An American Agriculture Collection with Eye Appeal

Varied farm relics celebrate a golden era of American agriculture.


| April 2017



gate latchers

Gate latchers are among the random items in Steve's collection.

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.”