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|Glass Floats - Lincoln City|
LINCOLN CITY -- Modern glass floats are so popular in this central Oregon Coast city that visitors want to know more about the old stuff.
Exhibits at The Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio on Hwy. 101 detail the history of the fishing floats, tracing their roots back to 1840s fishermen in Norway.
Floats were used to keep fishing nets in place.
Glass floats were manufactured in Japan, starting in 1910, according to the Sears exhibits.
Old green floats mean recycled glass. Red and cranberry are most prized by antique collectors because gold was required to achieve that color in pristine glass.
By the 1920s and ‘30s, fishing floats were produced in blue, purple, yellow and orange, in addition to the usual green.
Plastic replaced glass in traditional Japanese floats in the 1950s, so antique floats became even more valuable.
A few doors from the Sears studio, the North Lincoln County Historical Museum has a collection of antique fishing floats, mostly from Japan.
Some are the size of basketballs, others more like hardballs. A few green glass cylinders are as large as suitcases. A couple of floats are wrapped in canvas, printed with Japanese symbols.
In blue, green and clear glass, the floats are a unique memento of the Pacific that can take decades to arrive on the Oregon Coast.
Experts say “some of them take as long as 30 years to get over here,” says Sandy Pfaff, executive director of the Lincoln County Visitor & Convention Bureau.
Age is calculated by the number and type of barnacles encrusted on the floats.
Pfaff buys several hundred antique floats every year from a collector who finds them in an isolated cove in Alaska, accessible only by boat and plane.
The green or blue floats are released by the visitor bureau every February for “antique week” as part of its annual “finders keepers” float program.
As many as 400 antique floats are hidden on Lincoln City beaches as part of an annual tourism promotion featuring more than 2,000 modern, blown-glass floats.