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New Cat's Eye Historical Data


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Hong Kong started making cat's eyes in 1954. This is significantly earlier than I believe "we" previously knew.

Prior to that they had imported marbles, mostly from Japan, and then re-exported them to commonwealth countries.

They seem to have faced some issues with "Certificate of Origin" and "Imperial Preference" rules, and their client countries had expressed much interest in Hongkong-made marbles, so they went for it.

The first factory was built in 1954. It was called the Hongkong Marble Glass Manufactory. The 3rd factory had been built in or by 1956. Though one of the 3 had closed in/by 1956 due at least partly to issues with the seasonal nature of marbles, at least one was operating at full capacity with a backlog of orders.

One of the factories made over a million marbles a day, using what appears to have been 10 machines. They were cat's eyes and clays, 14mm and 17mm. Larger sizes were planned for the near future. I didn't actually see the term cat's eye -- they were described as "transparent marbles with colour-core".

The industry faced challenges but they maintained, and time appears to have confirmed, that prospects still looked very good. One of the challenges was getting production costs low enough to help them compete with Japan. One of the strategies they were looking into was managing the supply of glass. I think they were talking about scrap glass.

Marbles appear to have been made for both play and industry.

This is all to the best of my ability to piece together info from google fragments. My source info is mainly "The Glass Marble Industry of Hongkong", in the Far Eastern Economic Review, published by Review Pub. Co. Ltd. Another item to put on my library checklist.

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I was sent these pix for this thread. The mibs are on their way too. :-)

The header sure looks old. I'll fantasize that they are 50's Hong Kong until I hear further information. ;) We're curious about what WL might mean. Any ideas?

(click to enlarge)

FairyGrand_A_Roger-1.jpg FairyGrand_B_Roger-1.jpg

um, here's a list of commonwealth countries to get an idea of where the "empire" has been. I hoped that would give me a lead on "WL" but if it's there I missed it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd say yes.

Who can be sure about the date but 50's and 60's is the range generally given for 4-vane single-colored cats. Umm, actually, I think I see 50's given as the date on 4-vaners more often than 60's, but yeah, 60's sounds okay.

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Oh yes, I got the bag in the mail today.

And it is delicate. No ... it looks delicate. It is old. A little more sturdy than it looks. But it does look old.

Cloudy thin plastic bag. Not brittle. One of the mibs looks clear, not a cat eye, or else the vanes are super skinny. (I don't see vanes.)

An interesting variety of vane structures in the rest. Some a little banana-y. I think maybe all 4-vaners, technically, but some lie in a single plane. One definite 4-vaner has vanes with sharp edges, yet the vanes manage to look inflated, like the dried pod of a plant I used to be familiar with.

Some of the base glass is aqua. Or else that's a lot of reflection off of aqua cores. Might be bottle green in the base of some but some of the bases are clear, at least distinctly more clear in comparison with the aquas.

I'm gonna have to study this slowly. This is one bag I won't be opening so I need to study it carefully to understand the vanes.

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