Farm Thermometers: One Hot Collectible

Popularity of farm thermometers rising like mercury on a summer day

| November 2000

One of the most used items on the farm is now a hot collectible: the lowly farm thermometer. Many are mounted outside the kitchen window for a fast check of outside temperatures, while others are nailed to walls of the shop, barn or other outdoors sites. 

Knowing their importance on the farm, agribusiness concerns have used thermometers as advertising vehicles for years. Feed, seed, fertilizer, chemical and machinery dealers are familiar names on farm thermometers. Those advertisers know that farmers will use that give-away for decades, until the printing is faded or the glass tube breaks.

Thermometers with coils – made with spring-like metal that expands or contracts with temperature changes, linked to a pointer over a dial – are less common than mercury-tube models. Coils can also turn a round dial with a scale that can be read through a small window. Those are likely the rarest of collectible farm thermometers.

DeWayne Adams, Davis Junction, Ill., collects coil thermometers, particularly large round ones with faces covered by a plastic or glass lens. He specializes in pieces issued by seed companies.

"I have Pioneer, Acco, Super Crost, Trojan and FS," he says. "These will vary in size from about 12 inches, up to about 20 inches in diameter, with bodies made of light metal covered with enamel paint."

DeWayne branched off into collecting thermometers after beginning with other farm advertising collectibles. Friends, relatives and other collectors find thermometers for him, and he keeps an eye open at antique malls, flea markets and auctions.