10 Historical Toys

The lucky winner of a game of marbles can walk away with more marbles than he came with if he’s playing for keeps. Keystone View Company/FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Since ancient history, marbles have amused children around the globe, and archaeologists have dug up specimens from Africa to ancient Greece to North America, with some marbles dating back to 3000 B.C.E. [source: Patrick and Thompson]. The earliest version of this toy was made using whatever was on hand, such as stones, nuts or fruit pits [source: Strong National Museum of Play]. Later, marbles were made from clay, and high-end versions were hand-painted with intricate designs. By the mid-19th century, toy makers used molten glass to create marbles with an integral colored swirl. Other fine specimens were made from agate or Venetian marble, which gave the toy its modern name. By 1902, marble-making machinery allowed for mass-production of this classic toy, making marbles the must-have toy among middle-class children throughout Europe and the United States [source: Scott].

The most popular marbles game is called "Ringer," where kids attempt to drive one another's marbles out of a circle drawn in the dirt. Depending on the rules, kids could play for keeps or simply for fun. Antique marbles have become a popular collector's item, with rare units selling for hundreds of dollars.