Preserving American Agricultural Heritage

An Illinois collection celebrates traditional farm practices.

| September 2017

There are two types of collectors, says Dennis Rehn. “One doesn’t want you to know what he has,” he says, “and the other one can’t wait to tell you about the new thing he found.”

Dennis, who lives near Kirkland, Illinois, puts himself firmly in the second camp. “Nothing gives me more pleasure than talking about this stuff,” he says.

“This stuff” is Dennis’ description of a collection that takes in everything from corn collectibles to wagons to signs to hog ringers. And it all started with higher education. Dennis has been an active collector for 20 years, dating to the time his kids left home for college.

“Our daughters went to college in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and Jacksonville, Illinois,” he explains. “We wouldn’t let them have cars on campus until after their first two years, so we made a lot of trips to pick them up and bring them home. At some point, I figured if I was going to make those trips, I’d take a day for me and hit the antique shops along the way.”

Corn is king of this collection

It started innocently enough. “Twenty years ago, money was short, but seed corn bags sold for $5 or $10 each,” he says. “I could pick up a bag and be happy.” Seven hundred bags later, he has a good representation of the galaxy. “I don’t have many duplicates,” he admits.

The bags paved the way to a major category in what would become an all-encompassing passion for corn collectibles. Corn planters, shellers, seed corn dryers, germination trays, a smut destroyer, signs and more dominate the collection.