While growing up, I played along the railroad tracks a lot. Always a packrat, I started bringing home insulators. This was the first phase of my interest.
In the early 1980s, I saw insulator collecting as a way to take a break from graduate studies. I liked being out in the country exercising my body instead of my mind for a while and finding some insulators was an added bonus. About this time, I discovered the NIA and Crown Jewels. This was phase two of my interest. At this point, I still did not have many insulators. After graduate school, I taught at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for five years and continued to hunt for insulators in my spare time. I went to a few shows and visited local collectors but was still a casual collector.
In 1987, I took a long vacation to go to my first national in Fresno, California. Before I left Wisconsin, I called Chris Hedges in Kansas City, MO and he invited me to stay at his house one night. We had a blast and I saw some great insulators. He suggested I visit Dan Wagner in Omaha, Nebraska the next day and called to arrange it. I saw an incredible Pyrex collection and my first McLaughlin insulators. Dan thought I should visit Paul Ickes in Council Bluffs, Iowa and called to get directions. I surprisingly stayed overnight with Paul and Carol and was let loose in their garage to look through insulators in boxes. In Fresno, I stayed at Mike and Becky Guthrie's house one night and overdosed on the world's largest collection. The next day I hooked up with another collector and shared a hotel room. This is when I entered phase three of my collecting. I found the friendship of collecting more satisfying than the actual objects of collecting. I eventually finished doctoral coursework at The Ohio State University and got a full-time job at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, IL where I now have some money to go to more shows.
I specialize in oddball insulators and hobby ephemera. In terms of insulators, I collect suspensions, aerial spacers, radio strains, nonglass/nonporcelain insulators (rubber, plastic, bakelite, polymers, and compositions), third rail insulators, and house insulators (knobs, tubes & cleats). I also collect commemoratives, and porcelain pin types. Glass insulators, multiparts and substation pieces also fill my collection. I also collect Glass and Porcelain Ashtrays made by insulator manufacturers.
I collect a variety of hobby ephemera. I have about 30 insulator-related catalogs, a large percentage of the books printed for the hobby, club newsletters from 1992-present, membership cards from different clubs, the NIA, and the Insulator Society of America, club patches, and photocopies of articles from old journals. I'm still looking for many club newsletters, membership cards from the early years, early NIA Drip Points, more material on the Insulator Society of America, and show booklets from the Nationals.
You can reach me at or can send mail to me at
4086 Blackstone Ave.
Gurnee, IL 60031
College of Lake County
19351 W. Washington St.
Grayslake, IL 60030
or call me at 847-782-8602
Written by Rick Soller,
Last updated Sunday, February 25, 1996
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