Collectible Corn Items: The Corn Item Collectors Association

Corn Items Collectors display varied category at regional meet.


| September 2008



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Bob Frey, Durant, Iowa, with some of his Pioneer seed corn memorabilia. A Pioneer employee for 42 years, Bob has a broad array of signs, pencils, paring knives, yardsticks, rain gauges, ashtrays, lighters, toys and bags. One bag he recalls very well. “It was a clear plastic bag made of heavy plastic and heat-sealed,” he says. “It was really impressive, the way the corn showed through.” But that beauty was only skin-deep. “You couldn’t stack those bags,” he says. “They were kind of like footballs. And the plastic didn’t breathe, resulting in spoilage. It was a real disaster.”

Misery, they say, loves company. But so do collectors - and that accounts for the success of the Corn Items Collectors Assn. CICA members enjoy nothing more than contact with fellow collectors, whether it's over the phone, via e-mail or face to face at a show. The group's spring regional, held in March at the Kenny Bush farm in Milan, Ill., was evidence of that.

More than 40 members attended from all over the Midwest, most bringing displays of corn items from their collections. Some members' collections are vast and comprehensive; others may have just one old relic. But all are welcome, and all enjoy the interaction and opportunity to learn about the category.

"We have an active, strong organization with widely scattered membership," says CICA Secretary/Treasurer Bob Chamberlain, Warrensburg, Ill. "It can be hard to get everyone together at the same time but there's a lot of communication among us. We talk over the phone and learn about new members and their collections, and help each other out. That's what gives our club some solidarity."

Formed 27 years ago, CICA promotes collection, restoration, preservation and display of corn-related items. The range of items stretches from matchbooks to implements and everything in between. Membership has held steady at just under 200 for several years, with the majority in the Midwest.

CICA members have a series of annual events, including shows at the I&I Antique Tractor & Gas Engine Club's Historic Farm Days, Penfield, Ill.; the Northern Indiana Power from the Past club show, Winamac, Ind.; Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show, Portland, Ind.; and the Argyle Antique Gas Engine Assn. show, Colchester, Ill., which serves as the club's "founders' meeting." Several members also attend the Illinois corn husking competition (held this year in Roseville on Oct. 18). The spring regional, which often includes an auction, is held at a different location each year.

The focus, always, is on preservation of America's agricultural heritage. For instance, the club encourages members to consider ultimate disposition of their collections. "We want these items to stay with people who know what they are and care about them," Bob says. But there's plenty of good times mixed in. "Even though we might only see each other once or twice a year, it's like we're neighbors," Bob says. "Everybody sort of looks after everybody else. It's the kind of opportunity that doesn't exist for a lot of people."