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Gino Biffany


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So sorry to hear this. I had hopes of seeing him again at this past Decatur show. But he was not able. Wow what a loss. Rest in Peace Gino. Collectors are going to miss his knowledge of Peltier.

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Gino will be missed. I was fortunate enough to interview him a couple of years ago about his marble playing days and participating in the Ottawa VFW tournaments. Seems like a good time to share his story:

1952 Ottawa, Illinois VFW Marble Tournament

The Best Marble Players Were from St. Columba School, Ottawa, Illinois

When today’s marble collectors think of Ottawa, Illinois, the Peltier Glass Company jumps to mind. The Peltier Company manufactured marbles from 1924 through 2002. But for the boy’s of Ottawa, Saturday, May 10, 1952, took on a different marble memory. The City of Ottawa’s Recreation Department hosted a city wide tournament sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club and as part of the National VFW Marble program. Marble playing replaced marble making as the focus of the marble world at in Ottawa, Illinois that day. Twenty boys, champions and runner-ups in school tournaments, represented the best marble players from ten schools. The boys gathered at the softball diamond at Norris Park to see who the best marble shooter in Ottawa was.

The game was ringer, with 13 marbles in the ring. When you knocked a marble out of the ring and your shooter stayed in the ring, the shooter scored a point and got to shoot again. The first player to knock seven marbles out of the ring won the match.

Of the 20 boys that qualified for city tournament, 17 showed up at Norris Park on Saturday morning to compete. The tournament was single elimination with one game to decide the winner of each match. The goal was to be the first boy to knock seven marbles out of the ring and keep your shooter inside the ring after the last shot. That determined the winner of each game.

After four rounds of play, the championship came down to two boys from St. Columba school, Gino Biffany, a 7th grader, and Bob Weber, an 8th grader. Weber and Biffany had played for the St. Columba school championship. Weber won the school championship by defeating Biffany. In the Ottawa city championship game, Bob Weber dominated the ring with a final score of 7-0. Biffany got two shots in the game. Weber received the Gold Medal, Biffany the silver medal and the Bronze Medal went to Williams for his third place finish.

When interviewed for this story, Gino shared his memories of playing marbles and of that specific tournament 60 years ago this year. Growing up, Gino and his friends played marbles before and after school and at recess and lunch time. The preferred games were ringer, described above and potsy. Potsy was a game where the players used their heel to create a shallow hole in the ground then the players took turns shooting at the hole. If your marble went into the hole you won the marbles put up for the prize pot. If no one’s marble went in, the shooter with the marble closest to the hole won. Gino carried his marbles with him in a sock instead of a regular marble bag. His favorite shooter was an 11/16 inch Peltier Tiger marble. Growing up, Gino remembers playing in two city tournaments. The tournaments used a ten foot diameter ring and that was bigger than what he and his friends played with at school and in their back yards. The size of the ring meant he had to shoot farther than he was used to. The playground marble games were played on five to six foot circles drawn in the playground dirt. From the 1952 tournament, he remembers that Bob “beat him bad”. Bob had the ability to put “English” on his shooter which allowed it to stick, even back up in the ring for his next shot. Gino had not mastered that skill yet. From the scores reported in the Ottawa Republican Times, Bob beat everyone badly. He also remembers his brother tried to coach him on his shots by standing across the ring and telling him when he had his shot lined up.

It was during his marble playing days that Gino became interested in collecting marbles as well. He was fascinated with the colors and designs of the marbles made by Peltier Glass Company in his home town, including his favorite Tiger shooter. One of his memories is now slanted by his marble collecting experiences. He remembers that Peltier provided the target marbles for the tournament and the tournament officials had “Big Value” boxes of marbles for use in the tournament. They emptied out the boxes then threw the boxes away. Those original “Big Value” boxes are cherished by today’s marble collectors. In collecting marbles today, Gino specializes in Peltier marbles and is considered a leading authority on Peltier’s marbles.

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Thanks for posting that Scott. Gino will be missed. I always looked forward to going into his room with an unusual pelt I would come across. No one appreciated the hard to find pelts more than him, even if it was a rainbo. I will miss talking marbles with him. RIP

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