to start reading:
* ``Collecting Antique Marbles,'' by Paul Baumann (Wallace-Homstead Book Company, 1991). This carefully sourced book covers both the technology and the social history of marblemaking, especially handmades. Baumann is interested both in marbles and the people who made them. For example, his description of the manufacture of cane-cut glass swirls notes the importance of child labor in Germany's 19th-century toymaking industry: ``The same marbles that were played with in the sunshine by happy children in the US may have been produced, at least in part, by the labor of hungry children working at night in Germany.'' One drawback: Some photographs are poorly lit and too small.
* ``Collectable Machine-Made Marbles'' (Utah Marble Connection, 1989.) and ``Marbles: The Guide to Machine-Made Marbles'' (1992), by Larry Castle and Marlow Peterson. These books talk about the marbles you are most likely to find. Larry Castle is a Utah steelworker whose pioneer work on machine-made marbles helped map a new field for collectors. Both books can be ordered from the authors, P.O. Box 1857, Ogden, UT.
* ``The Complete Line of Akro Agate Co,'' by Roger and Claudia Hardy (1992). Breaks new ground in classifying the work of one of the largest and best known American marble producers (1911-1951). Much of the information came from interviews with former Akro employees and digging around old factory sites. This book can be ordered from the authors, 10 Bailey Street, Clarksburg, WV, 26301-2524.
* ``Aggies, Immies, Shooters, and Swirls,'' by Marilyn Barrett (Little, Brown and Company, 1994). A visual feast by a photographer who has just discovered marbles. Finally, someone has figured out how to shoot marbles with wit and style!
* Any book by Everett Grist, most recently his ``Big Book of Marbles'' (Collector Books, 1993). Grist's books are the most readily available in bookstores. He emphasizes the cash value of marbles, especially high-end marbles. His photos are clear enough to help identify a wide range of marbles.