Friday, January 21, 2011

My Favorites From 2010

2010 was a very interesting year for this float collector. I had a couple of changes in my float collecting philosophy, one of which was to begin to further specialize. I decided to concentrate in the future on attempting to find and collect other than round Euros, and if possible, rare colors of marked Euros.

As the year passed, I also realized that my initial desire to collect a historically representative glassfloat collection was causing a problem...lack of display space. I had floats everywhere: baskets of them on the floor; every inch of display cabinets-full; in corners; on end tables; on my dresser... and knew that a change had to be made.

Beginning in the fall, floats were systematically culled, and all of the various sizes with the identical maker's markings were boxed up, and only the best example, whether it be color, mark or size was kept upstairs to be displayed. I worked on it when time premitted, then in early December, spent a couple of days into the mid-night finalizing the displays.

A box of net maker's supplies, found and won at a local auction, contained a selection of sizes of net roping. Having looked for wooden curtain rings, or other suitable rings, and not finding anything that I wanted to invest in to mount the floats on, the idea came to me to make rope coils using the net material in the box. They worked perfectly, and allowed me to display the floats in any position I wished. Now, when I open the cases, nothing moves, and looking into the cases shows the floats' embossings or shapes to perfection.

Also found a corner case at a "going out of business sale," which gave me the extra space necessary to display additional floats. There is a problem though...I'm going to have to be creative in order to add more floats, if they come to me this year. Hmm...knotty problem.

The tide on the Ebay Ocean came in and went out with few big storms to bring in the floats. There were long stretches of nothing special (for the seasoned collectors) appearing on the auctions. Then a period would come when great floats were offered, and excited everyone. That trend has continued into 2011. There have been some really nice uncommon and rare floats so far, but to the Euro collector, no big deal. If you enjoy the Asian floats, as I do too, there have been some exciting floats appearing.


2010 is memorable to me because of friendships that continue to grow, and become more meaningful than when they first began. The initial excitement of a new friendship becomes part of many good memories. With the passing of time, the effort to be available to someone, and to share experiences, strengthens the good feelings and thoughts. As I've written a number of times, I am a fortunate man, and because of floats, my life has been enriched by new acquaintances and friends.

My very good friend "the Raven," continues to enliven and enrich my world. Early in the year, he sent an email saying that a box was coming my way, but would not tell me what was inside. He knew that I had been searching and hoping for a particular style of float from Norway. After a long wait, on a Saturday afternoon, our mail carrier stopped in front of the house, and opened the backdoor of her truck. I happened to be sitting at the computer, and saw the goings on from the front window. "The box must have come!"

Immediately, I jumped up, and ran through the house, then outside and down the driveway. As I reached the back of the truck, the mail lady was pulling a huge box toward the doors. Helping her, then holding the box in my two hands, I thanked her and said, "This is the box I've been waiting for-all the way from Norway!"

Once in the house, after putting the box inside the float room, I called Nancy to come join me for the opening, and grabbed my camera. Once I saw the size of the box, I knew what kind of float was inside, but no idea what the float would look like. Once opened, there was no mistaking the float. A bit of a wooden tag was sticking out of the bubble wrapping, and I knew that my friend had sent me the finest example of a Teardrop or Sea Dog, that I could ever wish to have.

When he first got that float, he wrote to tell me about it, and sent a couple of photos. Seeing such an example, complete with the fisherman's attached wooden tag was amazing, and I wrote to the Raven to say how fortunate he was to have such a prize.

Whenever I walk into the float room, it is there in front of me. It continues to surprise me to see it, and never fails to fill me with good feelings toward my Pal in Norway. Thank you again.

Continuing to share our friendship through email thoughts and experiences, the two of us tried to do a big trade. Earlier in the spring, the Raven had been given the opportunity of a lifetime from Mr. M. He sent me photos showing a handful of Large Norwegian Egg floats, and also another handful of one of the rarest shapes to be found in Norwegian floats: what we have been calling the Aasnaes Glasverks One Knobbed float-in two sizes. Those floats were an absolutely incredible haul, which rival the amazing finds that Walt Pich and Woody Woodward have found in Japan.

