Yesterday's Engine Prices
The following comes from, a recent topic on SmokStak, which can be found on the Internet at: www.engineads.com/ smokstak.cgi
As ever, various individuals started, commented on and concluded the following bulletin board thread.
I'd like to hear some engine collecting stories from the past. Most of us have probably picked up an engine over the last couple of years for free or next to it, but I was wondering about engines people bought decades ago. My dad remembers an 8-10 HP screen-cooled Mogul on a cart that he didn't buy for $60. He thought it was too much money for an engine because $5 to $10 would buy most any engine at the time. I would sure like to see that engine in his barn!
Then he told me about a stovepipe Domestic he and another man used to trade back and forth for around $20 (several years after the Mogul but still cheap). He has owned a lot of really cool stuff over the years that he bought and sold for very little money. He has never regretted a minute of it. I think one of my favorite pictures is my dad's Rumely OilPull purring away right after it was unloaded in 1964. It would be nice to hear stories of yesterday from the rest of you. - Mark
Mark, a good friend of mine (92 years old) in Nebraska told me a story about trading a set of four wooden-spoke car wheels for an engine down in Kansas 'sight unseen' in the late 1940s or early 1950s. When he arrived at the warehouse to get the engine, the guy uncovered it and revealed a new and never run Stickney, still in its wooden crate. He still has the engine in the shed and I have his entire conversation and story of the 'trade' on videotape. - Dusty
Mark, I didn't get into engines until 1977, but regret not having an interest sooner. My family farm had several treasures I wish someone would have taken an interest in. Two of my uncles got tired of stumbling around the 25-50 Avery in the machine shed, so they tore it up for scrap in 1957. There was also a drum-drive 1915 Emerson & Brantingham that a man from Iowa found out about and bought for $100 in 1960. There were several engines, and they were all scrapped except for a Z Style D Fairbanks and a 1-1/2 HP Fairbanks-Morse Z. I have gotten several engines just for hauling them off. I collect Ottawa engines and of the 17 I have, four of them were free. - Dan
I remember when I was younger attending a neighbor's sale, around 1977-78. He had an old McCormick-Deering 3 HP on original skids, still in nice original paint with the Wico magneto. My grandfather bought it for $25. My father has it now and the magneto has never been worked on and still shoots a good spark.
My grandfather used to talk about Ford Model As and Ts that he would buy in the 1930s for $2. He would drive them for a while and then junk them, and the scrap man would pay him $1. He did manage to keep an oddball item that he owned, a 1942 Toro Estate tractor. It is just like the one Arnie Palmer used in his Pennzoil commercial. The only difference is he painted it dark hunter green and John Deere yellow. If I'm not mistaken, he bought it for scrap in the 1960s. - Lonnie
In 1955 I remember a neighbor who had a 9 HP Witte on a steel wheeled truck, and he was getting ready to junk it for $2. The engine ran beautifully. Another neighbor had a 10 HP Witte, and he and his boys were joking about junking it for the astronomical sum of $5. What would anybody do with that kind of money?
My grandfather died in 1957 and my grandmother sold the family sawmill, a Chase #1, and the power plant, a McCormick 22-36, for $100 - and laughed all the way to the bank. I bought an Ottawa drag saw from my father in 1959, complete with the Hedgehog, for $10 - and got stuck sawing all his firewood for him.
In 1972 a friend sold me an IHC M for $25, but wouldn't sell me the Myers Bulldog that had run since 1930. I believe he is still pumping water to his house with that pump. - Harvey
I bought my first engine (1-3/4 HP Galloway) from an old guy up the road in 1968. The price was $5. I still have that engine. Last fall I bought a 6 HP Mogul at a sale in South Dakota. Price? $7,000! My, how times change. - Ken
My first engine was a 1-1/2 HP Fairbanks-Morse throttle-governed dishpan, complete with the original magneto, given to me by a neighbor who spent a whole day cranking it to no avail except for the occasional pop out of the mixer. That was about 1951. I was about 9 years old at the time. He got ticked off at my watching him (from a respectable distance) and told me that if I could get it going, I could have it. A half hour later, I was dragging it over to my yard.
