Collectible Tractors for Fun and Profit

Avoid costly missteps when collecting tractors by understanding rarity, usefulness, styling and markets.


| November 2017



model-hk

A fairly rare antique, the Huber Model HK was built in limited numbers from 1927 to the onset of World War II. The HK had a 4-cylinder 536-cubic-inch Stearns engine of 50 hp and a 2-speed transmission. Don Wolf, Ft. Wayne, Ind., owns this nicely restored 1936 tractor.

Photo by Pat Roberts

Most hobbies are expensive, and it often seems that those that are the most fun are the most expensive! But if you have storage space, reasonable mechanical ability, a decent set of tools and an understanding wife, you can actually make money buying and selling collectible tractors.

While I don’t qualify for one or more of the previous stipulations, I have been a student of the “collecting for profit” scene for many years. Dan Mecum of Mecum’s “Gone Farmin’” tractor auctions also knows a thing or two about selling tractors. If you’re thinking about blending a hobby with actual profit, consider the observations we’ve made:

First, can you buy a piece to restore, or do you need to target restored pieces? You must have multiple talents and good estimating skills to take on a “basketcase” restoration. On the other hand, just freshening up an older restoration is much less risky. But if you buy a completely restored tractor for resale at a profit, you have to get it at a bargain price or you’ll be lucky to break even. Plus, there are times when auction buyers just don’t respond, and a quality restoration sells for less than expected.

But we’re just getting started. When you’re choosing a project, it’s important to consider rarity, usefulness, styling and market interest.

Rarity: Find something special

When it comes to low production numbers, tractors that are the most rare are the most desirable, but some are so rare that the few in existence are already locked in collectors’ sheds. Look for tractors that are common in general, but which have unique, uncommon features, like high clearance versions (high-crops).

Also, keep an eye open for things like gold-and-white dealer advertising specials. Some of those tractors were sold wearing their promotional colors, but others were repainted before they were put on the market. A jackknife scrape in an inconspicuous spot can reveal a real rarity. Collector clubs can provide models and sometimes serial numbers to look for.