Making Antique Decals

When he discovered the scarcity of original decals for tractor restorations, John Hiniker found a way to make his own.

| April 2002

A sense of sweet anticipation fills each day for John Hiniker of North Mankato, Minn., — anticipation that more tractor decal orders will be coming his way. "Almost every day I get a new order," he said. "Those orders are the highlight of my day."

He's been getting them now for 30 years, even though he hasn't advertised in decades. "I probably should advertise, but I don't," the 86-year-old tractor aficionado said. "I don't know how many more years I'll be doing this."

John started making decals in the early 1970s because he couldn't find any for the tractor he was restoring. "It was a McCormick-Deering 10-20," he said. "I went to the International dealers and they didn't have any, and I checked other places too, but I couldn't find any."

Finally, on a chance visit to an International Harvester dealer in Rogers, Minn., John found his first set on a dusty shelf. "I saw an envelope with the last 10-20 decals he had," John recalled, "and you couldn't get any more."

Knowing other tractor collectors and dealers also needed the hard-to-find decals, John took that set to a Minneapolis silk-screening company and had some more made.

Initially, he said, International Harvester gave him a hard time but when John explained that their own dealers wanted him to make the decals and that the decals were only restoring the company's name to their own tractors, they changed their minds.