Cream Separators and Dairy Collectibles Group Annual Meeting
Collectors of milking machines and butter churns come together to celebrate dairy items
Johnny Shultz with part of his extensive collection of DeLaval items. Treasures in his collection include window transfers dating to the 1890s, and four early wall calendars in mint condition. Among the four: a rare "Indian" calendar that was given to creamery executives. "They're pretty hard to find," he said.
When the Cream Separators and Dairy Collectibles group met recently for their annual meeting, the only thing missing was the ice cream. Otherwise, the 100 or so collectors who gathered at the National Agricultural Center at Bonner Springs, Kan., had the entire dairy scene covered: cream separators, milking machines, butter churns and a barn full of memorabilia were on display.
That reflects an ever-increasing interest, said collector Kent Gordon, Palestine, Texas.
"The number of dairy collectors keeps getting bigger all the time," he said.
Technology, though, is changing the hunt, said Johnny Shultz, Platte City, Mo. Johnny and Larry Gibbons, Independence, Mo., helped organize the Bonner Springs gathering.
"I think you can still find a lot of really nice items," Johnny said. "There's still a lot out there, although separators are getting a little tougher to find. But the internet is making this stuff easier to find. There's always 40 dairy items for sale on Ebay. And when the rare items are on, everybody's bidding."
Johnny started collecting before electronic auctions got underway, and remembers fondly the days of trooping through antique stores and writing to book dealers. Hunting for antiques on the Internet is more time efficient, he said, but less entertaining.
"It does take some of the fun out," he admits. "I spent five years looking for a 1906 DeLaval cookbook. Two weeks after I got on the internet, one came up. It makes it easier, but you just sit in front of the computer. And you have to be disciplined. Sometimes there's so much there."
Online auctions may have changed the hunt for some collectors, but there's still plenty of fun in gatherings like the one at Bonner Springs.
Sam Stephens, Warminster, Penn., has been a regular at the dairy collectors annual meeting for several years now.
"I like the fellowship of the group here," he said. "You make friendships over the years. The story telling, it's almost like old men sitting by a stove at the general store. That's the same feeling I get here."
Sam and his wife, Barbara, collect mainly Sharpies Separator Company items: Pocket watches, watch fobs, metal signs, calendars, posters, paper, and postcards. They also collect cream separators, milking machines, and butter churns.
The couple is at work on a book covering advertising from cream separator and milking machine companies.
"We're going to try to list all the cream separator and milking machine companies," he said, "and try to provide an example of everything produced that was colorful."
They even built an addition on to their house to create room for their collection, but the extra space filled up fast.
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