Classic tractors flex their muscle
John Zakovec is a great example of what is happening with vintage tractor collecting. Zakovec grew up driving an Oliver 66, but his passion is for 40- to 50-year-old tractors, especially Oliver models. His growing fleet of collectibles fills the sheds on his farm near Lincoln, Nebraska. “I grew up farming with earlier-model tractors,” he says, “but I made a living with the tractors from the 1960s and 1970s. This was the era of the 100 hp.-plus tractors with cabs, turbocharge diesels, and dual wheels. You know, the muscle tractors!”
Interest in tractors from this time period, particularly the muscle models Zakovec mentions, poses both a challenge as well as an opportunity.
The challenge is that getting a chore tractor might cost more, as you are having to bid against collectors adamant about owning a piece of muscle-tractor technology from this era.
On the other hand, the demand for these tractors means your existing chore tractor is worth more. That offers the opportunity to cash in on collector enthusiasm and to make good money, especially if your tractor is a rare or unusual model. If you would rather save such a tractor as a family heirloom, you will be reassured that the cost of restoring it will be covered by its increasing value.
Seeing both sides of the collector coin
I wear two hats for Successful Farming magazine. I put one on when I cover machinery and technology topics, such as used iron values in Machinery Insider. The other hat goes on while serving as Editor for the Ageless Iron Almanac, a magazine devoted to tractor and farm machinery collecting.
It was while I was wearing the Almanac hat that I first started noticing (seven to eight years ago) collectors buying muscle tractors from the 1960s and 1970s.
The first indication of this trend was rapidly rising bids on John Deere 4010 or 4020 tractors. Anything from Deere’s New Generation was hot, particularly rare model 8010s. Folks were going after four-wheel drives.
This trend made sense. Older enthusiasts began adding to their vintage fleet with models that had aged enough to be considered collectible. Younger collectors wanted tractors they grew up driving. The rising bids on New Generation John Deeres turned out to be the vanguard of what is now a well-established trend.
So what’s hot?
Soon, select models made by Ford, IHC, Minneapolis-Moline, and Oliver were being snatched up by collectors.
At first, it was the muscle models in the 80-hp. to 120-hp. range that were being sought. Then collectors turned their attention to filling out a line. For example, the Deere 4020 they first bought was joined by a 3020 or a 5020.
The challenge of pegging which vintage make and model is hot is that trends come and go. For example, the bidding bloom has gone off John Deere 4020s and 3020s. Their values appear to have leveled off.