We all froth over the idea of ‘barn find’ cars, but it turns out the real hidden treasures dwelling in country barns are actual barn vehicles – that is to say old tractors.
To city folk, the idea of an old tractor being a collector’s item might seem risible but as recent auction results across both Australia and the United States have demonstrated, there’s a serious market for vintage farm equipment, with some collectors paying upwards of six figures to get their hands on rare tractors.
Case in point: a 1904 Ivel agricultural motor – a tractor so old it predates the term ‘tractor’ – restored by West Australian farming couple Sue and John Illingworth just set an Australian auction record, selling for a hefty AU$375,000, ABC News reports.
For comparison, that’s about the same price as a brand-new Porsche 911 GT3, or as much as you’d get for a mint-condition first-gen Holden Monaro GTS HK.
Rare tractors from historically significant marques such as Benz, Fordson or Porsche (yes, Porsche actually made tractors back in the day) regularly sell for over six figures both locally and overseas.
If you’re curious, the biggest auction price ever fetched for a tractor was US$1,470,000 (~AU$2,266,000) for a rare 1913 Case 30-60 (one of the first petrol tractors ever made), which sold in Illinois earlier this year in April.
So what makes an investment-worthy tractor, and how can you tell if the old tractor from the family farm is worth a packet? Well, much like with vintage cars, it’s all down to rarity, provenance and condition.
Take this new Case IH AFS Connect Optum in black a lucky farmer on the New South Wales’ South Coast managed to get his hands on. As tractor salesman Daniel Arthur told The Illawarra Mercury, “[tractor companies] stick to the colours they’re known for, so to have a black tractor is essentially unheard of.” Rare paint jobs command big dollars.
Finding a rare tractor in good condition can be hard because, funnily enough, tractors get treated like farm equipment. Few farmers have ever locked their tractors away thinking they’ll be worth something some day, unlike car owners.
But who knows? It could be that the old John Deere wasting away in the barn is actually rather dear…