Root Beer Floats, Novas, and Pink Champagnes
By David Chamberlain
I believe its time that some clarity was brought to bare on the actual origin of the above named marbles. Confusion reigns and it will only get worse in time. In 1989, the legendary West Coast Toy & Marble Dealer, Russell Coppel, commissioned eight different marbles through Peltier Marble Company of Ottawa, Illinois (Photo1). Exceedingly small quantities were manufactured approximately 7000 of each design and all were right around 7/8 to 15/16. It was Russells intention to sell them in boxed sets, but that never happened. Mostly they were box lot sales to antique dealers in California. The marbles gave Russell great trading strength because they were big and beautiful. If anything, Russell was and is the Master of Trades.
Russell would be doing a cross-country trip visiting family in Minnesota, make a marble connection, and descend on Amana or the Columbus show with maybe two or three marbles but the right ones. They might not even be his marbles! He'd leave the show though with one of the bigger cash hauls plus many more marbles going than he had coming. Russell would also bring bulk marbles to Amana. It made no difference the pedigree; hed go bulk! My first visit to Amana in 1990 was with Russell and he had something like 125 sulphides. Late one evening we were out in the 2nd floor hallway bowling sulphides! Had to quit though because it became obvious wed eventually break someone’s ankle with all the coming and going in and out of the rooms. You think you have marble stories! Well, when it was obvious that the eight different marbles weren’t ever going to see being boxed-up into a cozy little group, I told Russell he should at least approach A&W with a promotional schtick for the Root Beer Floats (photo 2). Never happened! At least he named them proper and the Novas too, being exploding stars against the blackness of space (photo 3). I think I christened the Pink Champagnes
The main confusion lies with the Novas because there were three black-based marbles with surface red & yellow but only one with an additional surface bruising of white. They are variously lumped together as all being Novas, whereas only one of them was. Marilyn Barrett highlighted the Novas in her 2002 marble calendar with an inset photo. In Photos 1 and 5a & b, the Nova is the one in the first position, a narrow ribboned and patched in the second, and the one with the odd swiggle in the third position. If you had a mixed bag of these three black-based varieties, you could easily pick out the three types.
Little known outside of these named marbles and unfortunately so, are the two white-based marbles, one having two intense translucent blue ribbons with depth (photo 6), the other having orange patches beautifully edged in many cases with yellow (photo 7).
Finally, there’s the lowly black-based with white smears and ribbons. Nearly every one of these experienced internal fracturing or more likely multiple surface annealing cracks. Tough! Sometimes they just don’t get it right!
I credit Russell with encouraging me to consider marbles well before I leapt into the marble ring. For a while he drifted away from marbles but just this year he had evidenced a renewed interest, even asking me for a copy of Larry & Marlow’s cats-eye book and he has started collecting them. We have a mutual corrupting influence on each other as not too long ago Russell and Jeffry Grey (the maker of Fiber Agates fiberglass, not fiber optic marbles) got me into collecting SUPER BALLS. Now if that isn’t pathetic, I don’t know what is! I hope this has brought the light of day to this small group of marbles and a better understanding of some fine Peltier marbles from the not too distant past.
David Chamberlain, 11-10-2005 (used with permission)