It was a difficult choice. Looking back on it, I made the right choice.
Among a wonderful list of floats offered to me for purchase, were two Crossed Fish Floats. One had the three fish embossed onto the seal button, the other float's mark was embossed onto the top of the float. Which one to choose?
The glass on the seal button marked float looked to be in better shape-almost perfect, and I liked the way the mark looked. My difficulty in making a decision stemmed from the thought that a marking on the body of the float might mean that the float was an older variety. I chose the seal marked float.
My happiness and excitement at the prospect of having an example of the Three Crossed Fish float in my collection was tempered by the thought that something could happen to the float on its way across the Atlantic. Would the seller pack the four floats: a GW; an amber and a clear Dog Float and the Three Crossed Fish well enough to take the inevitable rough handling of someone, "just moving the mail along as quickly as possible"?
Waiting two weeks for their arrival was a killer. Sure, I was excited. Sure, I was worried.
Then the day of the arrival came. As I pulled up onto the driveway, there on the porch was a large box. After waiting for a few hours for the temperature of the box to acclimate itself to the temperature inside of our home, I opened it.
What ecstasy! After all of the waiting, I opened the box, and one by one, pulled out each float, and carefully unwrapped them. But first, inside, on top of the packing was a beautiful letter from my new friend, and an 8"x 11" photo of a beautiful 18th. Century bottle. Inside each carefully wrapped package was a beautiful undamaged float. The last one opened was the Three Crossed Fish.
Looking at it, I could not help but admire the beautiful workmanship of the embossing. The engraver who designed the stamp was a true artist. The heads of the fish are cleanly lined, with well-defined and indented eyes, mouth and raised gill plates. The bodies have depth. They are not "flat fish," and beautifully overlap one another, with scales leading to sharp and separated tailfins. Each side of the tail has four segments, defined by fin lines.
The seal has a very nice rim around the fish, and the person who pressed the seal tool into the gather of molten glass was careful, and centered the mark perfectly.
The float was blown into a 2-part mold, the glass slightly amber/green with a good thickness and heft, and just a couple of wear marks. There are a few nice bubbles in the glass. The float rests perfectly by holding its seal up. The color of the glass, leads me to believe that this is a German-made float.
During the next three years, I saw a number of Three Crossed Fish floats offered for sale on Ebay auctions, on Ken and Cindy Busses' Gems of the Ocean Website, and both Vebjorn Fidsdal and Per Einar Gunnarsen offered a few they had found in Norway. I think all of them were top of the float embossing, except for one very interesting example that is for sale on Ken and Cindy's site.
Recently, Bob Buffington brought up the subject of the two different markings. He wondered if the raised seal mark was the older of the two? Having only seen the body embossed marking in photos, it was hard to know how to answer his query. All I could talk about was the quality of the marking on my float, and how the body embossed marking that I had only seen in photos, did not seem as well defined. Then in December, my friend once again offered me the chance to purchase one of the type not in my collection.
I jumped at the chance, and a couple of weeks later it arrived. I can finally come to a conclusion or two about the differences and the similarities of the floats.
This new one is also blown into a two-part mold with a separate seal button. The color, heft and thickness of the glass look and feel the same to my hands. And once again, I feel that the color and look of the glass are German. The markings are very different.
I find that the new float's three fish are smaller in length. The heads and bodies are raised and fairly well-defined. There are the impressions of scales on the top fish's body, but the tails are simpler, much less artistically carved, without the sharp delineation between the segments and halves of each tail. The fish heads do not stand out as cleanly, the mouths and gill plates are hardly evident. My impression is that this mark does not exhibit the artistic ability of the engraver of the seal marked tool.
I am very happy to have both varieties in the collection to enjoy, and recommend that collectors who do not have one or both varieties, endeavor to be patient, and eventually add one of each to your collection. I hope that the photos above help to illustrate the descriptions that I've written.
Before I finish this post, I want to relate something a great bottle and float collector who lives in Sweden emailed me.
Your question for the 3 crossed fishes I can answer. It is the coat of arms of the Danish town of Apenrade, South Jutland, little north of German Flensburg, showing the 3 herrings.
I've researched the town, which is also spelled, Aabenraa or Abenra. Apenrade is the German spelling of the town's name. It is situated at the head of the Aabenraa Fjord in Denmark. Its name originally meant, "open beach." From 1750-1864, the town was known for its fishing industry, especially for the boat yards. In those boat yards, some of the world's fastest and most seaworthy sailing ships were built. During the last half of the 1800's, Aabenraa was the second largest maritime center in Denmark. In 1421, the town's coat of arms and official seal was the depiction of three mackeral set within a decorative wreath of hop leaves.
Could the float's engravers have designed the mark to celebrate that wonderful Danish town and it's history?