Marbles 101: Definition, Games, and How to Play Marbles


What are marbles? The definition and the games that are played with marbles? How to play marbles? Learn All About Marbles: From Definition to How to Play, and Popular Games to Try. Marbles 101!



Marbles and Marble Playing; Marbles are small balls made of painted and glazed clay, limestone, plastic, glass, or agate, used as toys and playthings for children. There are virtually numberless variations of the game played with them, many of them of local custom. What may be termed the official version in the United States is that played in the National Marbles Tournament, which has been held at Wildwood-by-the-Sea, N.J., and is now held at Cleveland, Ohio.

In this competition, which is open to boys and girls 14 years old and younger, a ring 10 feet in diameter is inscribed on a smooth level surface. Two lines, at right angles, are drawn through the center of the circle to its perimeter to form a cross. Glass marbles, not more than five eighths of an inch in diameter, are placed within the circle —one at the center and three each on each of the four branches of the cross, each marble three inches away from the next one.

From a line drawn tangent to the circle a player knuckles down, that is, he places at least one knuckle on the ground and attempts to knock the marbles out of the ring with a shooter (a marble of any substance but metal and varying from one half to three quarters of an inch in diameter). The player continues to shoot so long as he knocks at least one marble outside the ring in one shot; he then gives way to the next player. There are a number of other rules for this official game, but, in essence, the game is won by the player first knocking seven marbles out of the ring. Where more than two players take part and a tie results, a new game is played to break the tie.

Of the many informal local games, some are played with holes in the ground. The winner is he who most accurately shoots his marbles into the holes—a game known in some locales as “bunny-in-the-hole.” In another variation small clay (“coramy”) or glass marbles are shot at a larger glass (“glassie”) or agate (“aggie”). The holder of the large marble keeps all the small ones that fail to hit it, and surrenders it when a hit is made, the game then resuming with roles reversed. In a “hit and span” variation a player scores a point if he comes within a hand’s breadth of the large marble. Some games are on a point basis, others “for keeps”—the winning player enlarging his supply of marbles.


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