Pacific Coast residents from southern Oregon to northern British Columbia can find glass floats at the shore. Two prime U.S. spots: Long Beach, Washington, and Astoria, Oregon. In Canada, head to Ucluelet and Tofino, British Columbia.
Floats usually arrive with winter storms, particularly those driven by strong southerly or southwesterly winds. Balls that aren't rolling in the surf usually hide in batches of driftwood or sea grass. The floats come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and colors range from clear to reds, purples, blues, greens, and more. Sometimes logos in the glass hint at heritage. Occasionally, water seeps inside.
Collectors Dick Carter and Barry Campbell say the best time to find glass floats is during a storm, so wear rain gear and waterproof boots. Particularly in the Pacific Northwest, watch for surging waves; violent surf can throw huge logs and pieces of driftwood against the shore―no float, no matter how spectacular, is worth injury.
If you won't find yourself on storm-tossed beaches any time soon, check out these alternate sources.
• To order authentic vintage floats, call Hawaii's Discovery Antiques. Proprietor Peter Underwood regularly carries a large supply of floats that land on the shores of The Big Island. Or visit the bright red, barn-like shop, eight miles south of Kailua-Kona, along the Mamalahoa Highway; 808/323-2239.
• To buy artistic modern-day samples, contact Pyromania Glass Studio. Each float is $45 plus shipping; 888/743-4116 or pyromaniaglass.com.
• With a second edition due out this spring, Glass Fishing Floats of the World (West Wind Books, 2001) by Stu Farnsworth and Alan D. Rammer helps collectors identify fishing-float markings that offer clues to their origins. A price guide gives a good look at the range ($15 to several hundred dollars); glassfishingfloats.com.
• Read Beachcombing for Japanese Glass Floats by Amos Wood (Binford & Mort, 2001).