If the reader remembers or cares to return to the post on the S.H. Davis Brothers patent for a new type of gillnet, then you will see drawings of floats that very much resemble the One Knobs from Aasnaes. Did the Davis brothers copy the design of those floats? There have been no floats found in this country that resemble them, and I suspect that the Davis Boys went to one or more of the European Expositions for money making ideas, and came back with those glassfloats in mind, together with the idea for their gillnet patent. Keep in mind that the S.H. Davis Gillnet float is a direct copy of the Grooved Egg produced in Norway. Which came first, the Davis or the Egg?

During the summer, a big trade was proposed by the Raven for one of only two known tiny One Knobbed Aasnaes floats. We worked his offer over and over again for months, yet could not resolve it. In the meantime, another good pal, Richard Carlson, sent an email saying that he wanted a couple of floats, and Bob Buffington wanted an amber float, and was I interested in purchasing floats to fill a box in order to make the postage worthwhile?

Rich sent some photos of what the seller had, and there in one photo was the larger version of the Aasnaes One Knobbed. I couldn't believe my eyes, and felt certain, that the float had already been sold to the Raven. The photo that the Raven sent in the spring, appeared identical to the photo that Richard sent. I inquired whether the float was actually available, or had it been sold. The return answer from the seller was that it was indeed available.

To continue the friendship thoughts...for many years, I've had a very good customer for my plants, who is also a good friend. My friend/customer has had a poor health condition, and told me about it when I first met him. It's a deadly condition, and worsened significantly over the last year. But you can't keep a good man down, and he continues to run his business, and comes to me for herb plants. I worry about him.

In the spirit of our friendship, the decision was made to purchase a float that would be far more costly then I'm accustomed to spending, but would be the float that whenever I looked at it, would honor him. Suddenly, there was a fantastic float available from Norway through Richard, and I knew that it was the float I had been looking for since the idea to purchase a special one entered my noggin.

Once that decision was made, the float deal was put into my lap, and after a fun series of emails between the seller, Richard and myself, the deal was done, and not only did Rich get the 5-dot Norwegian float that he wanted, but Bob got the terrific amber +P.F.C.+, and I received the beautiful One Knobbed. In the meantime, the trade talks with the Raven no avail.

In the 2nd. photo, the neck and knobbed end of the float is shown. If you are familiar with what is photographed, you see the pontil mark on the top of the knob. This tells us that the float was blown into a ball, the ball was attached to a pontil rod, the blowpipe was snapped off, and the ball of glass was reheated, tooled and shaped by hand. The final step may have been the application of the seal to cover the hole left from the blowpipe. The seal too has been nicely hand shaped. These floats are a work of art.
Thanks Rich. Thanks Mr. M.

In the fall some things happened between the Raven and myself. We had been unable to make the trade for one of his tiny One Knobbed Aasnaes floats. The Raven called on a Sunday afternoon. Nancy ran outside to give me the telephone. Sitting in the middle of the field on the grass cutting machine, we shared our first telephone conversation. During that talk, the Raven told me that he had sent another package, and that nothing would be broken. A couple of weeks earlier, we suffered when a package from Germany containing four floats arrived. One of the floats was for my friend, and his float together with two others was smashed to smithereens.

10 days later, the big package arrived. Nestled inside a huge batch of safe packaging material sat the little Aasnaes One Knobbed, complete with the Aasnaes marking on the seal button. We had tried so hard to make a trade for it. Things got in the way, especially my reluctance to part with a special float which came from my German benefactor's personal collection. If I could have parted with it, the trade would have happened. We decided to put the trade talks on hold, but the Raven wanted me to have the very rare and tiny Aasnaes One Knobbed. It is the only other one that he knew of, and his desire was that both of us have one. What have I done to deserve such a friend? In return, I was able to get him a rare netted Pat. Pending American Teardrop. It's not enough, but he knows how I feel. Maybe time will give me another opportunity to do something really fine for my Pal?

Two floats that were written about at the beginning of the year, are also part of my favorites:
They are impossible to separate-the two colorless Hovik Knobbed floats. While they count for two floats, I'm going to count them as one toward the favorites from last year. In order to do my favorites justice, I've got to go over the 5-6floats that Bruce Gidoll proposed. Pretty certain that you readers understand, and sympathize with my predicament. Don't you?

