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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

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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.

The reason for this is that as these Deeres became hot, tractor jockeys and auctioneers brought more of them to sale, often restored. An example is a completely restored 1968 model 4020 that sold at auction in early August for $9,300.

Compare that price to the IHC 1206 (shown above) that brought $10,000 at the same sale – and it was in its working clothes right from the farm.

Why did an unrestored tractor bring more than a completely restored machine?

Over 184,000 model 4020s were built over an eight-year span, so the collector market was well supplied.

On the other hand, just short of 10,000 model 1206s were sold for a two-year span. Plus, the 1206 was the first International to break the 100-hp. barrier, host a turbocharger, and be adorned with a color scheme that is much appreciated by IHC collectors. That all adds up to the model 1206 having extra market game.

These factors make collecting vintage IHC machines popular of late (catching up to a similar trend that happened with Deere tractors in the 1990s).

The same can be said of Allis-Chalmers, Ford, Massey-Ferguson, Minneapolis-Moline, and Oliver tractors.

Uniqueness adds value

Another factor that buoys collectible values is a particular tractor’s uniqueness.

Take the Ford 6000, for example. Notice the two 6000s that sold with Select-O-Speed transmissions listed in the Pocket Price Guide. They brought more than the other Fords, which likely hosted manual-shift trannies.

The Select-O-Speed made history as being the first full powershift transmission. That tranny was also a failure. Ford later corrected the problems with its design, but buyers shied away from buying tractors with Select-O-Speeds. This makes such tractors sought after by collectors and, therefore, influences their values.

If you are looking to cash in on this trend, be sure to research the history behind the tractor you are selling. If it was the first or last in the line, hosted a unique design or accessory, or was a history-maker, then adjust your asking price accordingly.

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