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Antiques & Collectibles: Lost your marbles? He might have them.

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Rochester marble collector Bernie Benavidez with an original salesman's sample box from a German marble factory.
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Did you know that marbles are considered one of today's top collectibles? Many people around the globe have come back to collecting glass marbles, the most common of marbles, in huge jars. Then clay, steel or agate. Some are even playing the game, once enjoyed by our parents and grandparents.

One collector is Bernie Benavidez, of Rochester.

"Years back, April 16, 1994, I saw an article in the Post Bulletin about a local collector," he said. "The pictures were awesome and it took me back to my younger years in Illinois, when I played marbles before school, at recess, and sometimes after school."

That local collector was Garrett "Beano" Trusty, also of Rochester.

"We became good friends and spent many hours together admiring our marbles and talking about the hobby," Benavidez said. "I've been collecting actively for about 13 years. I also believe that a lot of collectors collect because it reminds them of the years gone by and their childhood, while others like the variety and the beauty."

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Antique marbles go back to those made by hand by German glassmakers of the 1800, through to those made by machine in the early 1900s.

Benavidez's collection, he said, "consists primarily of handmade marbles from Germany circa late 1800s to World War I. My collection consists of every type of handmade marble, ranging from 3/8-inch in diameter to 2-5/8 inches.

"There are 20 most recognized types of marbles," he said. "I have approximately 1,000 marbles, and their value ranges from $10 to several hundred dollars. Most of my collection follows the typical types, but there is a small segment we believe the glass worker took some of the leftover pieces of glass and made one last 'end-of-day' exotic marble to perhaps take home as a special gift. I do collect a few contemporary glass marble artists' work, because as a jewelry designer I appreciate the talent, beauty, and the imagination of their designs and work."

Where to find

People have found marbles in the attic or in coffee cans in the garage or basement, and some even in the backyard of older homes that once had kids playing in the yard.

"I hunt for marbles everywhere I go — garage sales, antique malls, marble shows, and flea markets," Benavidez said. "I am also always trying to hand out my 'marble collector' card. Facebook, with its global reach, connects collectors of all walks. In turn, there are marbles available at a click of your mouse. EBay is loaded with marbles as well, and collectors can shop around the globe while sipping a cup of coffee in their slippers."

Local show

I always tell folks to go to collector shows to get educated in the hobby, to ask questions and to find unique marbles. Benavidez agrees with my advice.

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"It is best to talk to collectors at a show," he said. "They are always very enthusiastic to share knowledge, help understand why they collect, and it all leads to promoting to keep the hobby going. There is such a wide variety of marbles, surely everyone can find something they like. There are marble collector clubs coast-to-coast, approximately 20 in the United States. Nationally, there's the Marble Collector Society of America, and locally, the Midwest Marble Club, based in the Twin Cities area.

"My marbles will be featured in the 2017 Midwest Marble Club Show on Sept. 7, 8 and 9 at Center Stone Plaza, 401 Sixth St. SW, Rochester. Sept. 9 will be open to the public. The first two days are primarily in-room buying, trading, and selling."

Collectors' tips

Benavidez offered a few tips. "All collectors, beginning and seasoned, should try to attend a show because this is the absolute best place to learn hands-on all the intricacies of type, rarity, history, and value. Remember, many of the marbles you will see will have damage to some degree, because, after all, these were toys and meant to be played with."

There are several informative marble books on the market, or just go online and search "marble books and price guides."

End-of-day or end-of-cane marbles are harder to find. Marbles were made from a long cane of glass, so the first and the last marble made from that cane is often incomplete, but have a unique pattern. There are only two of these per cane, which means the rest of the cane produced marbles that are consistent, almost identical.

New collectors, while in the early stages of learning, should stay around $20 per purchase. Having said that, the enthusiasm for the hobby will make that difficult.

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