As each antique tractor came up for bid Saturday, Howard Axelson jumped into the seat, started the engine and told the crowd about how long each tractor had been in his family and how it had been used.
And then the bids began.
Auctioneer Terry Wiedeman, with Kreps Wiedeman Auctioneers and Real Estate in Greeley, Colo., estimated about 1,000 people attended the auction on Saturday, saying people traveled from more than 20 states to attend the auction on Axelson’s farm northeast of Greeley.
“It’s way bigger than I was expecting,” Axelson, who was selling the antique tractor collection, said. “We’ve had people interested in this from all over — Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska.”
Axelson decided to auction off nearly 40 tractors, some from as far back as the 1920s, along with other farm equipment he will no longer need, as Axelson and his wife, Jenny, plan to move to Montana and retire.
Axelson’s father, John, had a passion for collecting the trailers and farm equipment, but after he died five years ago at the age of 89, Axelson said the days of collecting antique tractors had come to an end.
“Give him a hug, it’s a tough day today,” said Wiedeman before the auctioning began, though Axelson said later he was “at ease.”
“Everything has a beginning and an end,” Axelson said. “It’s just time.”
Some, like Cody Stevens from Fort Lupton, Colo., who perused the collection before the bidding began said buying and selling tractors is what they do for a living.
“It’s a decent line of equipment,” Stevens said, adding that the market for antique tractors has been down recently, but there are collectors from across the country interested in antique agriculture equipment.
Matthew Geiger from Bay City, Mich., drove to Greeley for the auction for his grandfather, who has collected antique tractors for more than 50 years. Geiger said he’d been talking to his grandfather on the phone about one particular John Deere garden tractor for sale. The tractor didn’t have a tag stating the year or model.
“This many tractors, this antique. I couldn’t pass it up,” he said.
D.J. Born from Windsor, Colo., placed the $1,600 winning bid for a 1933 Ford Truck. He and his father deal in parts for older cars and might try to get the truck up and running, he said.
Doug Jordan bought a 1952 Allis Chalmers CA for $2,750 at his first antique tractor auction. He said he planned to take the tractor to his family’s new farm near Greeley, but put it on display rather than use it for farming.
Chase Johnson from Kersey, Colo., bought a 1970 Allis Chalmers 170 for $4,400. He said he was looking for something within his budget to take back home to use on his land.
Others who came to the auction just wanted to see the collection of old tractors, but had no interest in trying to take one home.
“I’d have nowhere to put it,” said Calvin Werner, who said used to farm north of Brighton, Colo., and knows the Axelsons.
Ted Schrage, from Loveland, Colo., inspected a 1928 McCormick Deering 1530 tractor, one of the oldest tractors up for auction Saturday. He said he wasn’t looking to buy. Rather, he wanted to see how much a tractor built the same year he was born would sell for. The tractor later sold for $4,250.
“It worked fine unless the hay was a little wet,” Schrage said, adding that he used the same model tractor when he worked on a farm while growing up in Missouri.
Bob McAllister said curiosity is what brought him and his wife, Debbie, out to the auction on their 39th wedding anniversary.
When the couple moved from Iowa to Lakewood, Colo., they sold a few pieces of farm equipment and wanted to see how much similar equipment would sell for on Saturday.
“(The tractors) are interesting,” said Barb Flores, another person who came to the auction to see the tractors, but not to buy. “It’s the way they’re made. It’s kind of an art form and there aren’t too many left.” ❖