Those floats also came from the Raven. Have you gotten the picture by now? Richard Carlson, Bob Buffington, and myself had a terrific year, and could not have realized so much beauty in our collections were it not for the Raven. He is the "Float Collector Extraordinaire"

Let's see now, I've written about the Teardrop/Sea Dog, the small and large Aasnaes One Knobbed, and the pair of colorless Hoviks. There's still more to go, but I'm up to five, and I can't stop now. I guess I'm going to have to fudge the numbers a bit.

Thanks go out again to Stu Farnsworth who years ago, introduced me to a man in Germany. In Stu's email, he said that this man had been a big help to him when he collected Euros. The reader may remember my bottle collecting friend Olaf from past posts? He and his wife Isabella have become close to Nancy and I. Olaf sends me at least two to three offers a year of floats he has found on trips to find very old European bottles. We've developed a very nice correspondence and friendship across the sea, in which we keep up with eachother's lives, children and grandchildren. It's a warm relationship, and hopefully, the day will come when we meet in person.

One of the most beautiful floats that Olaf found and offered to me, was also a very big surprise. It's an Asian float, that somehow turned up in Europe-a beautiful little amber Star on the seal with Kanji writing inside the star. As soon as I saw the photo, there was no doubt about it. I definitely wanted to purchase that beauty. I never tire of holding and looking at this beautiful little float, and am constantly amazed that Olaf found it in Europe.

Now, there are six floats displayed as being my favorites of last year, but there's one more. When asked by Bruce Gidoll whether this float would be listed in my 2010 floats, I said:

"Bruce, I don't know. I think of this float as being a 'cross-over' float."

Bruce asked: "why do you call it that?"

"Well, I did purchase the float in 2010, but it didn't arrive until 2011."

The beauty and good fortune I had in first finding, then winning, and having the float arrive in perfect shape, demands of me that I share it with you. First, a bit of the story behind it.

During Christmas shopping time, I had promised to spend Sunday shopping with Nancy for our grandchildren. Responsibilities came first. By the early afternoon they were finished. Nancy was putting her makeup-on which gave me a bit of time to look at the auctions. I went to the biggest float site on Ebay, and after not finding anything new to get excited over, decided to check the ending auctions. Once in a while I miss something good. That proved to be the case.

An auction advertised as "a pair of Japanese floats," caught my eye. What got me was the photo. It was so unlike the normal photo, and the thought came to me to open the auction up. The seller's photo showed four pictures in a longitudinal line. I could not separate them. The photos had been photoshopped into one long photo. Taking advantage of the enlarging feature on Ebay, put my cursor on them, and left clicked. Starting from the top, and cruising down to the bottom, suddenly, in the bottom photo, I thought I was seeing an amazing maker's marking.

The photo of the marking was not very clear due to the texture of the float's glass, and if I was seeing it correctly, the mark was upside down. Using the magnifying feature on the page, first at 150%, then 200% and finally 400%, I still wasn't 100% certain that I was seeing a mark or not.

Excitedly, got up from the chair, and grabbed Stu and Alan's book from the bookcase. Sitting in front of the computer, book open to the illustration in the book, I called Nancy to come and take a look with me. Describing to her what was in the book, then showing her the photo, then pointing to the book's drawing, we both agreed that the photo had the mark upside down. We sat there and looked closely. All of the ending buds on the illustration appeared to be in the right spots, and Nancy and I thought that we were looking at a Russian Hammer & Sickle float.

If right, this was the very first time, in years of looking at many many thousands of Ebay float auctions, that I had ever seen one. What to do? We were going shopping, the auction ended that evening, and there was no guarantee that we would be home in time for the auction's ending. The decision was made to go for it, and to make a good solid bid.

There were a few bidders, one with a high number and obviously a float buyer, who led. My bid was entered. The notice appeared, and read that I was the high bidder. Would it stand up? Would others have noticed, and thought the same thing that I did? Only time would tell. We left to go shopping.

