The last few months have witnessed a great deal of discussion on the subject of antique engine and tractor values, fueled in no small part by the Sept. 22, 2004, sale in Freeman, S.D., of a 1917 Russell 30-60 for the unprecedented sum of $262,500.
North Carolina collector Ken Eder bought the Russell for a planned museum, paying 87 times the tractor's original price of $3,000. Reader Dave Cross, Brandon, S.D., sent us a copy of the Sept. 25, 2004, Argus Leader out of Sioux Falls, S.D., and according to the Argus Leader, Eder bought the tractor over the phone, sight unseen.
We all know that values are on the rise, but until the sale of the Russell there were few in the hobby who thought we'd see quarter-million-dollar antique tractors crossing the auction block.
Values of antique engines have been rising, as well, with certain engines routinely changing hands for $10,000. A year ago, a circa-1889 two-cylinder Olds gearless offered on eBay failed to reach its reserve of $18,100. The seller withdrew the engine, presumably to wait for a better climate when it might hit - or surpass - its reserve. Is the day far off when we'll see a $50,000 farm engine?
The concern, of course, is that as the most desirable engines increase in value, so too will the bread and butter engines of the hobby, increasingly putting them beyond the reach of the average hobbyist. I don't have a crystal ball, so it's impossible to say when - or if - engine values will hit a ceiling.
Taking a cue from the old car hobby, however, I'll note that while some models increase in value, others fall. If the old car hobby is any guide, we'll have plenty of old engines to buy today, tomorrow and for years to come.