Monday, January 23, 2012

Collectors' Favorites From Jon and Maria Ramberg

A very nice and unsuspected surprise...

Happy New Year Tom!

It is a beautiful thing to see all the sharing by float collectors around the world that has been inspired by your blog.

Our favorites always seem to be changing but here are a few to share.

Best wishes, Jon & Maria

I've just begun to share with Jon and Maria. After receiving their email, and even though I wanted to go to bed, had to answer their email...

Hi Jon,

What a nice surprise! I just came to my emails to write Stu Farnsworth, to say that his favorites post was finished, and here you are. Thank you for sharing. It makes me very happy.

A question: Were any of these floats added to your collection in 2011? If not, that is just fine. Every collector should have the opportunity to see the incredible floats you have. I am totally taken by the Neversink. I knew that there was a Milk Glass Neversink, but had only seen one, 12 years ago.

Jon and Maria answered the next day...

Good evening Tom,

The 5 floats we chose were added over many different years.

Just for clarity's sake, I asked the question whether the floats had been found during the previous year, but knew after seeing the photos, and feeling very fortunate to have had Jon and Maria's willingness to share, that the answer was not going to determine whether or not I posted during this year's collectors' favorites. I sent the following email to them...

Hi Jon, Hi Maria,

I am truly amazed at the wonderful examples that you have in your collection, and can only imagine what other treasures must be with you. Thank you for sharing your history. I'm so focused on gathering as much existing glass float history...their makers, uses and users as well as collectors and collectors' stories as possible. Every contribution gives me great happiness. I truly believe we are all saving an almost lost and relatively unknown history - just in the nick of time.

A few of Jon and Maria's beautiful Glass Floats

1) Doughnut Float
In his pioneering book, BEACHCOMBING FOR JAPANESE GLASS FLOATS, Amos Woods wrote that less than a dozen of these floats were manufactured. The picture of the rare doughnut float in his book captured my imagination and was an inspiration for float collecting.

2)Twisted Spindle In the BEACHCOMBERS GUIDE TO THE NORTHWEST, page 33, author Walt Pich says “the rarity of a spindle may be measured by the number of twists that are caused by rolling prior to cooling.” One of our most unique spindle floats has a twisted spindle with 30 twists! Is anyone else counting their twists?

3) White Neversink
As we add more colors to our float collection, this white Neversink GB 6 stands out. It fits the "Sea Hermit's" latest research on the origin of Neversink floats. The history on this one is that it was found with a group of other floats that “hung in the barn of a Down East Maine fisherman.”

4) TO (Toyotomi Glass Factory)
What makes this one unique is the color contrasts. Very fine burgundy swirls throughout the clear float give the ball a lighter overall color. This is contrasted with a solid, dark burgundy seal button bearing a heavy and distinct diamond TO mark.

5) Compass and Stranne Oresten Compass Group
The blue compass trademark is amazing! Our colors include cobalt blue, dark forest green and emerald green. Our sizes range from 3 inches to 8 inches.

I wanted to show you a close up of the wonderful Stranne Oresten Compass marking.

Thank you Jon and Maria. It was a pleasure to see and share some of your remarkably beautiful floats!

I would like to end this post with something a very nice British Columbian woman wrote to me a few days ago. Her name is Marlena. We started trading emails, and learning about our shared passion for glass, after I noticed a wonderful Dog Neck float she had for sale to the highest bidder. I wrote her to find out more, and as good fortune would have it, I've chanced to meet a kind and sincere person. Marlena is a collector of glass, and especially very old Persian bottles, known by bottle collectors and bottle sellers as the "Lady Who Buys The Persian Stuff"

Marlena wrote:

"Hmmmm...I don't know what it is exactly about old glass that captivates me and others so deeply. I suppose it's many things all combined. But I know that the pleasure of caring for something that is beautiful and precious and at the same time so curious, delicate and vulnerable is a part of it. Each handblown bottle or float seems to be a self contained and unique universe all its own. When you hold it in your hand or into the light it seems complete...needing nothing more than being exactly what it is...and being enjoyed by the person who cares for it."

I enjoyed reading and identifying with her thoughts. Here are a couple of Marlena's Persian bottle photos:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Collectors' Favorites 2011 From Olaf Raabe

I have received additional submissions, and promises from other collectors to send their favorites. The next blog post will feature some amazing floats that were not necessarily found in 2011, but that are among that collector's favorites. I know that the readers and collectors will enjoy seeing the floats.

For today, I want to feature a very special collector's floats, which were added to his collection during the last year.

