Want history? Buy a tractor!

Depending on where you live, you may have experienced the offshoot of the old car hobby that focuses around restoring and collecting tractors and other agricultural implements, the relics of farming’s imprint on American society. As you might guess, the people who do this tend to live in rural areas and had farm equipment as an integral part of their lives. Just for example, we know of a collector who lives in Salem, New York, not far from the Vermont border, whose front yard is dotted with unrestored Farmall tractors of the past. Arguably, no auction house more tightly embraces the nuances of this market than Wisconsin-based Mecum Auctions, which recently concluded its 2022 Gone Farmin’ Fall Premier Auction at the Bend XPO in East Moline, Illinois. How big is tractor collecting? Enough that Mecum rang up more than $6.5 million in sales during the three-day auction.

This hugely unusual piece does not pull planes around an airport, but it can still cruise credibly down the highway in its top gear, which makes the tractor’s streamlined, nearly Art Deco bodywork all the more appropriate. What is it? It’s a 1938 Minneapolis-Moline UDLX, described as one of the finest examples of this rare and unusual farm tractor in existence. When the bidding was concluded, the UDLX had a winning high bid of $210,000, which is astronomical for a restored tractor, regardless of rarity. By comparison, the auction’s second-highest sale was the $154,350 hammered for a one-of-one International Harvester HT 340 tractor prototype, with gas turbine power. This was a major event in the world of collectible farming memorabilia, with Mecum finding new homes for 1,302 lots of all types at a very strong 94 percent sell-through rate.

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