Most individuals have only a limited amount of space that can be dedicated to hobbies and collectibles. That means a person sometimes has to forego larger items and focus instead on smaller, related ones. In the automotive area, cars, trucks and tractors take up so much room that scale models are often collected instead.
Branching off from that, some specialize in collecting associated accouterments like oil cans, spark plugs and hood ornaments. The hunt for and discovery of an elusive example of a smaller collectible can be just as exhilarating as finding the large ones.
I didn’t set out to collect stove nameplates. However, as a historian I enjoy looking through any accumulation of old “stuff.” My main interest lies in the automotive realm but almost every location where some old car, truck or tractor is found also has the remains of other human activity.
Abandoned farmsteads are an excellent example. Everyone needed a kitchen range and/or a heating stove and those are often still lying around. At such sites, some unique nameplate would catch my eye and I quickly learned that if I turned over what looked like it used to be a stove, I’d often find a nameplate. The plates’ creative designs captivated me and it just didn’t seem right to walk away and leave them.
After saving a few, it dawned on me that a display would be worth making. That spurred an interest in collecting more. The change from casually noticing them while looking for something else to actually having an eye out for them resulted in two changes in behavior.
First, even if no automotive possibilities are available, I make an effort to look through remains of other ancient “stuff” when the opportunity presents itself. Second, I began carrying a small hammer and chisel on such excursions. That prevents the great frustration earlier experienced when a choice nameplate was available but I was unequipped to remove it from what it was attached to. More than once it was understood that what I wanted to salvage was due for disposal before I could return with proper tools.
If you decide to collect stove nameplates, be prepared to carry away weighty hunks of old cast iron that used to be a stove. Even with ordinary preparation, some circumstance may cause you to either take the whole large section or leave the choice piece behind. That may mean getting your hands dirty and occasionally straining your back a little. But that is not totally a negative. If you are like me, you may find other uses for the remaining parts. Doors that opened to add fuel to the fire and oven doors make decorative closures in a family room where items are stored. Tops of small parlor stoves make unique picture frames. What you come up with is limited only by your creativity. The ornate cast iron pieces of many stoves are so appealing that they almost beg to be used for some decorating purpose. FC
1. The variety of nameplates is so great that rarely does a person find two the same. If the name is the same, the metal surrounding it is almost always different.
2. They are small so they are easily handled and displayed.
3. The old stoves they are attached to have often deteriorated to the point that they are useless, so removing the nameplate has no effect.
4. Most are made of cast iron, so they don’t suffer from rust to the same degree steel does.
5. They are most often attached to the stoves with only a few fasteners.
6. Although the fasteners rarely come off easily, a small ball peen hammer and a really small metal chisel can pop them off with little effort.
7. More elaborate nameplates are nickel-plated and very impressive.
8. Non-plated nameplates were originally stove black. Collected ones usually need only to be wire brushed and coated with flat black spray paint to return them to their original appearance.
9. Many can be attached to a display of some kind using the same holes originally used to fasten them to the stove.
10. I’ve never had to pay for one. Permission to remove one from the owner’s rusty hunk of an old stove has always been granted.
11. Few other collectors focus on stove nameplates, so there is little or no competition for that choice example.
12. Even a nice collection isn't valuable enough to require insuring it or worrying about someone stealing it.
A retired high school history teacher, Clell Ballard has worked on farms since he was in grade school, including 53 summers spent working on his uncle’s dryland hay and grain ranch. He also is a dealer of World War II-era military vehicles and parts. Contact him at (208) 764-2313 (and bear in mind the time difference with Mountain Standard Time) or by email at email@example.com.