Olaf Raabe is the "Float Collector Extraordinaire". There has been no one like him collecting both European and Scandinavian floats. When I first met Olaf, he told me that he specialized in Norwegian (Scandinavian) floats, and that he liked the very old Norwegian letter floats. I wrote that my passion was European floats, but that I also enjoyed my collection of American, Scandinavian and Asian floats. We began sharing photos of our favorite floats, and descriptions of our passion for them. That led into our first trade, which led into more trades, sharing of our lives, and a great over the Atlantic friendship.

When I write that there is no Scandinavian/Euro collector like him, you can take that description verbatim. Olaf has built the finest collection of rare marks, shapes, and variety of not only the Scandinavian, but also the European floats - in the world. I have been privileged to have his stories and photos sent to me on a regular basis. There is a constant stream of glass balls floating into Olaf's collection, and vicariously, into my awareness. Not sure if this metaphor works, but here goes: It's kind of like watching a field of corn quickly grow. Where once there was bare plowed ground, in a very short time there are green shoots popping up out of the soil, then one day, you suddenly notice that those shoots have quickly grown into tall verdant plants, who's every node has a large perfect ear of corn reaching up to the sun's light.

His collection has grown beautifully in short time, and the quality is absolutely wonderful. In my replies to the steady stream of float photos, float stories of finds, upcoming appointments with old fishermen in their boathouses, answers to advertisements, auctions...from every source imaginable, I kid him about his prowess, and the wonder of it all. My kidding, is reverse tongue in cheek. I really am serious. There is another side of the Float Collector Extraordinaire, that readers may have already recognized.

Olaf gives as good as he gets. Via this blog, and emails shared between myself and other collectors, together with the desire of Olaf to meet others, introductions have been made. Those introductions have resulted in many purchases and trades. There are very few recognized European and Scandinavian float collectors who have not had their collections measurably enlarged because of Olaf's ability to find floats in his native country, but also his willingness to help other collectors. No one can ever say that trading with or selling to Olaf was anything but a pleasure, and how thankful they are to have had the opportunities. I'll let Olaf take it from here.

"Hi Tom,

2011 was a very good year for both hunting and trading glass floats. Being a collector of Euro and Scandinavian floats only, I am first of all thankful to all my friends for giving me the chance to improve my collection through trading."

My favorites last year were the following:

1) Raised Neck floats - A special trade was made with a very special friend, that will always remind me of our good friendship. Here a photo of the Heye Clover Neck float,
together with another German S Neck float and two British Neck floats. Thank you Tom for being so generous.

2) Doorknob - A Swedish lady with a summerhouse at Aaland found 3 beautiful doorknobs. The trio was won on a Swedish auction site, and thereafter shared with two friends. This one is a small beauty, with a very special color. I call this one the Aaland Doorknob. Hanging with the Aaland Doorknob is a small, yellow Torvald Stranne that was also added this year.

3) Norwegian "Eggs"- These small eggs were all found in the Namsos area and represent glassverks at Aasnaes, Moss and an unknown glasswork.

4)HFC - Both of these two Swedish HFC-embossed floats are quite heavy and no doubt used as fishing glass floats. Both were originally found in Sweden. One was purchased from the U.S.A., and one from Germany.

From the author: The first one of these I had seen was a colorless example. My German bottle collecting friend sent the photo, and later, an opportunity to add one to my collection.

5) Russian floats - The small float on top of the big Estonian Teardrop float is a 2-piece molded float that is marked with the number 3 followed by a Dot on the side of the float. I hope I will be able to to find a Russian Hammer & Sickle marked float in 2012.

6) Colored floats - The red one came from France. Its seal is embossed with snails, whilst the blue float is British-made. They are both Contemporaries. They are together in the photo with an old and heavy and unmarked British glass float.

7) BIOT - These beautiful colored floats were purchased from France. These are probably made for decoration only. Biot's floats do look like they were made as original glass fishing floats.

8)The S.A.P.R.I., and the brown/amber Italian Societa Altare.

9)Marks with unknown origin: the Janson Import;

Relsky and

Vigo. These all came to me thanks to good collector friends in the U.S.A.

10)From France, The Cameleyre Freres Aracachon.

From the author:
Cameleyre Freres was a French fishing company founded approximately 1889, and Aracachon is a French fishing village. I have been searching for one of these for my collection for a long time. This float was offered for sale on Ebay. I did not win it, but something interesting happened during the auction. I had purchased a float from a French woman. During our correspondence, I asked her to help me find a Cameleyre. She wrote back to say that a friend of her's had seen one at an outdoor sale, but considered the price too high, so passed it up. I sent the auction to the French woman to inquire if this Cameleyre might have been the same float. She assured me that it was not, that the other example was marked differently. Where is that float? Will one come to me someday?

