Sunday, September 12, 2010

Glass Float 101: Is it the REAL deal or a FAKE???

I get lots of e-mails from people asking if their float is ‘real’ or ‘fake’, or if a float they want to buy is, in fact, authentic. I asked a fellow glass fishing float collector & friend to explain the difference between authentic floats & reproduction floats. Stu Farnsworth has been a dedicated collector and beachcomber for over 30 years. He has an impressive collection of rare & unique floats. He has also been somewhat of a mentor to me over the past 6 years by sharing his knowledge of glass fishing floats.

Here’s what Stu had to say…..

Glass fishing floats come in three categories - authentic, contemporary and curio.

Authentic glass floats are those that were manufactured for actual usage. Those can be found made with heavy glass and show normal use such as scars and scrapes, chips, dings and sometimes there are signs of sea life encrusted on the glass. Roughly about 30% may have an embossed marking on the float, either on the sealing button, the side of the glass, or possibly on the top of the glass. Often on the larger floats, there are marks on a separate patch of glass.

Below is an example of an authentic float. It has a star embossed on the seal button. This was once used for fishing. This is a really great float given to me by a buddy of mine!

Contemporary glass floats are also made of heavy glass and usually come in beautiful colors. They show no signs of use, other than possibly some surface scratches from rolling around on the floor from the family cat playing with it. These floats are, however, older and were made at the time authentic floats were in full use. This classification of floats was mainly made by larger glass float companies who made authentic floats. Such is the case with Hokuyo Glass Company and the famous FF mark. Many of these floats were made for gift shops, but have the authentic marking embossed on the glass. These come in a wide variety of colors, and even though contemporary, they are still sought after. Below are 2 examples of Hokuyo floats from the collection of Tom Rizzo, who also has a blog about European glass fishing floats called The Sea Hermit.

This is a rare case for contemporary floats, as they were primarily made for gift shops, junk shops and restaurant decor.

Curio floats, or the later floats, showing up in the early 1980’s came in beautiful colors and were pretty much made with paper thin glass. They have no signs of wear whatsoever and would not ever be able to withstand high seas fishing. These floats weigh much less when even compared to a contemporary float. The examples below are all under $10.00 each. This is a common price, as they are bought wholesale for mere dollars.

And I’m adding…..

Contemporary & curio floats are often misrepresented as being authentic. This is typically because people just aren’t aware of what they have. There are a number of contemporary floats on auction sites & in stores that do have marks on the seal buttons, but were made in China or Taiwan. I have seen some with sea horses & wagon wheels. Those are the 2 that come to mind right now. Those usually have thick ropes on them to represent a net. They also come in bright colors. Below is an example of a 12" diameter float. This float was priced almost $70.00 & the actual value is much less than that.

Often a contemporary float will also show signs of use because it has been used in a koi pond or outside for landscaping purposes. This is seen a lot on Ebay where it appears a float has actually been used for fishing. Typically these floats are bright colors such as red, yellow, cobalt blue, purple, orange, etc. These are beautiful, but they are not authentic. As Stu mentioned, they are also about the same weight as an authentic float & were manufactured while authentic floats were being made. If you don’t mind whether or not a float is authentic, then this might be okay for you. These floats should be priced rather inexpensively.

Below is an example of a contemporary glass fishing float. Although this float is quite possibly vintage (1950's), it is not a working float. I asked a fellow collector to take a look at this & he confirmed this with me. This is a float that would have been made for the gift trade. Although it is purple, because it is not an authentic (working) float, it is not rare & collectible.

Another curio float is in the shape of a square or cube. They are typically 2" - 3" cubed. These were NEVER used for fishing & were simply made for the gift trade. These also get misrepresented as being authentic floats. They also come in a variety of colors & have mold lines. Many were made by Hokuyo Glass Co out of Aomori Japan in the late 1950's for gift shops. Some were also made in Taiwan. Often there is a faint embossing on one of the square ends that says "MADE IN TAIWAN". These are worth a bit more than the Japanese versions, but are still inexpensive. Below are examples of these types of floats.

Bottom line....if you are specifically looking for an authentic glass fishing float, this information should be somewhat helpful in telling the difference. I just looked on Ebay & there are hundreds of 'fake' floats listed. It's no wonder people are so confused. If in doubt, just ask the seller. Hopefully they will give you an honest answer. And, feel free to write & ask me for help. If I am unsure, I will help you find an answer!!

I leave you with this amazing glass fishing float I found on the beach myself! The next post will be about different colors of swirls in floats!


  1. Hi Kamichia:

    Deacon (Dr. Beachcomb) here. Love your site! (And have just posted it on my Facebook fan page.) Wanted clarification about bubbles in authentic floats. Though I noticed some in the contemporary floats pictured above, genrally speaking aren't bubbles another way to mark authenticity? All of my authentic floats have bubbles - and my "backyard" floats made through small family enterprises are riddled with bubbles...

