Antique barbed wire collectors were polled recently on their seven favorite wires from among the more than 1,200 currently collected. Value was to play no part in the selection. A relatively "common" wire worth 25 cents per 18-inch length had as much chance of being considered as did a rare one valued at as much as $250. The results surprised many.
Hodge's "Spur Rowel," patented in 1887 by Chester A. Hodge, Beloit, Wis., was the most popular wire (Fig. 1). Although valued at $3 at the time of the poll, perhaps this wire - more than any other - personified the "Old West." It consists of a wheel with eight or 10 points, mounted on an axle between two line wires. It looks like the spur rowel used on western cowboy spurs. This wire, now in the "scarce" category, has a value of at least $5.
Second place went to Reynold's Necktie, patented in 1878 by Hiram Reynolds, Marshalltown, Iowa. This unique wire (Fig. 2) features a two-piece barb on a single line wire. The wire looks like a tied necktie, hence the nickname. However, this beauty is only valued at $2.
In third place is Allis's "Saw tooth," 1881, valued at $1.50 to $2 (Fig. 3).
The fourth place wire, Cline's "Rail," has three parallel lines joined by the barb. It is valued at about $5 (Fig. 4).
Placing fifth was Stubbe's "Plate," an 1883 patent (Fig. 5). This is an example of an "obvious" (easily seen) wire. Stubble produced both the large plate and a smaller version, which are valued at $5 and $8 respectively. Both have more than doubled in price over the past five years, and are on the "scarce" list due to their extensive use in plaques.
In sixth place was Abram Ellwood's "Spread" barb, presented in 1882 (Fig. 6).
Last is Kelly's "Diamond Point," patented in 1868 (Fig. 7). This pioneer wire received the fourth U.S. patent issued for a barbed wire (the first three were never produced).
Incidentally, the award for "most unpopular" wire probably goes to Joseph Clidden's "Winner," an 1874 patent (Fig. 8). It was named in honor of its inventor, who was named (by Act of Congress) "The Inventor of Barbed Wire." Still in production worldwide, this wire is valued at only 10 cents! Because it is not unique enough to attract interest, it is rarely found in contemporary collections. Poor Glidden: he made the best wire, died rich, and is now cast aside! FC
Editor's Note: John Mantz is executive director of the American Barb Wire Collectors Society.