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!