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Leroy Johnson - The Marble Mender


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Q: Leroy, thank you very much for taking the time to sit down with us to talk a little bit about marbles. How is it that you became interested in marbles?

A: I have been collecting marbles for over 30 years. I had a few left from my childhood days and one day my wife got them out. This really made me think of all the happy days I'd had playing and collecting them when very young. The old spark was still there and seeing those marbles brought it all back. It was near Xmas and she found some in an antique shop and they became my Xmas present from her. She had also saved one from her childhood. (it was a Lemonade oxblood) at that point I began in earnest to collect.

Q: Did you play with marbles as a child? 

A: I sure did as it was our activity during recess at school as well as when all the kids in my small town of Minneola, FL. I wasn't very good at it though, but didn't keep me from playing.

Q: Did you play for fair, or for keeps?  :-)

A: Mostly for keeps and that's why I just had a few left from my childhood.


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Q: How long have you been collecting marbles, and do you have a particular favorite or type of marble?

A: I have collected for over thirty years. I guess my all time favorites would now be cats-eyes. Even though I collect all types. Akro is among my favorites.

Q: What is the most prized marble in your collection, and why?

A: My all time favorite marble in my collection is a true end of day that my son and I purchased at auction here in York, NE in 1991. The marble was first purchased from a hardware store in Toledo, OH in 1886 by the Jacobsen family. They moved to a small town just south of here in 1893 bring the marble with him. It was passed down through the family until the it came up for auction on the Jacobsen family estate auction here in York. My son and I paid $820.00 for it. I hope to post pictures very soon of this true end of day.

Q: The Marble Mender - how did you come about that name, and what is it's significance if any?

A: For a long time I bought marbles at auction or from private charter. In every case there were always marbles that were beat up. I just couldn't bring myself to discard them. I set out to find a way to make them pretty again. After many, many trials and errors a friend that makes sphere's made a machine for me and it really worked. Since that time he has made 5 more machines for me. I was very successful at helping my hurt marbles and decided to help other people heal their hurt marbles. After several years of not having a title that immediately identified me, my son set me up as The Marble Mender. I thought it was neat. My son Kurt is a Graphic Designer and is used to coming up with names and I thought he picked a good one for me.

Q: Why do you call what you do "reconditioning", is there a difference between polishing and reconditioning?

A: If a marble comes to me all beat up and hurt and I send it back in mint condition, it has been "reconditioned". There are three steps in my process which will be explained later. The final step is called polishing (or buffing)

Q: What are some of the tools of your trade? What are we looking at in these pictures?

Photos courtesy of The Marble Mender

A: The machine that you see is just one of six that I have in operation. I also have a diamond Arbor (sanding wheel in water) This I use on really hurt or out or badly out of round marbles to make them get started staying in the grinder heads.

Q: And to think I just thought you had a stool and a buffing wheel! :-) Are some folks out there just using some sort of wheel and calling it polished or buffed?

A: Yes, they are doing what is termed "hand polishing".

Q: Can you tell us a little more about the steps involved, taking a damaged marble and bringing out it's true beauty once again.

A: The first step in healing a damaged marble is to remove the dings and impacts. This is done using steel grinding heads and a compound of grit and anti-freeze. Step two is using the same heads and a very fine grit with anti-freeze. This is known as pre-polish or pre-buffing. The third step is using a polishing material and wooden heads with water. This is known as final polishing or final buffing. (these are my own terms) Some marbles require all three steps while others just require step two and still others require only step three. There is much more that I could add, but I think this may give you an insight to "reconditioning"

Q: What are some tell tale signs that a marble has been reconditioned or "hand polished"?

A: First with machine made look for the exposed bubbles. They will have squared off edges instead of the edges being rounded. With handmade marbles look for the pontils to be missing and in most cases the ends will be pulled down. In both cases under a 20 or 30X lens look for scratches or white polishing compound. this is becoming harder to determine as we progress with better ways to recondition marbles.


Q: Do machinemade marbles reveal a reconditioning more readily?

A: No, the handmades will be missing pontils that machine made marbles don't have to start with.


Photos courtesy of


Q: What has been your experience regarding Sulphides, have you reconditioned alot of them?

A: I have reconditioned hundreds of sulphides and they work very nice. This is one marble that is hard to tell if it is old or new after reconditioning. In most cases now surfaced bubbles are about the only way to determine the difference. If no bubbles are present a person should study the old versa the new glass to learn the difference. Also the old sulphide figures are different that those made today.


Q: In your experience, is a handmade marble without a pontil(s) a dead giveaway for it having been reconditioned?

A: Not always as there are some without pontils. Beware of false pontils. (added to marble after reconditioning or polishing and these are very easy to tell). 


Q: Do you think that reconditioned marbles should be signed by the craftsman who did the work?

A: No, I don't. The reason to recondition a marble is to put it back into it's original condition. Putting any kind of signature would defeat this purpose.


Q: Have you ever considered teaching folks your methods of reconditioning marbles?

A: I have and am most happy to teach my method of reconditioning to anyone that would like to learn.


Q: Have you ever considered marketing the machines that you use?

A: I have considered it, but the hassle would out weigh any benefits. It requires certain types of motors as well as other things. all my machines are homemade.


Photos courtesy of


Q: In your opinion, how has the Internet changed the pursuit of marbles and their value?

A: We collectors are not alone and the internet has opened up things so that we can id marbles as well as learn the history on them. It has helped and hindered the value of marbles. (dug marbles, reconditioned and polished marbles, etc) Today thanks to the internet we collectors have learned much about marbles that without it, we wouldn't know today.


Q: Where do you see the hobby of marble collecting heading? For example, do you think the average Joe might be priced out of the market due to a limited supply and an ever increasing demand?

A: There will always be marbles available for the average Joe. They may or may not be the topshelve kind, but they will be able to have collections. There were millions and millions of marbles produced by each and every company and some are still producing them today. Marbles don't fade away and will be here hundreds of years down the road. We pay for the privilege of having them during our lifetime ad than they move on.


Q: Have you seen an increase in demand for reconditioned marbles? Do you think it's caused by the increase in price, or the lack of supply of original vintage marbles?

A: Both


Q: For those interested in buying damaged marbles, having them reconditioned, and then reselling them. Are there any thoughts you would like to share about it's virtues and/or pitfalls?

A: In most cases a person should consider a marble and it's value and condition before having it restored if they intend to resale it. At the present a marble that has been restored to mint condition is selling for about half the book price of one that is mint and untouched. In my opinion a hundred years from now it won't make any difference one way or the other. If a person is putting a marble into their collection than by all means go ahead and have it restored.


Q: Leroy, thank you so very much for taking the time to share with us your wealth of experience, knowledge, and insight. What's in store for The Marble Mender down the road?

A: As long as I enjoy reconditioning marbles I will continue to do so. When it becomes a hassle, than I will have 6 machines for sale. As I am experiencing some health problems, it is hard to tell how many more years I will be doing this. There is much, much more that I would have liked to add to each question, but the mind will only take in what the butt will stand and this is plenty long enough.

Photo courtesy of Bo444


The Marble Mender

Leroy Johnson

1516 Kennedy Drive

York, NE. 68467 



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