I know that Olaf took great pleasure in sharing these floats with the readers, and I wish to say, "Thank you," to Olaf for sharing his floats with us. I would also like to continue Olaf's submission with a brief discussion of Biot, its location and glass.

In an end-of-2011 trade with Olaf, a beautiful straw colored green Biot was part of our deal. Years ago, a brown example was sold on a French auction. I did not win that float, but my interest in the Biot floats started. Roger and Maria Brun, on the website:, have a short history and photos of the Biot Glassworks in France. After receiving my first example, I began to research the company, and found a book, written in French and English, called: REVE DE VERRE - DREAMS OF GLASS A Half Century of Glassware in Biot. Eloi Monod and After...

The book begins with a discussion of the geology of France's Biot region. Here is a short paragraph written at the end of the discussion:

"As has been pointed out, the Biot area is rich in almost all the raw materials used in the making of glass, namely silica, aluminum, calcium oxide obtained through the calcination of calcareous rock, and manganese. Furthermore, the ash tuft is used for making glass ovens."

Hmm...manganese - a discussion of manganese, which was added to glass mixtures to counteract the aqua to green coloration in glass, was written about in an earlier post. The addition of manganese to the glass mix produced colorless glass, which together with the ultraviolet waves of sunlight, turned found European glass floats various shades of lavender. I have been postulating that the lettered sun turned floats were made in France. The information above gives me a bit of a lift to the postulation.

If the reader recalls, Richard Carlson brought up the use of Selenium taking the place of manganese. I have learned that Selenium imparts a yellow/straw coloration to glass. That left me with the question..."If manganese use mostly ended early in the 20th. Century, then why were floats made later, sun turning lavender? Recently, I've wondered if the use of recycled glass might be the answer? There is no doubt that glass fishing floats were produced as cheaply as possible. Is it possible, that like the Japanese float makers, glassworks in other countries, and in this case - France, may have used large amounts of recycled glass in their float mixtures too?

In the next chapter titled, "An Impressionist Saga," the birth of La Verrerie De Biot is discussed. Biot Glass is known for the beauty of it's suspended bubbles. Bubbles in glass mixtures are normally a sign of inadequate heating of the furnace, and is not something positive in quality glassware. To the glass float collector, bubbles in glass add to the beauty of the ball, and in some instances, the number of bubbles adds to a float's monetary and/or trade value. I found some very interesting paragraphs in the chapter:

"For centuries glassmakers had known bubbles well - and had bad dreams about them - just as they detested the "strings" and "stones" and other imperfections that result when glassmaking goes wrong. The temperature must be kept high long enough, that the gas generated by the fusion of the ingredients can escape. If the bubbles do not have time to rise up and break through the surface of the molten glass, they become trapped there and ruin its appearance."

Some glassmakers in the early twentieth century, made use of this kind of flaw to create special effects (think Japanese Spindle floats). But, there was also another very old and widespread technique long employed in this trade from Scandinavia to Bohemia and Venice. Bubbles are deliberately created by sprinkling sodium bicarbonate on the "gob" of glass before it is plunged back into the melting pot for a second gathering. Thus the particles are imprisoned between two layers of hot glass and break down, producing tiny uniform carbon dioxide bubbles which catch and refract the light like miniature magnifying glasses.

The Biot glassmakers borrowed this well-known effect and based their style on it.

After reading this, I understood more about glass float bubbles, and speculated to Olaf, that the bubbles and other imperfections found in the Norwegian S-embossed floats could point to a smaller, and much older glassworks. Perhaps the discussion about bubbles in poorly heated glass furnaces gives us insight into the possiblity that the old lettered "S" floats were made at Sauvig Glassverk, and were made prior to 1840/41?

As you can see in the photo of my hay colored green Biot float, the bubbles are the focus - one of the company's trademarks.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Collectors' Favorites 2011 From Stu Farnsworth

Hi Tom,

Here are a few scans of my better floats received during the 2011 season, with brief descriptions:

The Black float is an opaque, grapefruit sized beauty that was found in a dilapidated fisherman's shed in Honshu, Japan, before the Earthquake and Tsunami.

The Double FF Hokuyo is the opaque-yellow vaseline glass float, grapefruit-sized, and came off Ebay.

The Green is a gem. It's a pure kelly green, very bright and a rare color indeed. It's very brightly colored, and a real gem for my color collection.

The Clear Roller is a 6inch Tohoku. Very nice colorless float that has been well used.

