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Collecting Antique Tractors

Antique tractors can be valued up to six figures.

| BY Kent McDill

On Nov. 30, 2013, Howard Alexson of Greeley, Colo., auctioned off the 40 antique tractors he had squeezed into his 150-by-50 foot shed on his farm.

Over 1,000 people from 20 states, including Florida, came to the farm in Weld County, Colo., to see the collection, which was considered one of the best such auction collections ever.

“We’ve never heard of an antique tractor auction quite like this anywhere in the area, not this big, and not in the 30 years we have been in business,’’ said Bob Kreps of Kreps Wiedeman Auctioneers, which conducted the show.

Antique tractor collecting is big business, and there are dozens of auctions conducted every year, most in the Midwest and Great Plains states.

Mecum Auctions in Iowa is preparing its fourth annual Spring Auction in Davenport, Iowa in April. Last year’s event had 200 tractors up for bid and thousands of attendees. Last year, the event auctioned the 1920 Samson Cane M tractor, believed to the first high crop tractor ever produced.

In late March, Davenport will also host the Gathering of the Green conference, a biannual event for John Deere two-cylinder tractor collectors. Farmall and Case are two other tractor manufacturers which are popular among antique tractor collectors.

Axelson finally decided to let go of his antique tractor collection as he and his wife prepared to sell their farm and move to Montana. The collection had started as a fun activity as Howard and his father John traveled the country looking for the best possible specimens of the unique farm vehicle.

“”He hated horses,’’ Axelson said of his farmer father to the Aurora Sentinel newspaper. “So when the family got its first tractor, sometime during the Depression, he thought that was the coolest thing ever. He was hooked on tractors from then on.”

John Axelson is not alone. Almost every state in the continental U.S. has an antique tractor collector organization, like the Maine Antique Tractor Club, which has 500 members. Like many tractor collectors, the Maine organization promotes the hobby as a way to connect with the American past when farming ruled the country.

“Membership gives the family something to enjoy together and because children are always welcome at all club functions, they learn to appreciate their agricultural heritage,’’ the club website says.

Antique tractors have become very popular among Europeans, who enjoy the American auctions because the exchange rate is so favorable.

“Any time you have the big old tractors, the Europeans will be there,’’ said antique tractor auctioneer Lonnie Nixon to National Public Radio. “They buy them and ship them back to Europe.”

As antique tractors leave the U.S. for foreign homes, the price of the remaining stockpile of tractors goes up.

If an antique tractor enthusiast is unable to collect them, that person can certainly get a look at the history of the machine at the Farmall-Land USA museum in Iowa where Jerry Avoca has lovingly preserved hundreds of tractors in an air-conditioned and heated space.

The love of antique tractors comes from a memory Americans have of the day when farming ruled the country and tractors ruled the farms.

 “(The tractors) are interesting,” said Barb Flores, who attended the Axelson auction just for fun. “It’s the way they’re made. It’s kind of an art form.”

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.