Barbed wire comes in many formats of poke.

Over at Collectors Weekly, BB pal Ben Marks lays out the fascinating history of barbed wire through the eyes of those who collect the stuff. Yes, there are barbed wire collectors. From Collectors Weekly…


This legacy is of keen interest to people like Parker, who collect mostly 18-inch-long sections of wire, which are often mounted on boards so the twisted strands and barbs don’t get all tangled up. There were some 800 unique barbed-wire patents, and many more unpatented variations for a total of perhaps 2,000 types of barbed wire. Some feature wire barbs attached to single or double strands. Others sport stationary barbs or rotating rowels made of sheet metal in decorative shapes, from leaves to diamonds to stars. Some barbed wire isn’t wire at all, made instead out of ribbons of sheet metal that have been punctured or sliced to create nasty points.

Like many collectors, (Karl) Parker was familiar with barbed wire long before it ever occurred to him to collect it. “I grew up with cows and fixed a lot of fence in my day,” he says. “I didn’t like barbed wire then, and I still don’t like to fix fence today. But when I was a little boy, my father took me to one of his friends’ houses. He was a collector and had a bunch of wire. I was always fascinated with it, but it never really stuck until I was out of high school. I’d be helping someone fix a fence and I’d see a new wire. I’d take small pieces home and it sort of escalated from there.”

These days, Parker concentrates his collecting efforts on rare wire. “I like the figure barbs and some of the more complex bends,” he says. “It’s fascinating to me that they did this with the machinery they had back then. Now it’s easy, but in the late 1800s, the ingenuity of the machines they built to bend the wire and insert a barb was amazing.”

Barbed Wire, From Cowboy Scourge to Prized Relic of the Old West