John Ward doesn’t view barbed wire as just a means of corralling livestock. To him, some barbed wire is a collector’s item or even artwork.


John Ward doesn’t view barbed wire as just a means of corralling livestock. To him, some barbed wire is a collector’s item or even artwork.
“I grew up on a farm and worked with barbed wire fencing,” Ward said. “Barbed wire seemed like something I could be interested in.”
While most people likely picture today’s standard, two-strand barbed wire with prongs, at least 2,000 different kinds have been invented since 1867 and at least 450 types have been patented in the last 140 years.
Ward has handled many kinds of barbed wire.
“At one time, I had maybe 200 varieties,” he said. “Now I’ve got about 100. I’m not really collecting anymore. I’m selling it.”
While some pieces can sell for as much as several hundred dollars, Ward says the pieces in his collection are worth less than that.
“I know one fellow had some valuable wire that he kept in a bank box,” he said. “I don’t have any like that.”
The collection Ward has now is not his first. When he came to Kansas after teaching animal science at the University of Nebraska, he left behind an extensive collection at a Nebraska museum, which he says was a “better place” for it.
Ward didn’t stopped at collecting wire, though. He also makes wall art using wood, barbed wire, horseshoes and photos he takes himself. He used to sell the art in several locations, but now only supplies them to a gift shop in Belle Plaine, where he estimates he’s sold four or five dozen pieces.
Ward says some the best places he’s found barbed wire are from barbed wire shows, other collectors, or just from driving by a fence in the country and asking a farmer for a piece. He’s also received many pieces - some collectible, some not - from people who know he collects barbed wire.
“Everything I’m interested in is antique barbed wire,” he said. “Everything I get is usually rusty, but it has to be more than rusty.”