Farm equipment manufacturers produced brittle cast iron seats for horse-drawn farm implements from about 1850 to 1900. Most of the original patterns were made from wood, except for one, “Wishusen,” which was cast in Stafford, Kan., from a pattern built of clay.
Seats carried various patterns and often the manufacturer’s name — after all, the seat was a great place for equipment manufacturers to advertise their company and add a splash of uniqueness to their machines. Equipment salesmen would often custom-fit seats for different buyers, ensuring the piece of machinery was as comfortable as possible to operate. After 1900, manufacturers began making seats from pressed steel. These later seats might be interesting finds, seat collector Don Lanford says, but are worthless to cast iron seat collectors.
The addition of seats on farm implements was revolutionary and enabled easier and more efficient farming. With seats, farmers could ride behind their machines instead of trudging behind in the mud and muck. The innovation also saved time and allowed farmers to use their feet to operate newly invented levers and freed their hands to drive the horses.
Seat collectors have identified about 1,600 different seats, Don says, and they’re all rated on a scale of 1 to 10.5 for condition and rarity in design. New finds are often added to the list, and some seats are one of a kind.
Those one-of-a-kind seats earn a 10.5 rating — that’s because they’re naturally the most valuable and sought after by collectors.
In 1973, a small group of seat collectors formed the Cast Iron Seat Collectors Association. As of 2004, the group is a global network of about 600 members in America, Canada, Ireland, England, Wales, Australia and New Zealand. The club’s newsletter, published four times a year, provides free ad space to members to buy, sell or trade seats and other antiques.
Seat collector Bud Porter joined the association in 1991, and has served as the editor of the group’s newsletter since 1993. He says the day he bought his first seat was the proudest day of his life, and he’s been involved with the seat-collecting network ever since.
Yet, Bud offers good and bad news about seat collecting. The bad news: Reproductions are more often appearing on the market. “Repros are running rampant,” he says. “About 20 seats are now being reproduced.” So remember to be careful when you buy, he warns.
The good news, especially for current collectors: Prices are on a steady upswing because of increased demand for seats.
“Prices were pretty steady through 1997 and 1999, but when Friedley had his auction, prices doubled and never came down,” Bud says. “We’re getting some young blood in the seat club. They want ’em, and want ’em bad.” FC
Read about collecting cast iron implement seats firsthand: “Cast Iron Seat Collector Travels Globe for Rare Seats.”
For more information about seat collecting and seat prices, read Cast Iron Implement Seats V, by John D. Friedly Jr., and Auctions of Cast Iron Seats, by Bud Porter. Order both books and learn more about the Cast Iron Seat Collectors Association at: www.castironseatclub.org.