It was difficult to put that auction out of my mind. We had very good luck finding many nice gifts for our four grandchildren, and returned home. As soon as we got in, I looked at the clock. Fifteen minutes to go until the auction's end. Quickly, the computer was turned on, and after booting up, I was able to get to the auction. Still in the lead, and no one had bid against me since the afternoon.

I kept looking at the photo, and even photographed it, downloaded it, and tried to photoshop it, but could not be certain if I was actually seeing a Hammer & Sickle. Three minutes to go, and the final countdown. Do I bid higher? After thinking about it, the answer was, "no, you've bid as high as taking a chance is worth."

Two minutes to go. One minute to go. No one else had bid. 30 seconds-nothing. 10, 9, 8, ....5, 4, 3, someone bid high, and they almost caught me. The auction ended, the Ebay message came across the top of the screen. "You've won! Next step is to pay the seller."

Gees! That cost me a lot. What did I win?

The seller sent an invoice, I paid it, and the wait began. The float did not arrive before we left to visit our family in Texas. I had cancelled our mail until we returned. Would the float be there when we came home in 8 days?

It wasn't, but two emails from the seller, emailed to me earlier in the day-were. Due to an innocent mistake, the seller did not realize that the auction had been paid for, and promised to send the float right away. Another 10 days elapsed, and finally, 8:00 on a Saturday morning, a FedEx truck pulled into the driveway, and the driver put a large box on our porch. It was a very early delivery. The driver was trying his best to beat a winter snow storm. Snow had already started falling briskly.

With camera in hand, I began to photograph first the box, then the first sight inside, (the seller was very kind to me, and wrapped that pair of floats in so much bubblewrap, that there was no way anything could have happened to either of the floats). Taking one of the floats out of the box, I started carefully unwrapping the plastic. Round and round, I unwound the wrapping until he float finally appeared. The float was sideways in the opened bubblewrap, but there was no mistaking what I was looking at. It was the very old and very hard to find Russian Hammer & Sickle. Nancy was all smiles, and so was I. Quickly, photos were taken in front of my favorite window with snow fall for backlighting.

Before I forget, the second float is also a beauty. It's very greenish aqua (a lot of iron oxide in the sand used for the glass mix), and is embossed with the Japanese characters which mean "special." A nicely ironic twist there.

What a year!

Thank you to everyone who shared in this fun series of posts. Best wishes to you and yours in 2011.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2010 Collectors' Favorites Continued...

From Roger and Maria Brun:

Here are some photos of glass floats added to our collection in 2010. These are our favorites.

The first picture is of a 5 inch S marked float, possibly from Survig or Sorvik glassworks-1808 or 1809-1821. This may prove to be difficult when considering that the first commercial floats were credited to Hadeland Glasverks approx. 1840/41. In the background of the photo is a dark brown large egg float similar to Richard's large egg. These two floats were purchased from Mr. M. from northwestern Norway. Many good and rare floats have come from him.

Two of us have been doing quite a bit of communication concerning Aasnaes Glasverks. There is reason to believe that Aasnaes was also producing in the beginning of glassfloat production in Norway. At this point there is no concrete proof of that idea. The thought is based on conjecture, the types of floats produced by Aasneas and the glassverk's proximity to the seafishing. Hadeland Glasverks is located on a fiord, far from the sea, and Cod fishing, but is closer to the Oslo/Christiania markets, and Sweden. One gets the impression that Aasnaes was in more direct communication and sales with the fishermen, while Hadeland had more contact with buyers. One day, a sales receipt, diary account or another written proof will surface.

The second photo is of two floats marked with an H. The smaller 3” is an Asian float that we purchased on ebay, and was sent to us from New York. The bigger 5” float we purchased from Mr. M.-together with the S marked and egg float in June 2010. The Norwegian H mark may have been made at Hestviken glassworks-1849 until 1857.

Next, is a photo of a reddish brown 3” Torvald Stranne. This one is of a thick glass, and heavier than the other 3” TS floats in our collection. Maria and I found this float at an antique store in Stockholm, November 2010. The Torvald Stranne floats may have been produced by the makers of Bjorkshult. or Albrectsons floats, and was most likely made during the Contemporary period from mid-1950 until 1970.

