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.


  1. Anonymous3:14 PM

    Thank you Olaf for sharing your photos of the amazing floats you added to your collection in 2011 and others collected in the past. It makes me happy to know your already amazing collection continues to grow. Thanks to you Tom for making your blog so interesting and available to all collectors. Bob Buffington

  2. Thanks you very much for sharing i hope you will share more like it.
    Travel to Vietnam

  3. 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.
    custom Lapel pins

  4. Very fantastic and well-written post.I read and like the post.It,s extremely good and very helpful for me..

  5. Thanks for the nice sharing :)

  6. Great work,such a great post.