The wild world of Internet iron
Maybe it was only a matter of time before the impact of the Internet would be felt in the world of used farm machinery. I assumed some machinery would exchange hands via cyberspace. Yet I had doubts it would make major inroads into the used iron market.
And then there was the issue of dealing with people through a computer screen. Farmers are honest to a fault. Yet we've all heard those stories of unscrupulous operators.
Considering such stumbling blocks, one rightfully wondered if the eBay phenomena would ever establish itself as a major market for used machinery.
Well, wonder no more. Interest in Internet iron sales in the last couple of years is nothing less than astonishing. The first hints of this trend were witnessed in the antique tractor world. Increasing numbers of collectors were reporting great finds on the Net.
Auction guru Greg Peterson began hearing from growing numbers of auctioneer houses that were turning to cyberspace sales. "The concept has been simmering on the back burner for years," Peterson says. "But its use has just recently taken off to the point that some auctioneers employ it as a major part of their business."
Or in the case of West Auctions (www.westauction.com) out of Woodland, California, Internet trading is the only way of doing business. "We view it as the preferred method," says West's Jack Young. "We don't even put our phone number on our sale bills anymore. We just put on the Web site address."
West Auctions may represent the extreme. But a growing number of auctioneers, as well as equipment dealers, report turning to the Net. "We e-mail pictures of equipment to potential customers across the country all the time," says Kevin Bauman with Haug Implement in Willmar, Minnesota. "This year alone we've sold a plow to Oregon, scrapers to California, a planter is bound for Florida, a four-wheel-drive tractor and skid loader to Montana, and numerous other items in our five-state area."
Even early Internet adopters are surprised by this media's recent growth. "We initiated our Web site in the early 1990s," recalls Geri Paul of Steffes Auctioneers (www.agiron.com), Fargo, North Dakota. "In the beginning, our individual auction page views were under 500 per auction."
With time, interest climbed to 2,000-plus views per auction, Paul reports. And then, interest took off. "We are now up to 8,600-plus page views," Paul says. "Advertising on the Internet gives our audience a chance to shop 24/7."
That last point is key in explaining the growth in Internet iron sales. Farmers have discovered the convenience of viewing a nation's worth of machinery from the comfort of their desks.
Looking for a tracked tractor with low hours? Not long ago your search was limited to local classifieds, auction listings, and dealers' lots. Today an Internet search will turn up tractors from every corner of the continent. Plus, the variety of exchange methods is equally diverse. You can choose to buy from and sell to fellow farmers, machinery jockeys, auction houses, and dealers employing transactions ranging from private treaty sales to bidding at an auction broadcast live online.