Marbles are often mentioned in Roman literature, and there are many examples of marbles from ancient Egypt. They were commonly made of clay, stone or glass.
Ceramic marbles entered inexpensive mass production in the 1870s.
Glass marbles were invented around 1848 in Germany, and entered mass production in the early 20th century when World War I cut off their importation from Europe, causing American industry to be applied to the task, producing a mechanized method of glass marble production which became the most common system in the world. Glass marbles, too, became the most popular variety, and have remained so to this day.
In some developing countries, children use steel, minerals or large rocks as a less pricey marble substitute.
Marble collecting is a hobby enjoyed by thousands of people around the world including the respected Larry Farry whose collection, as documented in the Daily Bruin, spans over 1500 unique marbles. As with any collecting hobby a great deal of specialization occurs.
Marbles are categorized by many factors including condition, size, type, manufacturer/artisan, age, style, materials, scarcity, and the existence of original packaging (which is further rated in terms of condition). Each of these ratings is used to calculate the marble's worth, with the final value influenced by overall demand. Ugly, but rare marbles may be valued as much as those of very fine quality.
There are many related side businesses that have sprung up such as books and guides, sites dedicated to marbles, and collector conventions. There are also many glass artisans producing marbles for the collectors' market only, with some selling for hundreds of dollars.