Many five year old boys are fascinated by marbles, but in Paul Baumann's case the hobby has proved a little more serious, and may turn out to be a lot more lucrative.
The renowned Paul Baumann marble collection is to be the centrepiece of an auction at Morphy's next month, comprising the first 430 lots of the sale.
Paul started his collection was started in the summer of 1952, when he was a mere five years old. Baumann's parents were antique collectors who enjoyed prowling through shops, but they worried about their son's short attention span and wanted to think of a way to keep him occupied.
The solution Paul's dad devised was to give the boy a portion of his own marble collection, with instructions to keep an eye out for similar types of marbles during their shopping expeditions.
"That was what sparked a lifetime of marble collecting and expert scholarship on the subject," explained auctioneer Dan Morphy.
"Paul was way ahead of his time. He wrote a book about marbles that was released in 1969 and has been reprinted several times, with 44,000 copies sold in all. That's unheard of for what was such a narrow specialty for so many years."
Baumann's collection makes up the first 430 lots of the 762 lot auction, which is expected to bring $300,000 or more in total. These are not marbles you play for keeps with (except maybe in Vegas).
There are a wide variety of highlights. These include an End of Cane Banded Transparent (Fountain) Marble. This starts with a green translucent base and presents a coloured overlay in white, yellow, and baby blue.
Colours spurt up from pontil, about half way up the marble. Inside of marble there appears to be a ghost core of white.
Paul purchased this marble in the mid 1990s at an Ohio Marble Club meet. Several former owners were in the room, so he obtained a list of the marble's keen previous owners with his new acquisition: Don Taylor, Jim Moeller, Gary Dolly, Art Ward, Dean Findley, Bucky Zelesky, Bud Braunlich, and Hansel De Sousa.
Then there is a Large Black Clambroth Marble which dates all the way back to the set of marbles Paul's father passed onto his son when he was a child, probably acquired in the 1930s or 1940s. The black opaque base contrasts with 19 evenly spaced white bands.
It is in great condition for such a large clambroth (graded 9.4 and size 1 - 7/8" diameter).
Of course, whilst some marbles may be transferred from the original salesman through a series of pristine collections, many have harsher lives, and so it was with a Scenic China Marble.
When Paul was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, he took a group of students on a fossil fuel trip (the Mason Creek Site) not far from his parent's home. He stopped in with the students and showed them his marble collection.
A year later in 1972, one of the girls who had seen the collection called to tell him that her brother had found an unusual marble in the mud of a storm sewer that he was helping to clean out.
Depicting a man on a stump with pipe, and pinwheels on each end, this is a hard-to-find marble and Paul was delighted at the chance of purchasing it from its finder.
At the opposite end of the scale is a carefully preserved box set of Christensen Agate marbles.
The guinea box set is extremely rare. Indeed it is the only No. 00 Morphy's knows to exist. Containing 13 blue guineas and 12 clear, it was found in a trailer in Cambridge, OH and belonged to John Early, a marble grader at the Christensen Agate.
The star of the show, however, is likely to be an extremely rare Onionskin Peacock Lutz Marble with Mica. Its colours include purple, orange, yellow, blue, pink, red, green, turquoise, and baby blue with large chunks of mica and lutz.
Probably made in the 1920s by a master marble maker, its surface condition is fabulous with only one micro subsurface reflection near the pontil.
Paul's father encouraged him to buy this marble (with his help) at a high-end antique show in Lake Forest, IL in 1959 to 1961. It was part of a pair, so a second similar marble does exist.
Paul thought that the coloured glass sulphides (there were at least six) were outrageously priced at $100 each. This marble and its mate were priced at $75 each (only) and Paul's dad, collecting since the 1930s, had never seen one like it. It is graded at 9.7-9.8 and listed at $10,000-20,000.