The Modern Age: Collecting Barbed Wire
do I start a collection?
It is not difficult or expensive to start a basic
barbed wire collection. It is possible to spend as much or as little money
as you wish, depending upon how serious of a collector that you wish to
become. The beginner can expect to pay from a few cents to a few dollars
for a sample. Many collectors offer starter sets that can be purchased
for under $25.00. Until you become a serious wire collector, you may want
to shy away from the more expensive wires.
One way to build a collection, is to search in
the country for wires to either add to your collection or to trade for
other wires. Visit with farmers and ranchers in your area to obtain permission
to hunt for wire on their land. Often, land owners will be able to direct
you to an old dump or abandoned fence row that may hold some very unusual
wire. Sometimes, valuable or unusual wires can be found coiled up in the
corner of a pasture. Never cut wire from a fence. However, if you ask permission,
the land owner may permit to splice out the wire you want if you replace
it with new or good quality wire.
There are certain things to look for when deciding
whether to include a wire sample in your collection. Make sure that the
wire is at least eighteen inches long. It doesn't hurt to cut a wire a
fraction of an inch longer, but a wire that is less than eighteen inches
in length can be worthless. Barbs should be evenly spaced from each end,
and there should be no missing or broken barbs. If you are purchasing wire
from another collector, make sure the sample is identified correctly. In
many instances the difference in appearance between two wires is barely
discernable, but the difference in value may be considerable.
Your collection may include more than just wire
samples. There are hundreds of patented tools for working with barbed wire.
Or, you may choose to include in your collection fence posts, ornamental
post tops, liniments, or barbed wire advertising memorabilia.
do I identify my collection?
There were more than 530 patents for barbed wires.
Including variations of these patents, bootlegged (unlawfully produced),
and homemade wires, there are over 2000 types of barbed wire. There are
several books that can help you identify and catalog your collection. One
of the best books is the Barbed Wire Identification Encyclopedia,by
Harold Hagemeier. This book separates by category nearly every recognized
variation of barbed wire. Detailed illustrations help you be sure that
you have the right match. Another book that may help you get started is
"Barbs, Prongs, Points, Prickers, and Stickers," by Robert T. Clifton. This
418 page book is an excellent tool for the beginner. The "Bobbed Wire
Bible IX" by Jack Glover has been the main reference book for many
years. Though not as detailed, this book is a great starter handbook.
There are several numbering systems to classify
and catalog individual wires. One of the most widely used was the Glover
number system used in the "Bobbed Wire Bible" series. Glover numbers have
been used since the 1960's as the official identification system for buying,
trading, and collecting barbed wire. Today, the Glover numbering system
is being replaced by a new system from the Barbed Wire Identification
Encyclopedia written by Harold Hagemeier. Use of either numbering system is acceptable,
however, the Hagemeier numbering system is utilized in the official value guide
produced annually by The Symposium.
can I buy, trade or sell wires?
Once a year, on the first weekend in May, collectors
from across the country gather in LaCrosse, Kansas to buy, sell, and trade
artifacts from our nations past; barbed wire. The Barbed Wire Swap and
Sell is one of many conventions held across the United States for barbed
wire collectors. The main focus of the convention is the sale and trade
of barbed wire samples, however, other items may also be showcased including
carved limestone yard posts, railroad memorabilia, antiques, and craft
Exhibitors are also invited to bring their mounted
collections for public display. This provides collectors an opportunity
to "show off" their collections and submit them for judging in a variety
of categories. Ribbons and awards are presented at the end of the show
during the annual banquet.
The swap and sell provides collectors with an
opportunity to expand or enrich their collections. Individuals as well
as dealers of barbed wire and related items showcase their inventory and
are prepared to buy, sell, and trade. This provides new collectors with
almost limitless opportunities to obtain samples for their collections
that may be otherwise difficult to obtain. Collectors may also purchase
wire bundles or complete collections from the barbed wire public auction
held on the last day of the show.
A highlight of the Kansas Barbed Wire Swap and
Sell is the World Champion Barbed Wire Splicing Contest. Contestants demonstrate
their strength and speed in splicing a simulated barbed wire fence with
only leather gloves as their tools. Beauty doesn't matter in this contest,
because it does not matter how the splice looks, as long as it will support
a 75 pound weight suspended from its center.
If you are unable to make it to the show in LaCrosse,
there are other shows held during the spring, summer, and fall throughout
the midwest. Consult the museum or a collectors association for time and
do I become part of a wire collectors organization?
There are numerous Barbed Wire Collectors' Associations
located in the United States. The Kansas Barbed
Wire Collectors Association is the parent corporation to the Kansas
Barbed Wire Museum and has its home offices in LaCrosse, Kansas. Other
collectors associations, based in several midwestern states, are eager
to help new collectors. Many associations provide their members with newsletters
to keep members informed of current activities. Members of The Antique Barbed Wire Society
receive a subscription to The Barbed Wire Collector the official publication of the hobby.
Contact the museum for more information on how to become involved in a barbed wire association.
Kansas Barbed Wire Collectors Association,
P.O. Box 578, LaCrosse, KS 67548 Phone 785-222-9900.