Collectible Tractors for Fun and Profit

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

| November 2017

  • 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
  • A 1948 Massey-Harris Model 22 Row-Crop, a new-that-year two-plow tractor competing with the Ford 8N and the Ferguson TO-30. A hydraulics system was standard, but the 3-point hitch – a first for Massey-Harris – was optional. The Model 22, built from 1948 to 1953, was also available as a standard-tread tractor, which is very cute and quite rare. All used a 140-cubic-inch 4-cylinder Continental engine. Seth Pripps (the author’s grandson) stands by the machine for size comparison.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps
  • A relatively rare and colorfully awesome powerhouse, this 1968 Minneapolis-Moline G-1000 Vista was available only with the 504-cubic-inch diesel engine. It was also offered in a Wheatland version without the adjustable wheel treads or 3-point hitch.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps
  • An adult-size “Case” pedal tractor, a take-off on the scale model collecting enthusiasm by Richardson Brothers, half-scale model makers in Marengo, Ill. This tractor is a feature in local parades.
    Photo courtesy Richardson Bros.
  • The John Deere Model 320 came out in 1956 with a vertical steering wheel. This 1958 version was the first to have a slant wheel. The 320 was made to be the most inexpensive of the John Deere tractor line-up. Low production numbers have now led to very high prices. The one shown is an all-fuel standard; records indicate not many were made.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps
  • A 1948 Farmall Model HV High-Clearance Cane Special. The Model H and its variants were powered by a 152-cubic-inch 4-cylinder OHV engine and were equipped with a 5-speed transmission. The 20-inch front tires are expensive and hard to find, but the HV is fairly rare and with the bright red livery and Raymond Loewy styling, it should continually appreciate in value.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps
  • Alan Smith, McHenry, Ill., owns this 1941 Farmall MD. It represents the first year for Farmall diesel row-crop tractors. Although the diesel version of the M cost one and a half times the price of the gas version, the diesel used one-third less fuel. The MD, like other early International Harvester standard-tread and crawler tractors, used a “switch-over” starting system.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps
  • A 1959 John Deere Model 830 Rice Special with huge rear tires for navigating soft ground. The 830 was the largest and most powerful of the 2-cylinder Deere tractors, available only as a diesel and rated for six plow bottoms. The “Rice Special” features add interest to an already impressive machine.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps
  • The nifty Allis-Chalmers Model B, designed by famous industrial designer Brooks Stevens, came out in 1938 as a 1939 model. It weighed a mere 1,900 pounds, but was well balanced for serious work. Its 4-cylinder 125-cubic-inch gas engine produced 25 hp, enough to handle a 6-foot belly mower. The initial price was $600, with starter and lights optional. An improved (but similar) Model C came out in 1939. With its bright orange paint and useful power, the Model B has a ready market. On the down side, the Model B is equipped only with hand brakes and many do not have electric start.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps
  • The Massey-Harris Model 50 was born in 1957 during the Massey-Harris/Ferguson merger and “Two-Line” marketing policy. It was the same under the skin as the Ferguson TO-35, except that the M-H 50 was offered both in the utility and row-crop configurations. From 1957 to 1964, its designation became the Massey Ferguson Model 50. Also, for 1956 and 1957, the model was re-badged as the Ferguson 40 with Ferguson beige and red livery. All are considered very desirable collectibles.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps
  • The 95 hp John Deere Model 4020, made from 1964 to 1972, is considered to be one of the most significant tractors of the 20th century, and one of the most copied. It was made in row-crop, standard-tread and high-crop configurations and with 6-cylinder diesel, gasoline or LPG engines. Transmission options included the Synchro-Range or the Power-Shift.
    Photo by Robert N. Pripps

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.



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