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Ravenswood Novelty Marbles - A Review Of Varieties


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A fellow Board member saw a photo of one storage case of Ravenwoods of mine and asked me to post a photo review of Ravenswood marble types in my collection. There seems to be a shortage of good classification resources available with clear photos - so I thought I would "pay it forward" for the good advice I received years ago from David Chamberlain (who got me started collecting Ravenswood and whom I hold largely responsible for my Ravenwood habit/expenitures! :unsure: ).

Some background: Many years ago I attended the Seattle club show and met David Chamberlain. I knew nothing about Ravenswood and ultimately purchased one of his Ravenswood Identification assortments (which came with a slip of paper with a Ravenswood overview). Shortly thereafter I attended the Columbus, OH show and met a dealer who had purchased a considerable quality of Ravenwoods from the ~1987 find of crated marbles. He had been through the large quantity he had purchased and had separated the premium varieties from the more common swirls and was selling both for reasonable asking prices. I began cherry picking from the roughly 2-3,000 pieces he brought to each show and over time amassed a fair quantity. With a single exception, my buying of Ravenwood was limited to these two sources - both of which traced back directly to the 1987 crates find (the exception was a very nice group of 20 mint brown-based cobalt blue Ravenwoods that I happened upon in Amana - uniquely Ravenswood due to their color).

The Ravenswoods in my collection are limited to those varieties that were in the 1987 crate find. While they have provenance - they do not represent the full Ravenwood line during their production years. Therefore the photos below do not represent all Ravenswood varieties.

I generally divide Ravenwoods into premium and average swirls types. The premium types can be pretty hard to find (some of them extremely hard to find). Ravenswood used colors and in some cases patterns that are unique to Ravenswood marbles. In some cases you need to study the marble for a bit to pick-up the details to differentiate Ravenswood from Champion - or any number of other West Virginia marbles. When the base color is opaque - Ravenswood often used a very transparent swirl color to "snake" across the surface. This line of transparent color commonly dives down into the marble proving some color depth. This is often a good Ravenswood diagnostic when used with other ID methods.

The premium types:

There are several Ravenswood varities that are quite striking and fairly under-represented compared to the total Ravenswood output. One of the most recognized are the brown-based swirls. To the best of my knowledge Ravenswood was the only marble company that produced a swirl where the predominant color as brown (with a transparent cobalt blue or emerald green swirl). This gives the marble (IMO) an understated and striking beauty.

In my experience the brown-based cobalt swirls with cobalt blue are somewhat harder to find than the emerald green - although both are uncommon to find.

Brown-Based Cobalt Blue swirls:







Brown-Based Emerald Green swirls:










I have a number of brown-based Ravenswoods where the brown is noticeably lighter - sort of a cafe-Au-lait tone and the transparent swirl color sometimes lighter as well. I attribute this to variability in the production run - not a different variety. The appearance is different though and could cause some uncertainty - so here is a photo to illustrate it. Notice the swirl color differences an each side of the fold:





I have a single example of a brown base with a black swirl. The black does not show much transparency - unlike the blues and greens.


End Part I

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Also in the premium classification group are gray swirls. These tend to be multiple shades of gray with a white switl and perhps 10-16% clear. The result is fine detail lines throughout this type - fairly busy pattern. They tend to average 19/32" up to 5/8"... but usually closer to 19/32". In my experience these are much harder to find than the brown-based swirls and seem to exist in very limited quantities.




The next premium type is an opaque white based swirl with a bright blue and trnsparent honey-amber swirl. The white base is a pure, brilliant white - not the creamy off-white we tend to see in other WV swirls. One diagnostic for this type is that the honey-amber swirl color has good transparency and depth into the white matrix. Noice the detail lines in he blue... almost like elevation contour lines on a topgraphic map. This type is fairly hard to find - like the grays above. (Note: 15+ years ago some dealers sold these as Christensens)




The next premium type is a Ravenswood version of a Coral. Opaque green base with black and coral swirls on the surface. They usually have good detail lines in the green and nice shading in the coral. Hard to find.




