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Now is the time to buy a platform

If your cutting platform is getting long in the tooth or you’re looking to upgrade to a wider head, now is the time to be looking for a deal on a late-model used replacement. My certainty of this fact was borne out by a shopping trip I took to Marion, South Dakota.

Marion is home to Wieman Auction (wiemanauction.com), which holds a massive consignment sale each year before harvest. By massive, I mean that nearly 140 corn heads or platforms sold in a day in addition to hundreds of combines, tractors, tillage equipment, and more. Acres of iron were up for sale.

Prior to the Wieman sale, I had been researching the prices of used combines. Word was circulating that we were heading for an oversupply of good used harvesters.

An abundance of cutting platforms

So I headed to the auction to see what was happening in the field and discovered that harvester prices had slumped somewhat. What caught my eye at this sale were the abundance and the price of good used platforms.

I staked out John Deere 635F HydraFlex (35-foot flexing) heads for comparison. There were two of them sitting back-to-back at the auction: a 2009 and a 2010 model, both in excellent shape.

Before the sale, I had gathered price data on 635Fs for comparison, selecting only heads built after 2009 and discovered two things:

  • Between June 2012 and October 2012, such platforms were selling for an average of $22,938.

  • Between November 2012 and March 2013, similar units averaged $20,346.

That certainly represents a drop in price. Because late winter is not a prime time for header sales, what would the two platforms I was comparing go for just prior to harvest when such iron is in highest demand?

The 2009 unit had a final bid of $19,000; the 2010 platform brought $19,750.

That is definitely a trend. To confirm my suspicions, when I got back to the office, I accumulated final bids on 24 model 635Fs that sold from June to October 2013. (See the details in the “Pocket Price Guide.”)

A 25% drop in price

The average price of all these heads (including the “Never been in the field” head that sold for $38,000) was $17,397. That represents a 25% decrease in value in just one year.

A quick review of similar-size competitive platforms confirmed that after years of record-high bids, good used platforms were now a bargain.

If platforms were selling at a discount prior to harvest (when I accumulated these values), they are certain to be even a better deal this winter when you are often less apt to buy harvest gear.

To be fair, I had assumed platform prices would be soft prior to making this comparison. So a 25% drop is huge.

I queried Derek Wieman of Wieman Auction about the price decline. His explanation was a single word: “Drapers.”

Wieman went on to explain that the high interest in draper platforms the last several years has put downward pressure on conventional auger platforms.

“Drapers are hot right now. Everyone seems to be wanting a new or a used one. This places conventional platforms in the bargain bin for bidding,” he says.

The price difference is substantial, even when taking into account the initial higher cost of draper platforms. The average final bids on all these drapers is $24,900 – that’s $7,500 higher than the conventional platforms.

Other draper prices

I also searched for recent sales of MacDon FD70 drapers. After all, MacDon was instrumental in popularizing draper platforms in North America.

I came across 11 MacDon FD70s (a 40-foot-wide platform recently replaced by the FD75) that sold in live or online auctions since mid-August.

In true testimony to the popularity of draper platforms, the average price of a FD70 model machine was $48,225.

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4-row corn heads

Did you park a four-row or a six-row corn head in the shed way back when after expanding planter widths and trading up combines? If so, dust it off, load it up, and head for a sale to make some quick cash, because small corn heads are hot!

A prime example is the 1991 Case IH 1044 shown below. It was hiding behind a Case IH 2388 combine at the Wieman auction. The final bid was $6,000. That head brought a third less at the same sale than 35-foot-wide, state-of-the-art flexing platforms that were 20 years younger.

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Down the row of sale equipment at that auction sat a 1988 Case IH 1063 six-row head that brought $6,500. It was very much in need of repair. Four Deere four-row model 444s (all in rough shape) sold at the auction for an average of $1,900, which was way above their scrap-metal values.

So what’s driving the ardent bidding? “They don’t make ’em anymore,” says Rich Wieman of Wieman Auction. Combine that fact with the growth of part-time and hobby farmers all looking for small equipment, and you’ve got a hot market for old iron, he says. The same can be said for four-row and six-row planters, which are even hotter than corn heads because of their scant availability.

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