Round-Up of Stockyard Collectibles
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"There's a national spur and bit club, with many unusual and historic designs coming from the stockyards," Gene says. "These sometimes command very high prices, in the thousands of dollars. More affordable are older bullet pencils in good condition, usually bringing $5 to $7.50. But an Omaha stockyards padlock and key cost me $50."
Gene's favorite collectibles include a razor and a knife sold by "Jack Knife Ben," an immigrant who drifted into Chicago's National Stockyards. Jack Knife Ben sold a variety of knives and cutlery bearing his emblem and mottoes, and he became a fixture at the stockyards.
Gene says old commission company and yards calendars usually sell in the $30 to $50 range, but sometimes go much higher, according to condition and rarity. He also owns a wooden thermometer issued by Clay Robinson Commission Co., a Stetson hat with "Ship to Chicago" printed on the sweatband along with names of commission house in the now-gone Chicago Exchange Building, a Burlington Commission Company metal screwdriver, and a sewing kit in a metal capsule from Crider Brothers at the Kansas City stockyards.
Besides tins for lard, others Gene owns include a Swift's Premium Peanut Butter and a Savortite Meats for Babies. Max Nordeen, owner of the Wheels Museum, Alpha, Ill., has in his mirror collection one with a picture of the Chicago Stockyards on the back. While the mirror is a family heirloom and not for sale, Max estimates its value at $100 or more.
Mitchell McKay, Hawthorn Woods, Ill., says he looks for anything connected with livestock commission firms, especially paper items and calendars. Also, he notes, the collector may choose one firm, such as that owned by John Clay, who was probably the largest advertiser and promoter of the industry through his commission business.
"Clay's yearly calendar giveaway was a beauty," Mitchell says. "Other things associated with him were watchfobs, match safes, bullet pencils, postcards and market reports."
For lots of stockyards history and collectibles news, check out Mitchell's newsletter, and the related Stockyard Collectors Club gives members a chance to share information, plus show and trade collectibles. FC
For more information: Mitchell McKay, (847) 566-5914. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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