Forgive us for the comparison but we here at The Department think that if there were only one Picasso, Renoir, and Matisse in the world, an auction of them would be a pretty big deal. That’s what happened in the autumn of 2013 in Canandaigua, upstate New York. But instead of paintings, it was tractors: 150 big, colourful, gnarly, beautiful, and rare tractors.
They made up the most remarkable collection of farm tractors ever assembled. Stinson, Baker, Russell, Rumely, and Case are their names. Most date to the early 20th Century. After a lifetime of collecting, owner Jim Erdle (now in his mid-80’s) put them up for sale. And what a sale it was. Enthusiasts from around the world scrambled to bid over three days as hearts pounded and prices soared. Since some were the only surviving examples, they commanded incredible prices. The top 10 sellers alone went for a total of two million dollars.
The auctioning honours were done by Aumann Auctions, vintage power specialists out of Illinois.
We were driving by Jim Erdle’s farm days after the sale in The Truck of the Department and spotted his tractors all neatly arranged, waiting for the new owners. Mr Erdle was there too, in his car keeping a watchful eye out. “That your new truck?” he said, nodding towards our 1941 Ford. He was more than willing to let us record images of his prizes. As we set up our gear some of these nearly priceless barnyard power-plants were being put on flat beds. There will never again be a collection like this in one place. We watched as it was slowly taken apart to go to new homes. Good ones to be sure, but separate.