The Blue Dot is outstanding because it is not the standard golf ball-sized, it is the size of a baseball. It was found on the Aleutians by Paul Umloff. I was very lucky to get this outstanding float as it is one of the most intensely blue seal buttons that I have seen.

The Purple and Beer Bottle Brown TO in a Diamond floats, were acquired in a trade for my rare Japanese Football Float.

The Robins Egg Blue Baseball-sized gem is just that - a fantastic very beautiful blue, which is the only float in that color in my collection.

Late last winter, Stu sent me the following email, and included photos of his collection of colored Boxed In A Diamond TO Japanese floats. I knew about the rarity of these floats, because I religiously follow the Ebay glass float auctions, and over the years, had seen less than a handful of these floats for sale. Each auction was vigorously bid on by many Japanese glass float collectors, and the final prices paid were always quite high. When I looked at the photos of Stu's collection, I was stupefied. I had no idea that there were so many color variations of the marking, and to find that Stu had been working for 25 years to build this collection, simply amazed me.

Hey Tom;

A happy note: My trade finally went thru. After 6 months of negotiations, I was able to get a solid deep Purple TO, and a killer deeply sandblasted Honey Amber TO. I have enclosed scans of my complete TO collection as of this date. I've been working on this collection for 25 years.

I now have a 2nd Cinnamon and a 2nd Purple. Now, I can trade for another color TO I don't have. I still need a Bright Green and a Blue. I'm hoping that these two traders will come in handy.

The Deep Purple is my trump card. I have to sit back, wait and hope that one comes my way. Anyway, wanted to share these with you because I knew you would appreciate the value of these very rare marks. You are welcome to put any of these on your blog if you would like.

The Grooved Roller, you already know the story. (See the Nov. 1, 2011 post): "Lightening Strikes Stu Twice".

Baseball-sized Japanese Salmon Gill net Float with no visible cracks anywhere to allow so much water in a pure gem.

Korean three-piece molded Anchor. It is a baseball-sized float that was found by Paul Umloff on a Aleutian Island beach.

As many of the readers know, Stu, and his great friend Alan Rammer, are the authors of two editions of the collector's price guide and identification handbook:


While the prices are not as accurate as when the books were first written, the books have been the best source to identify European and Scandinavian float markings, sizes and colors - as well as some of the Japanese and American-made floats. They have been a help to many collectors and sellers over the last 10 years.

Stu is another reason why I am a lucky man. We have been enjoying a fine across the U.S. email friendship for a number of years. My first float trade was done with Stu, and as time has passed, Stu has been a constant source of fun and fellowship. It took many years before I was finally able to return a favor or two to Stu. You see, many times Stu has given great gifts of himself and help to me. For his friendship, I am very thankful.

If you wish to read a nice 3-piece story about Stu, go to:,

and if you would like to see a 2-part video that Stu made of floats from his collection go to Google Search Engine, and type in:

You Tube video-Glass Floats Collection

You may have to do a bit of searching, so if you cannot find it from my hint, still go to Google, and search for: You Tube Video-Japanese Glass Fishing Floats. That's how I originally found Stu's videos, and there are other interesting videos about floats on You Tube.

As soon as I am able to, last year's favorites from the "Float Collector Extraordinaire," Olaf Raabe, will appear.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Collectors' Favorites 2011 From Richard Carlson

Another good friend and glass float collector, is Richard Carlson. "Hammerclaw" Rich, his best friend "Buff", together with "Grape Jumpin" Jim, were my companions when we were on a Caribbean island beachcombing during 8 fun-filled days in my life. Rich is a very good photographer, and if you are interested in seeing more of his float photos, go to Roger & Maria Brun's website:, and look at the floats listed by markings and varieties.

Rich has been sharing his float finds over the years via emails. It's always a pleasure finding one of his emails waiting for me to open.

Hi Tom,
I'm glad you are doing a top 5 again this year. Bruce told me I better get ready, but I didn't want to send anything in when he did, I worried I might jinx myself before the year ended. They're in no particular order but I will start with this one:

not a rare float, in fact it's a rather common float, a green SB 10cm. For many years I have been fortunate to be invited by my very close friend to actually beach comb floats in the Caribbean islands. Hot, sometimes buggy, bodily abusive, beautiful, stupid amazing fun is the only way I can describe it.

Anyway, on this one particular shore there was a mangrove bush, and in this mangrove bush there was a glint of glass showing in the sun. Now branches on tropical bushes don't bend, they poke you and hang you up with their sharp stiffness. You can't just push a branch to one side and wade in for your treasure. Rather you crawl, wiggle and worm toward your goal. On top of that, 99% of the time your goal turns out to be a beer bottle or a light bulb. Not so this time, the glint of glass was a float. Bob took the picture as we both cracked up at the sheer craziness of this hobby. A great float and a great memory.

