I have seen this idiom used within a negative context such as:

Don't think he still has all is marbles, but could it be used correctly within a positive context? Plus, where does this saying come from?

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    "...but he's still got all his marbles" is fairly common in the UK to mean "someone with a physical disability or perhaps someone extremely old and frail but who still has their full mental capacity". That is a positive version of 'marbles'. – Frank Apr 14 '14 at 6:08
  • I believe "He's lost his marbles", meaning "he's gone crazy", comes from an imagined inmate of an asylum who is wandering everywhere looking obsessively for "his marbles" (having never had any to begin with, presumably). I don't think the idiom works in the positive really, although I guess it would be acceptable. – Jeffrey Kemp Apr 14 '14 at 6:10
  • It's merely a re-use of a well-known idiom. There's a tendency in literature and the media to play around with well-settled idioms and phrases. The positive use is not an idiom. – Kris Apr 14 '14 at 7:00

Even though marbles is a a children's game, 'losing one's marbles' was not related to the game nor the word 'marble' but a corruption of the word furniture (meubles).

Look up marbles at Dictionary.com

children's game, from plural of marble (n.); first recorded by that name in 1709 but probably older (it was known in 13c. German as tribekugeln) and originally played with small balls of polished marble or alabaster, later clay; the modern glass ones with the colored swirl date from 1840s.

Marbles meaning "mental faculties, common sense" is from 1927, American English slang, perhaps [OED] from earlier slang marbles "furniture, personal effects, 'the goods'" (1864, Hotten), a corrupt translation of French meubles (plural) "furniture" (see furniture).

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Can it be positive? Yes.

Where is it from? There are various theories (and this is not an answer). But these are common here in Australia:

  • A few 'roos loose in the top paddock.

  • A sandwich short of a picnic.

  • A brick short of a load.

  • Lights on, nobody home.

  • Driveway doesn't meet the road.

Some more can seen at Not too bright.

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