Some might say Scott Shupe has taken family tradition to an extreme.
He remembers very well how his grandfather introduced him to a new collectible when he was just 6 years old.
“He taught me how to shoot marbles,” Shupe says, demonstrating. “You know, knuckles down, put her in between your knuckle, your thumb and your forefinger and let her go.”
Shupe’s dad was a marble tournament champion in high school and Shupe quickly fell under the spell, too. When his grandmother would buy the grandkids marbles for Christmas, he would trade them other trinkets for their marbles.
Now 50, Shupe has acquired quite the collection.
Marbles are everywhere at this house, stuffed into priority mail boxes, peanut butter jars and pickle jars that line his living room wall. He’s not sure exactly how many he’s got.
“I don’t want to count them. Three-four hundred thousand. Maybe half a million,” says the Aunt Bea’s Antiques employee. “It’s too many.”
Most have been picked up at pawn shops, antique stores, garage sales, estate sales and marble shows since 1992.
He displays the nicer ones on wooden game boards or keeps them in the pistol cases he stores them in to travel.
“I’ve still got the bug,” Shupe says. “I’m just kind of crazy on them. I love marbles.”
His common marbles range in value from 3 cents to $1. But the good ones have the potential to make him money.
Like most hand-made marbles, Shupe’s Beach Ball Joseph Coat was made in Germany. Produced around 1900, it takes its name from its stripes of many colors and he says it is worth about $500.
The biggest factor in determining a marble’s value is eye appeal. Then rarity, antiquity and condition come in to play.
His most prized marble is his 1890 black and purple “Horizontal Swirl,” that was hand-made in Ohio. Shupe paid $3,500 for it.
When marbles were first mass produced in Europe around 1830, they were made from clay, agate, porcelain or limestone, Shupe says. It’s one of many factoids he can recite as a result of a lot of reading. “I’m at the point now where the books are pretty boring to me,” he says.
He shares his knowledge when he travels to marble trade shows all over the country. Sometimes he brings a family member, but he always takes Wee Willie, his black-and-tan miniature wiener dog.
Shupe’s son, 17-year-old Chaz, is already building his own collection. It seems the natural thing to do.
“My dad’s the marble man, I guess,” he says.