Cast Iron Seat Collector Travels Globe for Rare Seats
Vintage cast iron seat collecting is more than a hobby for this Texan – it's his mission
Don Lanford, Austin, Texas, proudly poses before a portion of his 600-piece cast iron seat collection.
Ninety-year-old Don Lanford has turned vintage cast iron seat collecting into more than just a hobby – it’s his mission.
In fact, Don has traveled the globe in search of rare and unusual seats to add to his collection, including Wales, Russia, China and Australia.
Yet, Don’s dedication to seat collecting has also carried him across America in search of hard-to-find seats. Just last year, the Austin, Texas, collector endured a grueling 28-hour bus ride to purchase a choice cast iron seat at auction for a friend and fellow collector in Wales.
After years of patient seat hunting, Don’s got the colorful collection to show for his efforts. Today, he owns about 600 cast iron seats – probably the largest collection in Texas. Don’s seats are all from vintage horse-drawn implements, except for one tractor seat. Few duplicates are found in Don’s collection, but he keeps a couple around to trade with other collectors.
A family affair
Don caught the itch for cast iron seat collecting after his brother, Rex, took up the hobby. Don began collecting cast iron seats in the 1950s, but didn’t become a serious collector until after he retired in 1990. “That’s when I first joined the Cast Iron Seat Collectors Association and started collecting a little more in earnest,” Don says.
The duo maintained a farm equipment sales and repair business for years, and began accumulating seats from repair jobs that came into the shop. Don can’t recall which seat he collected first among his massive and colorfully painted collection, but a Peters (Type 1) No. 824 seat was one of the original seats he collected. Rex found the seat in a field while on a pheasant hunting trip, and when Rex died in 1981, his wife gave Don the seat. “I’ve hung on to that seat because it has sentimental value,” Don says.
A Blanket, Texas, native, Don mounted most of his seats on wooden A-frames atop a flatbed trailer, which he stores outside the family business. Seats also line the business’s exterior walls and serve as antique ornaments that often draw the attention of customers.
Don’s most prized possessions reside indoors in the lobby, however. There, he proudly displays two racks of his most rare – and most valuable – seats. Many of the seats in this special collection have international origins, providing a peek at farm history and culture from countries such as Germany, Holland, Norway, France, Sweden, England, Australia and New Zealand.
Rare and unique
Don owns one pre-war German seat, which is particularly rare because most were melted and made into munitions during World War II. The seat is a Jacobi Hennef No. 573, which is rated a 10 in John D. Friedly Jr.’s Cast Iron Implement Seats V. “I don’t know of another anywhere,” Don says.
He paid $425 for the German seat at a collector’s auction in 2000. It’s difficult to estimate the seat’s worth, Don says, because it’s likely one of a kind. Bud Porter, newsletter editor for the Cast Iron Seat Collectors Association, agrees the market price for the Jacobi Hennef seat hasn’t been set, but adds that it’s probably worth more than $500 at auction today.
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