  2. Hi Deacon,

    Yes, the more bubbles, the older the float is going to be. I just got one today that is totally loaded with bubbles. It's amazing! It is also encased in a very old net. It's probably at least 80 years old. I'll post a photo of it on my GFJ FB page.

    The majority of floats will have a few bubbles in the glass, but certainly the older floats will have many more. The curio floats will rarely have any bubbles & those are very thin. That's the best way to identify those.

    Thanks for the plug on your FB page! Hope things are going well for you!

  3. This is awesome information, Kamichia!!! Thanks!

    Maya @ Completely Coastal

  4. Great post :-) I'm new to collecting glass floats, so this information is really helpful to me. I want to collect authentic floats that actually came across the ocean :-)


  5. THis is very informative. Love love my glass floats from you. I will be back for more - soon!!

  6. Great info! Good luck on your move and on the wheel/kiln search! How exciting!!! I purchased my kiln off ebay for $300....there are some good deals out there.

  7. Thank you for this post.. I have always ben very hesitant in picking one up..never "really " knowing the facts.. well.. thanks to you.. I got a handle on it!

  8. hi =) I really appreciate your generosity of sharing your knowledge.. and saving me lots of disappointment.

  9. Love your blog.. I live in Japan and I am about to head out for the first time and look for glass floats.... can you tell me the best times to go?? I am so very excited about going out. :) Thanks again for any advice you can give me.
    Jess -jnjpain@ gmail. com

  10. Such a great post! I love having this info and plan to bookmark it! Thanks! ♥

  11. Hello, my mother found an authentic glass float on the Oregon Coast. She has passed it onto me. I have kept it many years and am now in a postion to down size greatly. Where would I find a buyer for my glass float?

  12. Hello, my mother found an authentic glass float on the Oregon Coast. She has passed it onto me. I have kept it many years and am now in a postion to down size greatly. Where would I find a buyer for my glass float?

  13. Hello, My family has a great set of two very large glass floats that are tethered together in their original rope with a starfish emblem on both of them. They are roped together with great knotwork. My Grandfather and Aunt found them on the beach in Coos Bay about 30 years ago. I just want to find out the history of them and where they came from. They are very large, so I am guessing they were buoys for the end of the lines. They are something special I think. I know every net line had dozens and dozens of small floats and only the large ones at the ends I am guessing that these are kinda rare. I just want some info about these two huge floats. Thanks

  14. Hi, Great informational blog. I purchased one with about 1/2 teaspoon salt crystal formation inside around the plug. Is this unusual, can't find anyone mentioning this. Katie.

  15. Hi few pieces of these antique glass floats and I love them. What is the best way to clean them and make them sparkly again. Thanks

  16. Hello, I have some "round" heavy glass balls with a weird texture on the outside. Most have some kind of "neck" though shallow and with a hole. Some have (had) water in them some what looks like some dirt. They don't look like the glass bouys I have seen on the i internet. Can someone help and identify what I have. Do they have any value, etc.

  17. I just found a glass ball in Laie on Oahu. It says 120m/m made in Japan. Any info you could share on this marking. It has water trapped inside and is scoured.

    1. Forgot to say. It is gray and opaque. About the side of a large grapefruit or small melon. I found the Made in Japan marking very unusual.

  18. My husband has a 12" green glass float with the rope netting still well preserved on it. He picked it up in the area of the Caysol Banks between the Keys, Bahamas & Cuba. It has a mark of a separate button that looks like two opposing letter F's. Can anyone tell us more about it? We wouldn't part with it for the world.

  19. Hi,I have a green glass float that has been in our family for 45 years,looking to sell it but not sure how to authenticate it and present it to potential buyers. The size is 14" across and 46" around, the only markings I can find are on the bubble end closure, thank you in advance for your help. My Email is

  20. Hi. My wife has a very large gLass float with the double f mark. It is marked twice but not stamped with a star. Her father worked on crab boats out if crescent city California and likely aquired it through work. Could you possibly help us with identification? My email is . Thank you very much

  21. I have four sea floats. I would like to send you some photos for your input as to what I have. Sizes are 14", 12" 10" and 5" diameters. The small one is redish / orange in color and almost opaque. All have netting which appears old. All thick glass with imperfections like bubbles, etc. 10" has mark to side of bottom. Not quite sure what it is. Thank you.

  22. Great information! Do you have a video about Glass Floats? I am looking for additional information for our viewers. Or possibly an article linking back to your website.

    Thanks in advance.

    David and Lin

  23. Had a break in at my storage unit in Montrose Colorado. One of the things that was not recovered was a glass fishing float my Grandfather Allan Asbury O'Guinn sent from Wake Island in 1941. He participated in the battle and was taken prisoner. He survived to teach me wood carving and a passion for sculpture. I wish I could figure out how to send you a photo of it. It was greenish, about 10" in diameter, and had a Japanese symbol cast on the button.