Published: October 28, 2015
Review and Photos by Andrea Valluzzo
CROMWELL, CONN. — The 36th Northeast Marble Meet returned home to the nutmeg state Columbus Day weekend, with 32 dealers showing marbles of every size and color, from American machine-made swirls to handmade European lutzes. Sponsored by the Marble Collectors Society of America, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the marble meet took place Sunday, October 11, capping a weekend that kicked off Friday with a room-hopping, buying session at the Crowne Plaza Cromwell and continued with an auction of 225 lots of rare and choice examples Saturday and the society’s annual meeting. Auction highlights included a three-layer, solid core swirl and a single pontil onionskin, both just under 2½ inches in diameter. Each fetched $715.
Stanley Block, who founded this society, which is the oldest and largest of its type in the country, also organized this marble meet, a fall tradition since 1980. The first five meets took place in Fairfield County, Conn., and the show moved up to South Attleboro and then Marlborough, Mass., for many years, under the longtime aegis of Bertram Cohen, who died at age 83, after last year’s meet. This is the show’s first year back in Connecticut. Stan was on hand at the meet but his son, antiques dealer Robert Block, also a marbles specialist, and longtime collector David Terrell were running the show this year for the society. By all appearances, all the transitions in management and location appeared seamless — dealers looked happy to be here, and buyers, most of them serious, longtime collectors, easily found the new venue and came to buy.
Bert Cohen may not have been at the meet this year, but his presence was palpable, and a moment of silence was observed at 10 am to mark his passing. A good sampling of his longtime and storied collection was also here, along with his affable wife, Rosalie, and daughter, Brenda. Looking to downsize to a smaller home, Rosalie said it was time to let some of Bert’s collection go to new homes, and she was sharing many reminisces about Bert and their shared collecting journey.
“His pockets were always full (of marbles). If he met you, he’d marbleize you,” Rosalie quipped, noting Bert’s penchant for handing out marbles to new friends he met everywhere. A member of more than 20 marble clubs, Bert even traveled overseas with his marbles, including Tokyo and England. The camaraderie seen at this recent marble meet evinces that even though buying and selling might be the primary objective, the marble community is a tight-knit one, and relationships are key and long-lasting.
A full weekend of activities awaited participants, and the meet was well attended, with around 200 people engaging in brisk buying all day on Sunday. “The meet began on a wet note. Early evening on Friday, at the height of rush hour in central Connecticut, the heavens opened up and provided a deluge, slowing down the arrival of those attendees who had not gotten an early start to the three-day holiday weekend. This didn’t stop those intrepid collectors who were at the hotel from engaging in brisk room-hopping during the evening. Some real treasures changed hands Friday night,” said Bob Block. At its meeting, the society’s board passed a resolution officially thanking its founder Stanley Block for his 40 years of service as chairman of the society as well as Claire Block for her 40 years as secretary. Both retired from the society this year.
Richard “Rudy” Rudolph, Canterbury, Conn., filled a musical instrument case with a fine sampling of American, machine-made marbles, circa 1915–50, while his booth neighbor, Ben Barocas, both a glass artist and collector himself, featured glass cat figurines he designed himself with a hole in the back, dubbed cat butts, as well as vintage glass, including a fine and large glass “Earth” sphere by glass artist Geoffrey Beetem of Ohio.
Winnowing down years of collecting, Dr Jeff Yale, Ansonia, Conn., found the meet to be excellent. “I revisited with several ‘marble enthusiasts’ I had not seen in several years and met a number of new collectors,” he said. “Unusual antique marbles in ‘mint’ condition always trade and/or sell quickly and at high prices. Since I had some unusual sulphide marbles and early 1930s machine-made marble boxes, the show was productive for me.”
Tom Kingsley, Trumbull, Conn., sold well from his collection of contemporary marbles he makes and that he has earned quite a following for. “People today — young and old — are all interested in marbles,” he said, saying his vortex swirls were popular here. “Each marble I sell is unique, no two are the same.”
Lefty Bingman, Franklin, Penn., also had a good overall show, noting buyers seemed to hone in on marbles and not overly interested in marble-related items. “As far as selling, it was about even with handmade and machine-made marbles. I used to sell a lot of side items such as marble games, marble toys and marble jewelry. I also sold glassware made by the Akro Agate marble company. Sales of these items have really dropped off the last couple of years,” he said. “The best part of the show was finding great marbles to add to my collection and seeing old friends that you may only see once a year.”
Specializing in handmade marbles, Elliot Pincus sold across the board from large and small swirls to sulphides, banded opaques and oxblood transitionals to a rare Akro box. He also picked up for his collection an elusive “Blue Galaxy.”
Mark Block, Trumbull, Conn., who also has a retail space at Renninger’s, Adamstown, Penn., specialized in marbles for 25 years and also deals in Americana. He had a nice mix of unique items on hand. “What I try to do is bring the rare thing that is hard to find,” he said.
Buyers and attendees clearly agreed. One visitor described the event as “marble overload” on the society’s Facebook page, and wrote, “If you have not been to a show, do yourself and your addiction a favor and make some serious plans to attend one in the near future…you will not regret it!”
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