Collecting: Vintage Seed Bags | Living the Country Life
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Collecting: Vintage Seed Bags

Seed bags date back to the early 20th century, when seeds such as corn and alfalfa were sold in large canvas sacks. Look-at-me colors and bold graphics are part of the history and charm of collecting vintage seed bags.
  • Photography by Bob Stefko

    Vintage Seed Bags

    Seed sellers conveyed the certainty of success with these bags: The graphic artists employed symbols of riches and even royalty to promote their firms’ hybrid varieties. These bags also made use of fearless combinations of typefaces— from chunky businesslike print to Gothic lettering and swirling script. The coarse canvas bags are as festive as flags.

    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017
  • The Promise of Hybrids

    Fancy hybrid varieties, introduced in the 1930s, increased farmers’ yields, and seed-corn sellers enticed farmers with colorful printed bags advertising the promise of blue-ribbon crops. The highly decorated bags celebrated regional pride as well as the successful farming life. 

    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017
  • Photography by Bob Stefko

    Multi-Use Bags

    The bags, big and sturdy enough to hold a bushel of corn, weighed up to about 60 pounds when they were full. Empty, they were endlessly useful—and likely to end up as curtains or carryalls, pillow covers, aprons, and even upholstery fabric. Farmers used them as tool bags, cleanup rags, or bedding for the barn’s resident mouser. Paper bags replaced cloth by the 1960s, but the old canvas bags that have survived preserve history of an era and a way of life.  

    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017
  • Photography by Bob Stefko

    Corn and More

    Vintage bags pinned up on the side of a barn demonstrate a charming variety in colors and graphics. Aside from corn, alfalfa, timothy, and clover seeds were also in sold in canvas bags.

    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017
  • Photography by Bob Stefko

    How to Collect Seed Bags

    Although they haven’t been made since about 1960, vintage canvas seed sacks printed with great-looking graphics are not hard to find. Collector and farmer, Don Delaney, holds one of his favorite vintage seed bags. He has more than 200 seed sacks, many of them displayed on the walls of his tractor barn. Delaney prefers buying at farm auctions; he suggests checking the website auctionzip.com for sales in your area. Some auctions accept online bids. Without leaving home, you can also look for seed bags through eBay.com and Etsy.com. Other places to find seed sacks include flea markets, estate sales, and antiques galleries specializing in vintage art and farm items. Prices may range from $10 up to about $75. 

    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017
  • Prized Collectibles

    Great bags usually have a bold combination of typefaces and graphics; even the fine print is still legible. Bags with paper tags still attached, naming the place of origin, lot number, and planting information, also go for top prices. Most bags were printed only on one side, and bags with graphics on both sides are among the most collectible. Two-sided bags put a buyer on the spot: To display them properly, you really need to buy two.

    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017
  • Photography by Bob Stefko

    Graphics Aimed to Influence Buying

    Colorful canvas seed bags were intended to grab attention in the crowded aisles of a busy seed and feed store. Some of the bags bore printed-on instructions to help customers wash off the logos, but collectors today prefer unwashed bags, with colors as crisp and bright as the day they were printed. Farmers have been saving seed for centuries, but as many of these bags indicate, modern strains of corn are hybrids. 

    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017
  • Photography by Bob Stefko

    Seed Bags Reflect Locality

    Marketers appealed to regional pride in some of their designs. From top, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana (the lake is faintly visible in blue), were mapped onto these bags. A Maxinkuckee Brand bag recently sold on eBay for almost $50. 

    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017
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    Date Published: August 24, 2017
    Date Updated: August 25, 2017

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