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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Vintage Deere Literature Yields Financial Harvest

Yankton Press & Dakotan

Auctioneer Ken Girard was pleased with the results of a John Deere literature sale held at his Wakonda auction business this past Friday. The large collection came from British John Deere collector and author Don Macmillan

WAKONDA — Approximately 180 pounds of vintage John Deere literature, most of it provided by a buyer in England, was sold Friday at Girard Auction and Land Brokers, Inc. in Wakonda.

The highest-selling pieces included a John Deere 430-630-730 Hi Crop brochure that brought $1,400; a 1960s JD sales manual that sold for $800 and a JD 620 Orchard piece bid up to $500. A rare JD Lawn-Gard Fertilizer brought $395. The majority of brochures sold for $100 to $300 each.

The rare collection came to the auctioneering firm from a buyer in England who recently purchased the brochures and maintenance manuals at the estate sale of longtime John Deere history author Don Macmillan who resided in Devizes, Wiltshire, Great Britain. The English author was one of the world’s most respected authorities on Deere & Company. He bought his first John Deere tractor in 1943 and was appointed the first United Kingdom Deere dealer in 1958.

Macmillan went on to establish one of the world’s foremost collections of John Deere toys, tractors and memorabilia. In cooperation with Deere & Company, Macmillan authored “John Deere Tractors & Equipment,” Volumes 1 and 2 and “John Deere Tractors Worldwide,” all published by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. He also authored “The Big Book of John Deere Tractors” and “The Field Guide to John Deere Tractors.” Macmillan was also a contributing author to “the Little Book of John Deere” and “This Old John Deere,” both published by Voyageur Press.

Macmillan used his John Deere literature collection as reference material for his books. The pieces range from single page brochures to maintenance manuals with more than 160 pages. Most have been well preserved and were in mint condition.

“We don’t usually see a collection that’s this well preserved,” auctioneer Ken Girard said. “A lot of times there are stains on covers and water or rodent damage. Every time you handle a piece of literature there’s some damage from creases, oils from your hands and that type of thing. For the most part, this collection is in very good condition.”

The collection was sold in the Midwestern United States because it’s likely to be where the strongest market exists. A few test pieces were sold earlier this year and netted substantial prices.

“There’s always the possibility that we can be surprised by sale results and that we don’t see the sales we expect,” Girard said. “What we sold earlier this year was tremendously successful. We notified the collectors we’re aware of in this region. That mailing list has about 4,000 names. This type of artifact is somewhat like a coin collection. People who like to have the literature don’t usually display it or do much with it. They just like to have it in their possession.”

One of the rarest pieces sold was a brochure outlining the benefits of JD Lawn-Gard Fertilizer. The four-panel foldout compared JD fertilizer with other companies. It’s a piece the auctioneers have never run across at any other sale.

Many of the brochures referred to tractors that were not popular in the United States but were well used in Europe. Orchard tractors are one model that was very popular there for a period of time. The John Deere 620 Orchard was only manufactured for a few years. It was designed with a wide front end and metal fenders that protected both the tractors tires and engine from tree branches as the tractor was used in fruit orchards.

“This tractor had several unique features, including a fuel cap cover that reduced damage to blossoms as workers drove through the orchard,” Girard said. “That brochure went for $500.”

The rarest piece of literature among these John Deere Collectables was the John Deere 430-630-730 Hi Crop tractor brochure in mint condition. Girard saw another one with water stains and rodent damage sell for $1,100. The tractors were mainly used in the southern and western United States in vegetable fields. His auction saw the brochure sell for $1,400.

“An actual John Deere High Crop tractor sold this year for $29,000 because the models are so rare,” Girard said. “The majority of them incurred a lot of rust damage because they were used in areas with a lot of humidity. They were also used to death. There’s been a real interest amongst collectors for that type of tractor. For years no one had much interest in them but for now they’re a hot item.”

A few of the brochures featured foreign languages, most likely German. John Deere bought out France’s Heinrich Lantz and the Lantz models were produced in that country. A few of the brochures feature tractors that were only made in Europe.

“The value of the literature covers a pretty wide range,” Girard said. “This was a very strong auction.”