Jackson collector's antique tractors, steam engines put on auction block Saturday

Sunday, December 6, 2009
Kelly Konken with Nixon Auctioneers takes bids Saturday for a 1911 Avery Steam Engine made in Peoria, Ill. The steam engine sold for $74,000. (LAURA SIMON)

More than 100 pieces of antique farm equipment, including tractors and two steam engines, were featured at a public auction Saturday outside Jackson.

The collection's owner, Ted Elliott of Jackson, started collecting antique farm equipment during the 1950s when he was in junior high school.

"I was raised real poor. When I got something I kept it, because I never knew if I would get something again," he said.

Elliott said he built his collection by buying items individually and by purchasing parts of larger collections.

As the owner and operator of two residential care facilities in Sikeston, Mo., Elliott said, he has been on call 24 hours a day for more than 30 years. He said he was selling the farm equipment because maintaining them was taking up too much of his time and because he wanted to start pursuing other interests.

People look over the inner workings of a 1911 Avery steam engine Saturday, December 5, 2009. The steam engine was being auctioned off along with numerous antique tractors and farm equiment in Jackson. (LAURA SIMON)

"I am doing some other things. It was time," Elliott said.

He said while it was the right time for him to sell his collection, it was still a little bit emotional for him.

"The Avery Steam Engine is possibly the only one left in the United States. There is a thresher made by the Cape Girardeau Manufacturing Co. We'll miss them," Elliott said.

The Avery Steam Engine was purchased for $74,000 via a telephone bid by a bidder from Sweden. A smaller steam engine was purchased for more than $22,000.

Auctioneer Lonnie Nixon from Wakefield, Neb., said the two steam engines were unusual pieces and predicted they could bring big prices.

He said the steam engines had drawn the most attention before the auction, even though keeping steam engines "requires a major investment and lots of time."

Steam engines are trickier than gasoline or diesel engines, he said, because the boilers must be maintained constantly to prevent flaws that could cause them to rupture under pressure.

However, not all of the items featured at the auction were complicated, large or had a big price tag.

"I bought a barber chair for 10 bucks. It was a deal," said John Langenbach of Marina on the St. Croix, Minn. "We have a museum and I am going to set it up in that."

Langenbach was not the only out of town bidder at the auction. In addition to phone bidders from across the country and around the world, people came from Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and Missouri to attend the auction in person.

Many attendees said they enjoyed antique auctions because it allowed them to see everyday items from the past.

"I like old equipment. I got a bunch of old antiques myself," said Vernon Bruckerhoff of St. Mary's, Mo.

He noted Elliott's collection was "very old" and featured some quality items.

"I'm going to bid on some stuff. I like the Olivers," he said.

The three Oliver tractors Bruckerhoff was interested in were among 18 tractors auctioned, dating primarily from the 1930s and 1940s, Nixon said.

Nixon said he has specialized in antique farm equipment auctions for about 35 years, he said.

Like people obsessed with cars, farm equipment fans love their hobby, he added.

"It is kind of like a game that whoever dies with the most toys wins," he said.

Staff writer Rudi Keller contributed to this report.

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