The next premium type is a clear matrix with bright blue and white swirls in almost a jumbled wirepull pattern. The clear is VERY clear glass and the blue is an icy blue. The average size is 9/16-19/32". A very bright an attracive marble. I have seen very few of these and own only 4.



The last premium type I'll be describing is a marble that didn't jump out at me when I fist saw it. It is a very dark cobalt blue marble that appears almost opaque. When backlit - an internal pattern of cobalt clue in a clear matrix is seen in the same style as smoke rises in the air. Hard to find - I have only even seen 7 of them. Very hard to photograph decently.



This concludes premium types that I will cover in this writing - although there are a few more that exist.

The next type is an opaque light green/blue base with a transparent bright blue surface swirl. The blue swirl tends to spread on the surface like a transparent veneer - but aslo has some depth into the marble depending on how the swirl was laid onto the marble. Although classified as a common type - I have found them in limited quantities and find the color combination to be attractive.



I have one variation on the Coral described above that has the same opaque light green base as the Coral, but has only one color swirl - a black/dark gray veneer at the surface with no/little transparency. I own only one example of this color combination.



End Part II

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The next type I'll present is an opaque white base wih a small amount of clear) with transparent green "snake" swirls on the surface. The green in this type is usually accompanied by Ravenswood's version of oxblood in a fine thread - usually defining the margins or the center of the transparent green swirl. One of the beter "common" Ravenswood swirls.



A variation on the above type is an opaque white base with a single color brown swirl in light or medium tone.


Another opaque white base type has blue or blue-gray swirls:


Another opaque white base type has transparent light green or transparent aqua surface swirls. These color swirls have some limited depth into the marble.


Another opaque white base type has busy transparent orange swirls - often with good depth into the white matrix. These orange swirls sometimes form near-flame patterns. The transparent orange may (rarely) be the predominant color of the marble (instead of the white base).



Moving to transparent base glass Ravenswoods - the next type has a transparent emerald green base with jumbled white swirls throughout. The green can shift towards aqua in a few examples.


Side view - with some backlighting:


End Part III

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Continuing the transparent varieties:

Hre are some different transparent Ravenswoods. Following the "a picture is worth a thousand words" approach - I think the photos are good enough for your studied eye to discern the colors, patterns and nuances of the types:



Aqua blue:The piecs on the left and right have an almost corkscrew of opaque white in the core:




Aqua blue:


Blue variants:


The following types are made up of a clear matrix with brown/amber and white swirls jumbled throughout the matrix. As you can see from photos presented erlier - this jumbled internal pattern is a repeated theme on transparent Ravenswoods - although not all.


(Note the marble in the upper left. Notice anything different/ unusual about it's matrix color? Its vaseline (uranium oxide) glass - the only one of its type I have.

Here it is alone in sunlight:



Here it is under UV light:


I cannot explain why they used vaseline glass in a minority of the run. In my experience, vaseline glass was not used by Ravenswood - although I have two opaque florescent types (see further along in this thread).

Emerald green transparents:



This is a single Ravenswood piece that I have that is among the most beautiful that I've seen. I only have one like it.



Transparent clear with off-red swirls with a wispy white:



End Part IV

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Part V

A mix of Ravenswood greens - transparents and mostly opaques:


Two very nice transparent blues - which may be variants of the 4 posted in the premium group:


More transparents:

Clear with whispy white swirls in the matrix:



Only one of its color/pattern I have of this:


Two florescent Ravenswoods I have. They do not photogrph well to show that there is an underlying pattern in the opaque matrix:


Shifting to opaques once again:







I found these mixed with the common Ravenswood swirls that came from the 1987 find crates. They have fairly good flames of transparent color on an opaque white base. I hve no idea why these are sole examples of flames that I have seen from the large groups I have gone through.



