It’s 35 degrees on the last Saturday morning in March, there are light snow flurries wafting between multicolored rows of vintage iron, and I’m not in uniform. I’m in a crowd that must have officially chosen light brown Carhart jackets and coveralls as the official attire of the day. Some look like they just came off the rack at the local Mills Fleet Farm; most look and smell like milking and chores were just done for the morning.
Even the event staff, who I know from attending their collector car auctions, are mostly in cotton duck work duds. While I should know better – coming from a rural upbringing and working summers during high school on my uncle’s dairy farm in east central Minnesota – my Gore-Tex parka sticks out like a sore thumb. At least my choice of wearing well-worn Sorrel boots fits in well with the rest of the lot. Yes, it’s a tractor auction in Wisconsin in late winter.
Mecum Auctions – with more than two decades in the collector car auction industry – recently branched out into collectible tractor auctions. Mecum held its inaugural Gone Farmin’ tractor auction in August of last year and on March 26, 2011, its first spring sale. Held on the 10-acre property of a defunct supermarket on the south end of Walworth, Wis., the auction tent was filled with tractors, hobbyist tractor buyers, and farmers, including both businessmen looking for a deal on a work tool and hobbyists shopping for toys. Despite the weather, there was a heavy turnout of bidder and lookers – with standing room only when the auction started.
While the auction company accepted consignments of any type of tractor, the feature on this blustery late winter day was the Tom Geyman collection of mostly International Harvester tractors. Mr. Geyman had amassed and restored an impressive collection of nearly two dozen tractors. Having elected to sell off the collection, they all were offered at no reserve to sell to the highest bidder. Every tractor offered had either been professionally restored or cosmetically conditioned, if it was a lightly used original. They were all in show-quality condition, and consisted of auction lot numbers S31 through S51. All were on display inside the auction tent, along with a few other mostly higher-quality lots.
Before starting on the tractors, Mecum first sold a few pieces of memorabilia – such as original and reproduction signs – plus a 1955 International Harvester model A-106-DX refrigerator-freezer. While it was in fairly rough shape, it sold at $700 – underscoring the reality that farm collectibles of all stripes are now quite popular.
If there was a common thread among the tractors, it was that high-horsepower rigs were the big dogs. Top sale was the Geyman collection’s 1966 International 1206 – sporting a like-new restoration – which sold at $24,000. The next highest was another lightly restored 1966 1206, selling for $21,000. Third highest was Geyman’s 1966 IH 1206 Wheatland, changing hands at $19,000.
On that subject, Wheatland tractors (configured with a lower stance and fewer accessories for pulling larger implements on prairies where wheat is the dominant crop) were another high-dollar combination. In addition to the earlier 1206, three others from the Geyman collection sold well. His 1960 International 660 Wheatland brought $14,500 and a 1967 IH 806 Wheatland rolled out of the tent at $11,500.
"Tom Geyman's Collection served as the centerpiece and exceeded everyone's expectations – including his own," said Dan Mecum, operations manager for Mecum Auctions. “Collectors from across the country placed their bids on Geyman's tractors, which were top-notch in quality and had some significant history …”
When all was said and done, 105 of the 137 tractors offered were declared sold, for a sell-through rate of 76.6 percent. This represented $474,850 in sales before factoring in the buyers premiums. Mecum uses a tiered-rate buyer’s fee: $100 for sales under $1,500, $200 for sales ranging from $1,500 to $3,499, $300 for sales ranging from $3,500 to $9,999, and $500 on sales $10,000 and up. Those buyers fees are not calculated into results in and accompanying this article.
Considering that Mecum conducts 10 collector car auctions during the year and throughout the country, they had ample expertise and staff to make the auction progress in timely and skillful manner. Their next tractor auction is a two-day affair at this same site on Aug. 5-6, with an expected 300 tractors. For bidder, consignment and event information, visit www.Mecum.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 815-568-8888. Although the weather can be unpredictable in Wisconsin, you shouldn’t need to bring your Carharts.