The Call of the Collector


| May 2001



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A DeKalb sign typical of those once used on fenceposts

Most people have an easy time drawing a line between their work and their hobby. But for Tony Mitchell DeZago, that line is blurred beyond recognition. A transplanted New Yorker, Tony works as an auctioneer in southern California. His all-consuming hobby - his passion, actually - is collecting antique farm equipment.

Tony is the kind of man who embraces his passions with an enthusiastic vigor. During the years he worked in the music industry in southern California, he amassed a vast collection of LP records. Later, he was nearly consumed by a collection of classic cars and related literature and photographs. Now, it's antique farm equipment that's found a home on a 7.5 acre ranch in the Anza Borrego desert.

'In addition to the tractor collection, I have nearly 40 horse- or tractor-drawn implements ranging from walking cultivators and plows to grain drills and wagons,' he says. 'I have approximately 400 different antique farm harvest tools and pieces of old hardware, several cream and milk cans, 20 hand-cranked or electric-powered cream separators, a variety of seed separators, fanning mills, grist mills, silage cutters, corn shellers and planters; hay hooks, forks and knives; well pumps, windmills, old gas pumps, numerous iron wheels, single trees and double trees, hames, hay rakes and elevators, manure spreaders, grain bins, livestock carriers, gas engines, farm trucks and vintage cars, antique washing machines, wash tubs, pails, feeders, and at least 275 metal and porcelain signs, pedal tractors, 27 tractors, tractor parts, oh and don't let me forget to mention diecast toys, farm-related books, original factory literature and collectibles.

'Personally, I'm hooked, I'll admit it,' he says. 'I love this stuff, but my wife ... well, bless her heart, she still panics when she sees our neighbor, Jim Carnahan, and me coming through the gate with another trailer load.'

Given the one-way direction of trailer loads through that gate, Loretta DeZago's fears are well founded.

'Occasionally, I'll sell some of my farm stuff,' Tony says. 'But that's pretty rare. I'm constantly buying; I'm always interested.'