A “knikker” is a little massive sphere-form of glass, marble, rock, wood, clay or synthetic material. Sometimes they’re also made of metal. Most of the time they’re used for kids for the game “knikkeren”. In the Flanders area they’re also called marbles. The sphere-form has a diameter of approximately one to five centimeter.
The game of knikkeren was already known in the antiquity, also the Roman and Egyptian kids used to play with them. There are many different variations of knikkeren, with each a specific goal and rules.
Knikkeren is the game you play with the marbles. There are multiple variations. A populair variation is where multiple players take turns, each starting at a certain distance and have to throw the marbles into a pit or a “knikkerput”. The players must try to hit the marbles of the opposing players so they roll away farther away from the pit. The player who gets all the marbles first in the pit wins the game.
Often, but this differs from each region or even differs from each school, there are different kinds of marbles which have a certain value. In general the larger marbles have an higher value than the smaller ones, and rare marbles with an odd colour pattern also have an higher value than the common marbles. This has consequences to the betting of the marbles, since the amount of points that can be obtained must be equal on each side. Most of the time the players play for the marbles, the winner keeps all the marbles. Kids keep there marbles in a special bag; the “knikkerzak”.
My school used a different variation where each player has one marble to use and take turns. We start throwing the marble from a set distance to the pit, depending on where the marble is on the ground the players use their thumb to lob the marble into the pit. Using your index finger to hold your thumb back and release when there is enough tension on your thumb is a common technique called “pieken”. Using this technique correctly can make a player lob the marble from a far distance into the pit, the first player to get his marble into the pit takes both marbles and the game ends there.
A knikkerput with marbles.
Clay marbles are being made in factories since 1870. Starting in 1890 also glass marbles could be made in factories by special marble machines. Marbles exists of all kinds of materials, but the glass marble stays the most populair and is the most durable (doesn’t wear off or break fast).
It is not that easy to make glass marbles. Molten glass has to be divided in equal size cylinders. These cylinders are then going into a special machine with a kind of millstone, which rolls the warm glass into little spheres. It is very difficult to do this very precisely.
- Marbles play a key part in the short Dutch kid movie “Voor een paar knikkers meer”
- The expression “Iemand eruit knikkeren” means removing someone against their will from a situation (marriage, café, etc.), usually the reason for this is bad behaviour.
- Annually the National Knikker Championchips are held in Noordeloos.