In October 2010 we made a trade of several floats with our friend Todd. A 2.5” Grooved Japanese, a Torpedo Roller and this huge Jumbo Roller is what came out of the trade and found their way to Norway. These are really cool floats and are among the favorites in the collection, a big thanks to Todd.

The other two small floats in the photo of 5 floats came all the way from Hawaii to Norway. They were won on an ebay auction. They are a 2” Boxed DG and a 2,5” float with a big star on the sealing button.

All the Best in the year 2011,
Roger and Maria

From Todd Marvik, the "Norsknailpounder":

I'll have to say that getting floats from our mutual friend in Norway, has got to be the tops. However, there are some floats that are not so rare and old which stand out as well.

So, I will say that the five floats that I want to mention are:

The N> marked float mentioned in AR/SF book is my favorite. Most likely from Namsos Glasverks, and from the 1850s. There seems to be a line of these floats starting with the mark AN, and continuing up the alphabet. I've been lucky to get a few of these Namsos floats, and all are from the 1850's.

I have a float that a friend from Portugal signed and sent to me, this would be my second favorite. It's marked with a 5 over 115, and likely Portuguese. I know it's not a rare one, but Hector took the time to sign it, and that makes it a favorite and special to me.

Third on my list of favorites is a float obtained in a 2010 trade with Roger & Maria. It's a really nice clear dogneck in a net. I haven't had one in a net before.

Fourth on my list of favorites are a trio of floats bought from a seller on Ebay. All three floats are in nets, and marked B over V. Most likely French-made, and are unusual to me, because they come from a seller living in the USA. I took one of the cap nets off, and I'm not sure, but there looks like they have some writing on them. I have some more research to do on them for sure!

The V over B or B over V floats normally are found in green glass, but Ken Busse had a beautiful example in a slightly sunturned color. Also, these floats are not only marked on the side of the glass, but are also found with the embossing on the float's glass seal, which can also be called the "cachet".

Lastly, I bought a float from David Neff. It's marked LV and has a bit of blue swirling in it. I've been wanting one for some time.

Lets hope this year we have another good year for our collections !

All the best Todd.

It was quite unexpected when after winning the first Swirled LV early in 2010, a second example of the same marking with blue swirls appeared later in the year. Now, we learn that a third example came to Todd. Never seen before, suddenly three were found in one year. Here are two photos each of the 1st. then the 2nd. Blue Swirled LV's found last year:

Thank you Roger, Maria and Todd for taking the time to send your photos and commentary of your favorites from the last year.

I hope to receive a couple of additional replies for this topic. If nothing else is received, the next posting will show my favorites.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2010 Favorites from Bob Buffinton and Paul Scott

From Bob Buffington:

This is the true story of how I found one of my most treasured floats. Before Rich and I figured out how to find floats on the Carribean Islands we travel to, I met one of the oldest men on the Island. He is truly an amazing individual who has spent his entire life living off the land and sea. When I first met him, I bought a beautiful sea shell he had on a table in his home. While there, I asked him if he ever found any glass balls. In his gravely voice he apologized that no, “all the great ones are gone”, “all I find now are the little ones”. Bingo! I told him I didn’t care what size they were, I would buy any that he found. For about three or four years-every time I went to visit him, he had a gunny sack with 10 or 15 floats in it. On one trip as I was going through his bag, I pulled out the amber/yellow swirled float. He apologized because he said, “it is messed up”. He would not let me pay him for it. Amazing!!

Every year amazes me more than the last as I get the opportunity to meet more and more collectors. Through Tom and Rich I met a great and very knowledgeable gentleman from Norway. We corresponded several times, sharing float collecting philosophy and sharing personal collection information. Later, we assembled some trade possibilities that turned out being mutually beneficial. I can’t really say that one single float that I received was my favorite, so I have included a photo of a group that traveled across the Atlantic to my home in the heartland.

A great float that came my way in 2010 was not a personal find, but came by way of many connections. The float found its way to me as a result of a purchase arranged by Rich and Tom from a gentleman near the far north end of Norway.

It traveled in a box with other floats to Tom, who then sent the remaining floats on to Rich, who then removed the floats that he wanted, and sent home the remaining floats with my son Evan for me to check out.