End Part V

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Wrapping things up:

Here are a few group photos to give you a different perspective:







I hope some find this discussion and the accompanying photos to be helpful when identifying Ravenswoods.

End series

You are free to use these photos without restriction for your personal uses but they may not be used on/in for-profit websites or publications. Contact me if you have a question.

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Wow, that's really interesting stuff! I sort my machine mades by "some of these don't quite look like the others" and a couple in question almost look like some that you've posted, in my opinion. I may have posted these pictures before, what do you think?

OK, been a while since I posted a pic here...let's try this again

From part II, and yes those green/red/black ones are cool too



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Great thread! Now I wish someone would do the same with Alley and Champion :)

Here are some marbles in my collection that I've never been quite sure what they are. Some, or all, could possibly be Ravenswoods. The blue/green flame/swirls on the right in the first set of photos both have aventurine. One of the blue/green swirls in the second set of photos has aventurine. Did Ravenswood ever use aventurine?



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This will be an invaluable resource for id's. Not to mention that they're gorgeous marbles.

I expect I'll pick up on something new everytime I look at this thread, for some time to come.

Thank you so much Alan!

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Wow, this is cool!!! I know I have some of these in my ???? box... Maybe this focus will help me to burn their "look" into my brain... I tend to be ID challenged when it comes to certain machine made marbles, no matter how many times I see stuff about them...

Does anyone have a copy of the Ravenswood catalog that David was selling quite a while ago?? I miss David!! He used to be a regular around here, but we haven't seen him for years... It seems to me that the family he used to come east to visit is no longer here???

At any rate... He had a bunch of the old order sheets from Ravenswood. I know I have one and if no one else has one handy, I'll dig mine out... It's in a box.... somewhere.... I can probably photocopy it well enough for others to download... It'll just take a while to find it.

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Wow, that's really interesting stuff! I sort my machine mades by "some of these don't quite look like the others" and a couple in question almost look like some that you've posted, in my opinion. I may have posted these pictures before, what do you think?

OK, been a while since I posted a pic here...let's try this again

From part II, and yes those green/red/black ones are cool too

I would say that the marble on the right is a definite. The one on the left is a little hard for me to get a feel for - so I would have to withold a call on it.


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Great tutorial Alan. That is a post that is real archival material. Thanks for the effort.

Any idea how many "types" you are missing?


John: That would call for some real speculation. I'm certainly missing some. I have one of the orange Ravenwood catalog fliers that came with the crate find and its impossible to discern what marble is what from the black and white photos.

I'd love the chance to dig through someone else's Ravenwood crate marbles to see if they are all the same or there is some diversity. Ravenswood's use of clear and a nearly uniquely swirled second color in a predictable jumbled pattern is a good diagnostic. Like any marble manufacturer - handling a lot of their material over time and getting used to what colors the used (and didn't generally use) is helpful in ID. Of course there are always the oddball types (some of which are pictured above) that out of left field and could be easily mis-identified or go unidentified because they break the color or pattern trend.



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I have one of the orange Ravenwood catalog fliers that came with the crate find and its impossible to discern what marble is what from the black and white photos.

OK, that's what I have, too.... I'm glad I didn't dig for a few hours to get it out, only to find that it wouldn't help!!! LOL

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Well, here are some Ravenswoods that you have probably not seen before.

David Chamberlain just saw them for the first time, Oct. 24, '07, when he stopped by here.

These were brought to me in the early '90's by Elaine King.

It is my understanding that these were a special run.

It isn't my plan to sell any of these. These do seem to be rare.


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Hi Patry, I have marbles with the electric yellow as shown in your pictures

in with my champion marbles. Did yours come from the provenance of

the 1980's find? Thanks, marblesa2z

The marbles that I am showing, I was told that they were from the Ravenswood store, when they were still open.

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  • 1 year later...

