Coming Out of the Closet RE: Cat’s-Eye Marbles

By David Chamberlain

I suppose this article is true to the title I’ve chosen yet my initial acceptance of cat’s-eye marbles as a valid marble sub study (read gonzo enthusiasm) came more as a conversion. Anyone who’s been out there on the marble show circuit will know that I have been strictly displaying cat’s-eye marbles since Castle & Peterson’s ground breaking book was published, similarly and exclusively devoted to cat’s-eye marbles.

I’d previously given cat’s-eyes short shrift, treated them as a weak sister in the marble field and generally parroted the usual jingoistic feelings. It’s amazing how when you set your mind to it you can alter the reality of millions and millions of cat’s-eye marbles made in the good ol’ U.S. of A. All around the world for that matter! Well, they’re only machine-made marbles and we all know now that like them recognition comes late. Heck, machine-mades in some circles still carry the taint of upstarts. Pure prejustice!

Back to my shocking revelation! I experienced a conversion to cat’s-eye marbles in Larry Castle & Marlow Peterson’s room during the March 1998 Seattle Marble Show, three months before their book came out. Marlow’s enthusiasm was infectious. I think I bought most every variety of cat’s-eye marble he was offering and immediately after the show I began calling in marble markers all over the country. Even pulled from my current stock a few stray cat’s-eyes that I’d previously deigned to be worthy. Even had regrets of remembered cat’s-eyes that I’d let slip away. I had it bad!

Been proselytizing cat’s-eye marbles ever since! You could call me a disciple of Larry and Marlow. Actually, coming to an acceptance of cat’s-eye marbles is a natural. In recent generations we have been literally bred, born and baptized in cat’s-eye marbles. Cat’s-eyes have been so much a predominant marble in more recent decades that many people not versed in marble jargon refer to most any marble generically as a cat’s-eye. I’ve heard this over and over again, hundreds of times out there in non-marble venues shops, antique and collectible shows, flea markets I like to refer to it as being in the marble trenches! And 80 percent of those people when mentioning cat’s-eyes do so with great affection. I am convinced that the demographics for cat’s-eyes collecting cultivation are phenomenal and I concur wholeheartedly with Castle & Peterson when they say, “…with cat’s-eyes the potential is staggering as this is just the beginning.”

Cat’s-eyes are really no different than any other machine-made marble in their natural distribution. The varieties worthy of consideration similarly and probably account for only 1 to 2 percent of the entire cat’s-eye marble population produced over the years – that is to say worthy of color photos in a marble book. Yet, the varieties amongst cat’s-eye marbles are prodigious. The breadth and depth of cat’s-eye types is not only astounding it’s an eye-opener. Additionally there is a previously unrealized beauty amongst these marbles that deserves serious consideration. Important finds can readily be found amongst cat’s-eye marbles for it is truly a treasure hunt!

I’ll not go into all the particulars re. cat’s-eye marbles here. It’s easier to encourage you to buy Larry & Marlow’s inexpensive book, which is replete with color photos. But, I will provide you with a measure of my own enthusiasm for certain cat’s-eye types. I consider three color Vitro hybrids by far the most beautiful cat’s-eye types. They’re truly like little flowers. I’ve a put-together box of 25 I can’t keep my eyes off. I’ve a seriously ugly large cat’s-eye marble I’ve named “The Cat’s-eye That Ate Manhattan!” I love it! C.E. Bogard & Sons made a singular cat’s-eye marble during the 1960’s, an Orange & Black and a Blue & Black with wisps of white that I covet. I consider the late 70’s; limited edition boxed ALL-American Marble Set of six 1 3/16″ Marble King cat’s-eyes outrageous! I’ve a cat’s-eye I call my Black Glass Lutz Cat’s-eye that leaves people weak in their knees! I must have a dozen varieties of peewee Cat’s-eyes and they’re such cute little things. There’s my Jabo Single-Vane Root Beer, my Vacor Flamas, my single-vane Jell-O Cat’s-eye, my Snowy Cat’s, my Blazin’ Blue Double-Ingot Cat’s-eye, my 1’ 4-vane, 4-color St. Mary’s… I could go on and on. It’s a passion! It’s amazing too because I’ve mainly been a marble dealer for twelve years and it took cat’s-eye marbles to totally turn me on. Wonders never cease!

An interesting side bar has been the recent creations of contemporary handmade cat’s-eye marbles by a few glass artists. It muddles the mind because cat’s-eyes marbles were originally an attempted imitation of old handmade German swirls. Now the reverse is happening!

This is less an erudite treatise on cat’s-eyes than it is an expression of my enthusiasm I believe grounded in a fair measure of marble knowledge and with a mind towards economy. With cat’s-eye marbles the market is wide open. Go get ’em!

The Marble Museum and the Museum of American Glass in West Virginia would both like to thank David Chamberlain for writing this article for us. We also would like to thank Bo Stiff for providing the photograph.

Please take time to write:
David Chamberlain
PO BOX 5222
Santa Cruz, CA 95063-5222