When Tom purchased a bunch of amber floats in the deal, he told Rich that there was a marked one. Knowing that I would love to have a marked amber float, Rich asked Tom, "Could Bob have that one, since he started the whole amber float purchase?" In that well traveled box was a great surprise!! A stunning, brown/swirled 3 inch +P.C.F.+. What a great couple of guys.

From the author: No problem there! It was a perfect opportunity to say "thank you Bob for your friendship, and the great invitation and adventure in the fall of 2009. After seeing Bob's beauty, you can bet I took a number of photos and yearn to have one myself someday!

Two trips with Rich stand out in my mind. The first trip that Rich and I found floats was in 2005. He found the brown one on our island, then later that same vacation/work trip, we went out on a boat with a good friend of mine-Scott Cornell and his wife Angie.

We went to a small neighboring inland, boating through a nice cooling rain on the way. We had no idea what to expect. Once on the shore the great hunt began. Neither, Rich nor I knew much about floats at the time other than we wanted to hunt and find them.

After walking just a few yards from the boat my friend Scott held up a perfect yellow amber ball and said, “is this what we’re looking for”? "@#!* Yea," I responded, "that’s right." Then just a little further along I looked down and here was this float with lots of letters on the surface looking right at me. Only later, did I realize that I had found the venerable Vetreria Montelupo F VAS in like new condition!

When Rich and I feel we are in a “hot spot” we will change the lead from time to time so one person doesn’t get all the virgin territory. As usual it was very hot, we were trying to get back to the boat on time to avoid being trapped by the tides. We trudged through soft sand that was like walking through a 12” soft snow. We sat down to take a break under a Cassarina tree, and Rich said, “Buff why don’t you take the lead”. I did and that’s when I found my first “Great One”, and my first and only “Golden Amber” float. Thanks to Rich!

From Paul Scott:

Hi Tom,

12" Pumpkin. Very interesting floats. No one at this time, has been able to reveal evidence as to who or where the maker originated from. Are these floats Japanese, Korean, Chinese?

These photos show my 14 1/2" Daiichi Glass Fused "Sunburst" DG in circle

10" Japanese Blue Dot A wonderful and hard-to-get float in this size.

Japanese Ice Blue This one has a beautiful Maker's Mark, but Paul couldn't photograph it without the sun's reflection blowing the mark up in a ball of glare.

3" Blue Snakeskin The Snakeskin floats are few in number. They were produced for use as an attractor for Octopus, and Squid, and were expensive to make. The fishermen found that they were no more effective at catching then the basic aqua roller was, so they were not purchased or produced in large numbers. A complete collection of the colors: red, green, orange, blue and golden amber are very difficult to obtain. There are only a few complete collections known.

The Bullet Roller is another mystery float. Walt Pich has written that none of these have been found beachcombed on mainland Japanese beaches, or found in Japanese gear piles. They have been found on North American Pacific beaches and on the beaches of Pacific islands. They are one of the rarest forms of rollers.

Medium Jumbo These are a slightly smaller version of the Japanese Jumbo Rollers. There is an interesting story of the Jumbo Rollers having been used in a clandestine drug trade. According to Walt Pich they were developed to replace the wooden barrel markers on longlines. Just as the Norwegians developed the very large Teardrop float aka Lighbulb or Sea Dog floats-to replace wooden barrels, the Japanese developed the Jumbo Rollers, which were first made about or prior to 1920.

Wooden barrels were used for a very long time to mark all types of fishing gear, but because they often became waterlogged, it did not take long for large glassfloats to replace them. Once again, I am wondering if the large Demijohn, or other large shaped bottles were used as markers at a very early time? Not every fisherman could afford them though, so they are small in number, and considered to be top shelf floats in any collector's collection.

Todd Marvik, and Roger & Maria Brun have sent in commentary and photos for the next blog post of favorites. I'm very happy that the responses I've gotten have all said how much fun the readers are having with this idea of Bruce Gidoll's.

Here are two additional photos, the first is of a complete collection of Japanese Snakeskins, the second is of a very rare Swedish Snakeskin from Enerdya Glassworks.