Introduction to the Kinker Collection

Growing up in Missouri, near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, I was never far away from the evidence of the early inhabitants of the Midwest.  My Grandmother would take me, from the age of 5 or 6, out into the fields of the neighboring farms to look for “arrowheads”.  The excitement of dreaming about these ancient hunters, and warriors never left me.  On the walls of my room were boards, cut out in the shape of large arrowheads and to these boards were carefully wired my prized finds. 

As I learned more of the early history of the region, I began to visit Cahokia Mounds and Dixon Mounds in Illinois.  At Cahokia I met Greg Perino who had explored the sites along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers with his friend Thomas Gilcrease.  I met Dr. Dixon who had a large display of ancient material at Dixon Mounds in central Illinois.  It was Dr. Dixon who introduced me to the early pottery of the Mound Builders.

There were many collectors in our part of the country, and I never tired of looking at and learning from their wonderful collections.  By the time Elaine and I moved back to Missouri, after my service in the military, we thought of ourselves not only as serious collectors but, more importantly, as enthusiastic students of the Mound Builder culture.

Years ago, I had the good fortune of being introduced to a fellow named Forrest Fenn.  When Elaine and I traveled to Santa Fe to visit him, we were completely in awe of his knowledge of art, his wonderful gallery, his fabulous home decorated with Indian art of all kinds, his great stories of the early Taos artists - and - he liked prehistoric material as well!  I had never thought much about collecting historical items until I saw Forrest’s office, with, it seemed to me, dozens and dozens of pipe bags hanging like stalagtites from the ceiling.  That was the beginning of my appreciation for beaded material, and Elaine, with her love for handicraft and design, was attracted to the basketry of the West and Southwest.  We appreciate the Forrest’s inspiration, hospitality and friendship.

We have met and been helped by so many other collectors, dealers and friends from Massachusetts to California that it would take an entire page to list them.  We thank them all and we cherish our memories with them all.  Last year in Santa Fe, as new members of ATADA (Thank you Merrill Domas and Paul Gray), we were introduced to Clinton and Susan Nagy, Susan’s sister Pat, Pat’s husband Roger and many other ATADA members. So, now we have found yet another group of friends to share in our enthusiasm for this wonderful material!

I want to thank John Warnock for his help, his kindness and his support for the development of this important website.  The Splendid Heritage website is, in my opinion, the best way yet devised to allow the world to become familiar with these rare and beautiful items.  It is a pleasure to be included in this important endeavor.


Joe and Elaine Kinker

To download a PDF file of the Kinker Collection click