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Fine Print On Marble Packaging


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This is a summary of some things I know, some educated guesses, and a few questions I still have.


Zip Codes in Company Addresses

The 5-digit Zip Code was announced in 1963. So, if someone tries to tell you a marble bag is from the 1950’s but you see a zip code on it, something’s fishy!

The precursor to Zip Codes were the 1- or 2-digit Postal Zones which larger cities were assigned starting in 1943. For example, if you see an address such as Akron 10, Ohio or Chicago 5, ILL., on a header, that's a good sign that the product is vintage!

The 9-digit “Zip + 4” was introduced in 1983. I seldom see the extra digits on any packaging even now, so the lack of the digits doesn't mean anything special. But if you see it, then you know you are looking at newer packaging. An example is Galen's bag here, Anacortes Vitros, ca. 1989-1992.

Age Warnings on Marble Bags

Congress' Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972 created the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which began operating in 1973.

Their first charge included working with manufacturers to establish voluntary safety standards. So that would be about when warning statements such as "For ages 3 and up" statement began to be placed on small toys.

Then, after collecting more data, it appears to have been determined that for some toys the voluntary warnings weren't effective enough. And that's where the 1979 Child Safety Protection Act comes in, replacing the friendly recommendation "For ages 3 and up" with the more forbidding "CHOKING HAZARD, Not for children under 3 years" and the standardized triangular hazard symbol.

One notable example illustrating the change in warnings is the Marble King blister packs with the horseshoe arrangement of marbles. Here are photos of two of those packages from eBay auctions. Both have small, easy on the eye warnings on the left edge of the card saying "For ages 3 and up". So both of these were printed after 1972. But only one was likely sold in the 70's. That's the one on the left.


You can see the little dimestore style price sticker on the one on the left, but more importantly you can still see at the bottom of the card that what you were buying was "40 American Made Glass Marbles".

What are you getting in the package on the right? A Choking Hazard. The harsher 1979 warning sticker has been placed over the American Made statement.

(My thanks to CrazyRandy217 at LOM for getting me on the right track with the age warnings.)

My next questions are:

"For ages 3 and up" is less cautious than what we see on current marble packages, so what other age recommendations have shown up since 1979, and when were they introduced?

And when did bar codes start appearing on packages?

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Bar Codes

The bar code was developed in 1948 and patented in 1952.

The technology was developed further and applied with varying degrees of sucess in industrial applications in the 1960's.

Its first retail use was in 1974. The first item scanned was a pack of Wrigley's gum at a supermarket in Ohio.

By the late 70's, 85% of all retail products had bar codes.


A Short History of Bar Code at Bar Code 1

The History of Barcodes, an article by Tony Seideman

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