Published: August 6, 2020
TRUMBULL, CONN. — Stanley A. Block, age 87, of Trumbull, Conn., passed away at home surrounded by his loved ones on July 17. Stanley was the founder and chairman of the Marble Collectors Society of America, from its inception in 1975 through 2015, an uninterrupted 40 years. He was also a collector, antique dealer, auctioneer and author.
Stanley was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., son of the late Irving and Nancy Block. He graduated from Central High School in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was center and linebacker on the three-time CT State Champion varsity football team (1948, 1949, 1950) and was also a member of the track team, throwing shot put. He went on to graduate from the University of Bridgeport with a degree in Business Administration. As a public accountant, he maintained his own practice for several years before going on to serve as assistant controller of Barnes Engineering, followed by a lengthy career at one of Connecticut’s premier liquor wholesalers, Connecticut Distributors, Inc. of Stratford, Conn., where he was controller, corporate treasurer, corporate secretary and executive vice president.
His wife, Claire, likes to tell people that she met her future husband when he crashed her Sweet Sixteen party. They soon began dating. Stan turned down football scholarships at University of Connecticut and George Washington University to attend college closer to his future wife. They married in 1957 and soon settled in Trumbull where they raised their three sons and resided the past 60 years.
Block enjoyed numerous hobbies and pastimes. He was a lifelong fisherman, enjoying weekends with his sons and friends aboard his boat on Long Island Sound or clam digging at Cockenoe Island off the coast of Norwalk, Conn. Stan became unhappy with commercially available consumer fishing rods and took the opportunity to learn to turn and finish his own custom rods. He was also a noted woodworker, crafting furniture for his family, turning bowls and other functional and decorative pieces with a lifetime friend under the moniker GST (Glue, Screw and Turn). He handcrafted solitaire marble gameboards, and in his later years began hand turning custom pens and pencils in both exotic woods and acrylics. Stan was also a nautical model-making aficionado, specializing in plank on hull mast boats.
In addition to his professional career, Stan collected and dealt antiques, running an antiques business and mail auction company, Block’s Box, for many years. Throughout his life, he had a special affinity for antique marbles, paperweights and philately. Stan and Claire spent decades collecting and attending antique shows, flea markets and tag sales throughout the Northeast, along with buying trips to England and Scotland in the early 1970s. Their sons, Robert, Mark and Jonathan, remember as young children being taken to the Woodbury, Conn., flea market and Brimfield (J&J’s), in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
Block took great enjoyment in collecting antique handmade German marbles, antique French paperweights and those of noted early American contemporary artist, Charles Kaziun Jr, along with continuing to enhance his comprehensive collection of US stamps. Much of his early paperweight collection was acquired from noted members of the paperweight community, including Paul Jokelson and Larry Selman. He later became very friendly with Charles Kaziun Jr and added many of his pioneering American contemporary paperweights to his personal collection. Stan also collected Perthshire Paperweights, traveling to Scotland to meet with Stuart Drysdale, owner of Perthshire and becoming a Perthshire dealer. He maintained his valued friendship with both Kaziun and Drysdale during their lifetimes. Over the years, Stan and Claire attended several annual Paperweight Collectors of America conventions.
As good quality paperweights became more difficult to find at antique shows and flea markets, he added antique marbles. He had discovered a spherical object that he could not identify in his mother’s jewelry box following her death in 1963. Several years later he discovered it was a handmade German Swirl marble. He became fascinated with these because antique handmade marbles were nothing like the machine-made marbles he had played with as a youth in the late 1930s-40s. Gradually, he recognized them at flea markets and began building and adding to his personal collection. At the time he could find little information about them and knew of no other collectors to share his hobby.
In 1973 he placed ads of interest in various antique publications, including Antique Trader and Antiques and The Arts Weekly, seeking out other marble collectors. This group of collectors coalesced into the Marble Collectors Society of America (MCSA) that he founded in 1975: a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the hobby of marble collecting. Over time the MCSA has had more than 12,000 members worldwide. Under Stan’s supervision, the MCSA assembled substantial and comprehensive marble collections which were donated and remain at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, N.Y., and the Smithsonian, Washington, DC. Stan was honored on behalf of the MCSA at a reception at the Smithsonian in 1984 for donating the collection, which is available for research and study. Block also produced and directed the first marble-making video, showing early American contemporary craftsman, Bob Dane, creating a marble.