When I was first introduced to Bruce Gidoll, he was trying to work a trade for a "yellow" float that I had beach combed with Bob. He really liked the float but "it's not yellow" he said. "You come to visit me and I'll show you yellow. Your float is light amber, or gold, or something but not yellow" No one knows color like Bruce, but I still thought I had a yellow float. When I finally did visit Bruce I saw that he was right - of course, and I did not in fact have a yellow float. E bay solved that for me this year with this yellow Hokuyo FF I found listed as a Blenko glassball.

When I first saw this Stokksund Egg it reminded me of a Japanese Torpedo. I had just purchased a house, and when I was offered this float I "cheaped out". I looked at the pictures posted on this blog, and said to myself "nah, too much like a Japanese torpedo, I don't want to travel that road". Four times I was offered one of these eggs, and four times I declined. What was I thinking? Fortunately someone much smarter than I am took a different attitude. You need this in your collection he decided. He was right, it is a unique beauty, always to remain near the front of my showcase where I can see it well.

Being newer to collecting than several readers, I've spent a lot of time referring to Stu's and Alan's book "Glass Fishing Floats of the World", learning the various marks. In the back of the 2nd. edition, is the "West Coast Collection" which I wrote off as "never will I find one of those". I pictured years of dedication to Oregon antique stores and bars would be required to find just one. Fortunately this fall I came in contact with a great guy in Virginia who was selling some of his collection. In the ones he was selling was this Hank. Now, if I go to Oregon I can visit the bars for recreation.

Tom said the more the merrier so I've included a couple more. I finally was able to get a descent picture of my NEVERSINK GB5 which I purchased this year from Ken. Man clear floats are tough. I was told they may be US made, but I don't know. Has anyone ever found one in Europe? Is it Great Britain 5 or Glass Ball 5? Don't know. It's quite heavy, but maybe not that rare, I just love the name. Put it out there! NEVERSINK, never, never, never, never! Sounds like Churchill in his never surrender speech. Think if we could all buy cars named NEVERBREAK or fly on an airline NEVERLATE, wow would that be cool. I bet these floats came with a lifetime warranty.

Rich, GB may stand for Gunderson/Babbit. Gunderson Glassworks was reorganized in 1939 in New Bedford, Mass. Issac Babbit was Gunderson's partner. Babbit was a metal worker, and may have designed their molds. I've been trying to find out if that company produced the Neversink GB5 and GB8, as well as the Pat. Pending Colorless Teardrop. They were producing glass just before, and during WWII, becoming Gunderson-Pierpoint Glassworks after the war ended. The company produced a line of utilitarian products during the early years. The timing of production, and the place are right, but I haven't found the proof of the company making floats...yet.

Iridescent green, this float has to make my list for the year. I love the color, the shape, and the little bit of remaining treated rope that shows this float caught some salmon in its day. Swedish

For my last floats I would choose this pair of LT5s. Both lost at sea, drifting all the way from Europe (maybe France) to end up on a Caribbean shore. The float on the left is my final beach find of 2011 shown just as it was when I found it. Where is the top of the net? It must have sat on the shore in the sun so long that the ropes finally gave up and evaporated! Found 6' from the water's edge. How many people had passed it by over the decades? The float on the right is a trade from Bob, which was given to him by a mutual friend - one of my favorite people on the island. This float will always bring good memories. Worth little, beat to crap, bruised, maybe even no longer able to float, they're both full of history and stories and they complete my favorites of 2012. I was a lucky man in 2011 and if I am only half as lucky in 2012 I am still a very lucky man.

Thanks for sharing your great finds with the readers Rich.

It's been amazing seeing the growth of Rich's collection over the last two years. When we first got together via Ebay auctions, Rich's collection was mostly made up of Caribbean beachcombed finds. Not a bad thing at all. A lot of pleasure came my way via Buff and Rich's beachcombing stories. Now, his collection is comprised of rare colors, very hard to find and rare maker's markings, as well as beautiful float shapes such as the Stokksund Egg and Dog Necks.

I've been fortunate to watch the "blow up" of his collection, and have marveled at the incredible beauty of his woodworking craftsmanship. Rich builds the most beautiful and imaginative display cases I've ever seen. It's a pleasure knowing him. Thank goodness for glass balls!

P.S. If you click on the photos, they will enlarge. Seeing the enlarged photos of Rich in the Mangroves reaching into the brush for his float, enhances Rich's "Caribbean beachcombing" description very well.