An American Agriculture Collection with Eye Appeal

Varied farm relics celebrate a golden era of American agriculture.

| April 2017

  • Gate latchers are among the random items in Steve's collection.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Sulky plow footrests in Steve's collection. Countless footrests were scrapped years ago. Today, most of those that survived are in collectors' hands.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The cast iron base of this Sampson windmill store sample makes it unusual. Such pieces usually have a wood base, Steve says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Windmill wights march across a shelf. "I would rather see them on a windmill," Steve says, noting that they would then be vulnerable to theft. "It's just a sign of the times," he says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Phyllis and Steve Renz with some of their collectibles. The ornamental weather vanes shown at top center are typical of those that a wealthy farmer might have owned, Steve says. "Some are really uncommon," he says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Steve’s buggy rein holders run the gamut from utilitarian to artistic. “Some latch, some are springloaded,” he says. “One even says J.I. Case on it.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The round seat on this Evans planter is not original to the implement. The unit’s original round seat is in another collector’s hands.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Original dealer stencils are clearly visible on the planter boxes.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This promotion for Adriance, Platt & Co. is printed on a canvas-like fabric. “It’s a very unusual type of advertising medium,” Steve says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Original hand-painted pinstriping on Steve’s Morrison sulky plow.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Steve has four windmills, including this Model L Baker.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Even the lowly buggy tag captures the elegance of a bygone era.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This Fuller & Johnson seat is the first seat Steve bought.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Steve’s Buckeye mower appears to be fully functional. He hopes to find traces of original paint beneath the relatively new paint that was on the piece when he bought it.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus

Steve Renz stands solidly in today’s world. He depends on computers, smartphones and advanced farm machinery. Despite that – or perhaps because of that – he is also completely captivated by the past.

A farmer in Superior, Nebraska, Steve has spent a lifetime gathering fine relics that celebrate the history of American agriculture. Including everything from gate latchers to buggy rein holders, windmills to horse-drawn implements, lithographs to cast iron seats, his collection salutes an era now lost to the dust of time.

Some collectors fall in love with a line of engines or tractors. Others are caught up by early technological processes, like that found in steam engines. Still others gravitate to specific items – hog oilers, tools, memorabilia. Steve’s collection is not easily categorized, but much of it is centered on the artistry of the past: the elegant detail of early industrial design, all the more remarkable for its application to the hardworking business of farming. “For me,” he says, “a lot of it has to do with eye appeal.”

Starting with seats

Steve traces his interest in antique farm pieces to his college years. “My roommate and his family collected old stuff,” he says, “and my parents did, too. My dad never traded anything off.” Steve got his start simply enough, collecting coins and stamps. “It’s called a disorder,” he muses, with a smile.



By the mid-1990s, he’d begun to specialize. “It really started with seats,” he says. “But after I got so many, it got harder to find the ones I was looking for, or they cost more.”

The injection of ornate design into a utilitarian cast iron item drew him in; the enormous number of seats produced for implements created a galaxy of unique tantalizing possibilities. Steve became a serious collector, but in recent years, he’s tightened his focus. “I’m down to 250 seats now,” he says. “I like to display them if I can. If I have too many to display, it becomes boring.”