Thurs. April 9, '09 1PM

Yes, what a lengthy thread. Me thinks a few alley marbles were missidentified as Ravenswood but otherwise a fine representation. When

visiting Patry back then and seeing those particular marbles she obtained from Elaine King I had my doubts. They look very much like certain

Champion marbles that I purchased from Charlie Stutsman during the early 1990s. He dug them out from collapsed boxes underneith the

structure! I am still doubtful about those.

But for anyone who has a keen interest in Ravenswood marbles from this great find in West Virginia in 1987 I still have them in spades even after

selling a 50 lb. box to Marlow Peterson and Larry Castle. I regularly offer a set of 33 different bonifide Ravenswood marbles with serious\

provenance. Make enquiries to me at dlcmib at yahoo.com. .....David Chamberlain

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Sat. April 11, '09

Hello again,

I really thought I'd provided an addendum to this wonderful thread of Ravenswood photographs by Alan but it doesn't seem to be here. I'll

try again cause I do have some comments.

From coarsing through and sorting and resorting Ravenswood marbles from the 50 lb. boxes out of the 1987 find I find most all of the images

provided above authentic Ravenswood marbles. I have been humbled though over time in discovering that some of my judgements have

been too circumscribed by an over reliance on this find alone. My sights have become broadened since this early immersion. There's

Ravenswood marbles out there that don't look anything like what I've come to accept.

That aside, I have to say that the photo(s) of the few flame-like Ravenswoods depicted unfortunately or fortunately are actually Alley Agate.

I've a made-up boxed set of 30 AA flames that I'm constantly upgrading.

I believe the "cafe-au-lait" lighter brown Ravenswood shown are in fact a purposeful separate variety. I also find them worthy. I have seen

enough of them in the 50 lb. boxes to deduce this. Actually, I've been over time to put together sets of approximately 13 different brown\

varieties, granted some of which were practically one or two or three of a kind. Anyway, over time I was able to only make up about 5

such sets. I consider them premiere Ravenswood marbles!

The cobalt blue one shown I do not believe is rare. I've enough of them to I think disprove this conclusion. Actually two varieties of cobalt

blue ones: Dramatically Cobalt blue and largely clear w/cobalt blue stringy strands.

I have found only one variety with what coulod be called oxblood and it is in a common translucent Ravenwood swirl but I have only found a

very few to have the oxblood in them. It is mainly subsurface and consists of very thin and light hairlike strands. You have to look hard but

the only conclusion is that it is oxblood. They're exceedingly rare.

I think I know the chap that Alan was buying from. He was famous for his box collection which unfortunately due to illness in the family

he put up for sale last year. Nice guy. He and his wife would attend Amana and I met him first at Columbus. Can't think of his name

right now.

O.K. I do provide a set of 33 different Ravenswood marbles from this 1987 find in WV. They are the real McCoy and include practically

all the varieties shown here as well as those shown in Castle & Peterson. I sold Larfry & Marlow a 50 lb. box at an early Los Angeles Marble

Show! If interested you may make enquiries at dlc mib @ Yahoo.....you know how it goes. Or call (831) 462-1983.

I have a deep affection for Ravenswood Marbles. Marilyn Barrett who wrote "Aggies, Immies, Shooters & Swirls" (1994) carried with her

a jar of Ravenswood marbles for people to guess the number of marbles during Book Signings. I have donated something like 150 of

those marbles from the jar for the Ravenswood Cemetary Marble Monument. It was an honor to have Marilyn's book dedicated to me.

Hope this has fleshed out the article/photos above and added some depth to it. David Chamberlain

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I have found only one variety with what coulod be called oxblood and it is in a common translucent Ravenwood swirl but I have only found a very few to have the oxblood in them. It is mainly subsurface and consists of very thin and light hairlike strands. You have to look hard but the only conclusion is that it is oxblood. They're exceedingly rare.

So the oxblood shown in Post #10 is not Ravenswood? Is it Alley then?

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