Farm Collector Blogs > First Things

Collect Small Items for Big Fun

by Leslie McManus

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One of the beauties of the old iron hobby is this: There’s room for everyone. You don’t have to have deep pockets (unless you want the most highly collectible items), you don’t have to build six climate-controlled sheds to accommodate your collection (unless you’re feeling pretty protective about, say, 60 restored tractors), and you don’t have to restore relics to better-than-new perfection (but you can if you want to).

Or, put another way, if you don’t have the space and the budget for the big toys, there are plenty of terrific niches in this category. We feature two of them in this issue: cast iron seats and match covers. Both represent interesting periods in the evolution of farm equipment. As collector Tom Wilson notes, cast iron seats hark back to the era of Lincoln and Custer, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

Collections of small items — dairy and corn collectibles, hay tools, hand tools, toys, anvils, hog oilers, seed sacks, signs, pumps, salesman’s samples, memorabilia and paper — are enormously rewarding. The hunt is every bit as challenging as that experienced by a tractor collector, networking opportunities are abundant and historical relevance is strong.

Dealing with limited storage space? Not feeling like Charles Atlas? Don’t have a truck and trailer? Check out smaller collectibles: You’ll find a category custom-made for you. Or you may find your niche in a broad category, just as John Cole did when he specialized in farm-related match covers.

Postage stamps are a great example of that. Early this year, the U.S. Postal Service issued a series of first-class mail stamps depicting antique American-made weather vanes. Other than a windmill or a barn, it’s hard to imagine a more enduring icon of rural America. Dip into the category, and you’ll find dozens of farm-related stamps from all over the world. (For more on the weather vane stamps, visit 19th Century Weather Vane Postage Stamps.)

And when you get that collection off the ground, get it some exposure. Set up a display at a local tractor show: People love offbeat exhibits. You might even find yourself the subject of envy, when the guy with the balky tractor sees you calm and cool under your pop-up tent, regaling visitors with stories about your collection! FC