About 1957 an older friend decided he wanted the dishpan. I wasn't really interested in selling it, but I told him I'd trade it for an unusual vertical Fairbanks-Morse igniter engine he'd just bought out of a barn. We did the deal and I still have that Type T. That was my second engine.
What I regret are the nice engines I saw go to the breakers back in the 1950s. I could have filled a garage with freebies taken out of tractor sheds and barns to make room for more 'modern' equipment. - Elden
I was at an old car swap meet in Milwaukee in February 1968. A fellow said he had this old 15 HP Springfield gas engine that had 49-1/2-inch flywheels and he wanted $50 for it. About the end of June I got to thinking about that engine and I called him. He still had it and I told him I would come up on the 4th of July as I had the day off. He had it at a repair garage where he worked. He used a wrecker to load the base with cylinder on the pickup truck and then the flywheels. I paid him the $50 and went home. I found out later that it was only a 6 HP. I still have it and it is my oldest and best engine. - John
When I first started collecting engines in 1969 I could haul away most every engine I found for $5 or $10. Of course you must remember that back then $5 or $10 bought a heck of a lot more than today. I bought a running vertical Maytag, with the washing machine, for $5; an 8 HP Ohio sideshaft for $175; and a 6 HP Olds for $60 that I took home, put gas and fresh batteries in, oiled it up and it ran! You could also get IHC Ms and FM Zs for next to nothing. All of these things have moved on except for that Maytag vertical, which I still have. Engines found sitting in the hedgerow were usually free for the asking. Man, those were the days! I was 10 or 11 years old, and that fact alone helped an awful lot. - Brian
In 1974 a neighbor gave me a Fairbanks-Morse 1-1/2 headless he bought at an auction for $2.25. That was my first engine. Hunting around hoqs in 1976 with my uncle in West Virginia, I asked about old iron and did he know of any around? He took me to his great aunt's farm, where I bought a 12 HP Fairbanks and Co. Bulldog for $50 - and the wood mill it was belted to was $400 firm! I didn't buy the mill, but I wish I had. -Randy
Ten to 12 years ago I was in the local hardware store talking to my sister's boyfriend about an engine he had. A clerk I know called me over and told me his cousin had an old engine he had lost interest in, and I could probably buy it. As I was leaving he called me back and told me about an engine he had seen 20 years ago, but thought it might be gone by now.
It was on the way home, so I stopped and looked where he said. I walked right up to a 6 HP John Deere in the bushes. As I was walking around it I stumbled over something that turned out to be a Sears Stover Economy. I couldn't find the owner, so I went and bought the cousin's engine, a 3 HP FM ZC, for $200. I loaded it on the trailer and went home.
The next day I went back to check on the JD and the Stover. The owner said he didn't have anything like that and asked me to take him and show him. He walked right up to it without seeing it until I pointed it out. His reaction was that he didn't need them, had no interest in them, and that I could have them. Free! I took him home and went back and loaded the engines.
I just had to show my finds to my engine buddies, so I hit the road to their place. On the way I stopped for a Coke, and when I came out of the store a man was looking at my trailer with the three engines on it. We talked a while and he asked if I was interested in another. What's the correct answer to that? He had a 10 HP Witte in an old shed on his property and said if I would get it running I could have it, free!
As we were talking a man from the used car place next door came over, talked a little and asked if I was interested in a Delco light plant. Answer? He had one in his bam and let me have it, free! In the end I got the boyfriend's engine, which turned out to be a FM D, a JD 6 HP, a Stover Economy 1-1/2 HP, a FM 3 HP ZC, a 10 HP Witte and a Delco light plant - and the only one I paid for was the ZC. All this started from one conversation in the hardware store. - Huck
The above messages and many more can be found by visiting SmokStak on the Internet at www.enginads.com SmokStak is an engine conversation bulletin board with over 45,000 messages on file and is part of the old engine series of Web sites that started in 1995 as 'Harry's Old Engine.' Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota, Fla.
'He took me to his great aunt's farm, where I bought a 12 HP Fairbanks and Co. Bulldog for $50.'