Farm Collector

Strength in Numbers

Curtis Norskog doesn’t remember a time when corn wasn’t a key
part of his life. “I grew up on a farm, and we raised corn,” he
says. He studied soils and agronomy at the University of Minnesota,
was a researcher at Pioneer Hi-Bred for 35 years, was instrumental
in forming the Corn Items Collectors Association and is the author
of Hybrid Seed Corn Enterprises: A Brief History. Last
July, he was among the Corn Items Collectors Association (CICA)
exhibitors set up at the Shelby County Fair in Harlan, Iowa.

Curtis’ collection got off the ground during his years at
Pioneer. He didn’t play favorites: He collected anything that had a
connection to corn … signs, husking hooks and pegs, seed corn
sacks, memo books, handheld planters, ball caps, cups, memorabilia
and more. Three decades later, he says, the hobby is more
accessible to the newcomer.

“eBay’s been a good boost for corn collectors,” he says. “You
find stuff there that you wouldn’t find otherwise. But it’s also
increased the price. Back in the 1980s, you could buy seed corn
sacks for $1-2. Now they’re $5-10 each.”

Today, he says, interest in corn items may be leveling off.
“Pioneer, DeKalb and Funk pieces are generally solid, as are
signs.” His favorite haunts are farm auctions and antique stores.
“It’s always fun to go around and see what there is,” he says, “see
if you can find something you haven’t seen before.”

Another Harlan exhibitor, Bob Anderson, Coon Rapids, Iowa, also
knows that thrill. With a collection of nearly 700 seed corn sacks
as well as signs, pens and pencils, belt buckles and pocket knives,
he’s constantly on the prowl for new treasures. Like Curtis, Bob
worked most of his life at Pioneer, and that career spawned a
hobby. “I’ve been in corn all my life,” he says. “Corn’s in my
blood.”

New collectors have to set their priorities, he says. “Sacks can
get pretty pricey, but you can buy them a lot cheaper than toy
tractors,” he notes. “You need to know the limit of what you want
to spend, and don’t try to build a collection overnight.” He
recommends CICA membership. “You’ll make a lot of friends in the
hobby.”

Hybrid seed sacks are the most collectible, he says. Sacks with
designs featuring animals or Indians cost more and are more
collectible, he says. Always look for bright colors. “Never wash a
sack, even if it’s really dirty,” he says. “If you wash it, it’ll
strip the color out and that cuts the value. I’d rather have a
dirty sack with bright colors than a clean one that’s washed
out.”

Sacks remain his first love. “I never take a sack for granted,”
he says. “I appreciate each one. I wish they could tell their
stories.” Some do, through attached tags, and that’s a bonus for
Bob. “I like to collect sacks with tags on them. Those tags tell
the year of germination, grade, variety number, purity, germination
rate, where the seed was grown, the company name and dealer name.
It’s all interesting to me.”

History is a strong draw for many collectors, and Gerald
Huebert, Portsmouth, Iowa, is no exception. A collector of check
wire used in early corn planters, he relishes the lessons learned
from farm relics. “The biggest thing about collecting is the
history you learn,” he says. As an example, he notes that before
wire became widely accessible, rope was used in check planters.
“And some rope has wire in it.”

Gerald’s exhibit of check wire samples added another dimension
to the Harlan CICA display. Fairly new to the category, and getting
familiar with a collection he purchased in its entirety, Gerald is
still learning. “Even check wire can be fake,” he says. “Some of
these pieces look questionable to me.”

Gerald’s entry into the hobby came by accident and was unrelated
to corn items. “I started out collecting fence posts,” he says.
“Then I moved on to fence tops. Then I went to my first barbed wire
show, and started on barbed wire.” Then he discovered check wire.
Today, he adds to his collection by finding new pieces at shows.
Although most are affordable, an 18-inch length can cost as much as
$100. But finds are not unheard of. “People find something you
collect,” he says, “and they’ll just give it to you.”

For more information:
The Corn Items Collectors Association, Robert Chamberlain, 9288
Poland, Warrensburg, FL 62573; (217) 674-3334; e-mail:
lain@frontiernet.net

CICA 2006 shows: Penfield, Ill., second full weekend in
July; Portland, Ind., Aug. 24-28; and Colchester, Ill., Sept.
1-4.

  • Published on Dec 1, 2005
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