Following a trip to the Amana (Iowa) Marble Meet in 1980, Stan believed there was a need for a local meet for collectors in the Northeast. Living in Connecticut, he began by organizing and holding a show not far from his hometown. The first Northeast Marble Meet (then called The North East Marbles Fair) was held on October 26, 1980 in Fairfield, Conn. Stan went on to hold the annual Northeast Marble Meet for five more years before handing management of the show over to other collectors. The Northeast Marble Meet continues to be held in New England every Columbus Day weekend.
Through the 1980s, Stan continued to collect and deal marbles, nearly all antique, along with some of the earliest contemporary marble makers, including Jody Fine, Bob Dane, Rolf and Genie Wald, Steve Maslach and Josh Simpson. He was a pioneer in supporting young contemporary marble artists and encouraging marble artists to sign their work. He sold mostly through a mail listing. Under his aegis, the MCSA published several small booklets and numerous color plates identifying the different marble types and styles as they became better identified for collectors. He also produced the MCSA’s quarterly newsletter, Marble-Mania, uninterrupted for 40 consecutive years.
Having participated in mail catalog paperweight auctions through the 1970s and 1980s, in 1989 Stan began holding mail catalog marble auctions under the business name Block’s Box, which had become a partnership with his son Robert. Block’s Box also held several mail catalog paperweight auctions in the early 1990s. Through that decade, Block’s Box added videotape marble catalogs to its offerings, and in the mid-1990s moved to internet-based marble catalogs and auctions. To this day, Block’s Marble Auctions continues to offer periodic cataloged sales (having held 1,120 auctions), as well as a wide variety of marbles on eBay.
In the mid-1990s, Stan’s nationwide recognition as an expert in the marble collecting field led Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. to approach him to write a book on the growing hobby of marble collecting. Over the years, Stan wrote a series of hardcover, tabletop marble-related books published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., which remain in print and are the standard for marble-collecting hobbyists. Among these, Marble Mania (First and Second editions), Sulphide Marbles, Antique Glass Swirl Marbles, Antique Glass End of Day Marbles, and Marbles Beyond Glass. Stan spent countless hours researching material for these books and crisscrossing the country to gather pictures of the various examples illustrated in these volumes.
Stan and Claire were a fixture for decades at various marble shows around the country. They attended and set up at the Amana (IA) Marble Meet for 30 years, creating lifelong friendships with marble collectors and dealers from around the nation. For many years Stan also set up at the Buckeye Marble Meet in Columbus, Ohio, and the Northeast Marble Meet. Stan and Claire would use the excuse of going to a marble show to travel around the country, visiting historical sites as well as marble collectors. They traveled as far as Montana to buy marble collections, with no trip being taken where they would not return home raving about some restaurant they had found along the way.
Stan was also a gem and mineral enthusiast, mining for Herkimer Diamonds in Fonda, N.Y., amethyst in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada and Petosky stones along the coast of Michigan. His dream of mining at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas after a marble show was quickly ended by Claire when he packed so many rock and mineral hunting tools into the car that there was no room for her suitcase.
In more recent years, Stan continued to collect paperweights and returned to his first collecting hobby, postage stamps, amassing an extensive worldwide collection while focusing on continuing to build his personal US collection.
Stanley is survived by his beloved wife of 63 years, Claire Waldman Block; his devoted children, Robert and Sarah Block of Trumbull, Conn., Mark and Ann Sales Block of Trumbull, Conn., and Jonathan and Cynthia Block of Fairfield, Conn.; his adored grandchildren, Kali (Matt) Cordes, Emily, Kevin, Jessica, Benjamin and Nathaniel; great-granddaughter, Eliana Cordes; sister Cynthia Shapiro, and brother and sister-in-law, David and Barbara Waldman. He was pre-deceased by his parents, Irving and Nancy Block and brother Herb.
A private family service was held at the Congregation Rodeph Sholom Memorial Park, Fairfield, Conn.
—Submitted by the family
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