Around an hour outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, the exit off of I-80 that leads into the small city of York looks much like any other highway stop. After miles of solitary cornfields, this is a chance to fill up the car with gas, grab a coffee at Starbucks, or maybe stay the night at the Holiday Inn. But there is another reason to make this stop: Lee’s Legendary Marbles and Collectables.
I never gave a second thought to marbles before coming here. It turns out, like most things, all you need to find something interesting is to speak with a passionate expert. Lee has been collecting for decades, and now has the largest collection of marbles in the world. Probably over a million, but who is really going to stop and count?
What started as a personal collection was turned into an exhibition and store in the early 2000’s.
Taking in the sheer scale is overwhelming. Hundreds of marble-filled jars line the tops of each wall, while Lee shows off the special ones in their display cases. These include 19th century handmade German marbles, marbles made with uranium that glow green under a black light, and some that shine with gold powder.
While Lee has plenty of what he calls “cheaper baubles” for anyone seeking a souvenir, he also sells the rare and antique marbles to serious collectors. These travel with him to conventions in places like Vegas, and include several made from colorful swirls of paper-mache that sell for $500 a piece, and others that have a price tag of $10,000 or more.
This museum is open 7 days a week, and for those without much of an interest in marbles, there’s much, much more. China dishes, old coins, vintage lunchboxes, watches and board games fill seemingly endless shelves.