|By Nancy Kelly
EDMORE, Mich. — They are known as toy tractors, but the intricate and realistic detail makes them very appealing collectibles as well. The sea of colors in the sale hall at a recent event hosted by Pioneer Auctions included orange Allis Chalmers, red Case, blue Ford, green John Deere and many other brands. Most were made by Ertl, but there were also Tonka, Agco, SpecCast, Match Box, and Britians models available. This huge inventory of more than 500 lots belonged to Frank Walker, a life-long collector and dealer of these amazing items. His widow Bethel Walker looked around the room and could hardly believe that this quantity of metal vehicles had all belonged to them. Besides tractors, there were trucks, airplanes, and banks, plus numerous farm implements and attachments for the tractors, many with moving parts.
Auctioneer Jason Clark of Pioneer Auctions was tapped to disperse the collection. With the assistance of his brother Jim, his nephew Jeremy, and auctioneer Ryan Schrock, along with the rest of his able crew, the day proceeded smoothly. The pace was brisk, as there were numerous tables full of merchandise on the main floor of the former gym and countless box lots lining the bleachers on both sides of the room to disperse. No buyer’s premium was charged.
Nephew Jeremy Clark, a collector himself, was a valuable resource at this auction. He was able to identify model numbers, brands, and what pieces and sets belonged together. His excitement for the subject was clearly visible throughout the day. He explained that tractors are categorized by scale, similar to the way that railroad collectibles are. The smallest tractors offered were the 1:64 models, measuring about 1 ½-2-inches tall. The largest ones were the 1:16 scale (roughly 9-10-inches tall), and they proved to be the most popular.
The crowd became excited when the 1:16 scale Versatile 825 red and yellow tractor was offered. The bidding rapidly soared and the noise level in the room increased as it came down to two prospective owners. When the price topped out at $550, a cheer erupted and everyone was happy for the successful buyer. Other 1:16 scale tractors that were claimed included the Case IH Quadtrac 9380 still in the box for $350, a light green Panther Automatic PTA 325, no box, for $250, a Ford 846 blue tractor, no box, for $175, and a smaller articulated Ford tractor for $275. The Koehring Fox 3000 forage harvester with corn and hay head still in the original box finished at $225. Each one of these was in excellent condition and ready for a new collector to enjoy.
The “highly detailed” tractors on display were an eye-catching group to admire. They were mostly in the 1:32 scale (approximately 6-7-inches tall), and every intricate, life-like detail was represented on these models. Most were still new in box and well protected. The top performer in this category was the Big Bud 16V-747 white colored tractor that was the Toy Farmer Silver Anniversary (25 years) model. There were two of this highly-detailed prize that was offered individually and each one independently achieved a final bid of $350. An Allis Chalmers crawler complete with blade rose to a final bid of $85, three John Deere crawlers closed at $45 each, and five SpecCast 340 International Harvester tractors were claimed with bid of $55 each. There were often multiples of each tractor available, and once the final bid was established, other folks were given the chance to claim one at that price. However, the astute collectors in the crowd were careful to note fine differences between the models. For example, the five IH 340 tractors looked alike on first glance, but there were actually two versions — a wide front and a narrow front. Bidders needed to be aware of which version they wanted.
Walker had a few vintage trucks and tractors in his collection that were also offered for sale. His large collection of metal hook and ladder fire trucks were slightly rusted, but still in good condition. Some were produced by Nylint and some by Tonka. Their final bids ranged from $65 up to $125. A Tonka Snorkel bucket truck drew a final bid of $65, a Structo hook and ladder truck still in the box closed at $125, and a 1941 pump truck closed at $75. Other interesting metal vehicles included a Tonka cement mixer for $55, a vintage Bell telephone truck for $40, and a Ford model T with front skis for $45. Auctioneer Jason Clark said that he had seen the actual Ford that the model was based on in a museum.
The 1:64 scale tractors and their implements were plentiful, filling many box lots and tables. Most boxes held multiple identical models, but some boxes were mixed and had to be carefully examined. A few examples included a box containing 21 detailed John Deere implements that sold for $70, a box of 12 corn pickers that left for $75, and a box of 5 John Deere combines for $60. Prices ranged from $20-100 for these boxes, depending on the contents. The pace was fast during this portion of the auction as there was an abundance of the 1:64 scale items to clear out. However, the pace changed when a John Deere/Bauer built DB44 24 row 22” planter in the original box was offered. Several bidders had been waiting for their opportunity and they spoke up when it came. After the lively bidding volley stopped, the price settled at $260.
Ertl produced a 1:64 set dubbed the “66 Series.” There were 10 packaged sets containing four tractors each in this series, and each box had the number displayed on the front. This auction featured three complete sets, as well as some extras, all still in their original packaging. The three complete sets were offered first, and each set of 1-10 finished at $150. The remaining boxes were claimed afterwards.
Prior to the sale, a grandmother was roaming the hall looking for a particular tractor. The auction crew helped her locate it. Her grandson will be starting Iowa State University this fall in the 4-year dairy program, and she wanted to purchase this tractor for him. The model was the 1:16 Oliver 660 Iowa FFA 2007 Special Edition which was like the tractor he used at home. After a short bidding flurry, she emerged successful with a final bid of $65.
Pioneer Auction Service of Alma, Michigan has served the mid-Michigan area since 1989. They have conducted a variety of auctions including agricultural equipment, estates, business liquidation, real estate, and benefit auctions. Their upcoming auctions are listed on their website at http://pioneerauctionservice.com or they can be reached at (989) 621-7194.