|By Eric C. Rodenberg
SHERIDAN, Mich. – It was the perfect day for an indoor spring Michigan auction when Pioneer Auction Services set up shop on March 30. Inside the comfortably heated expanse of the Sheridan Community Center, it didn’t take long for the room to turn as hot as a $5 pistol.
Packed into the community center were nearly 200 bidders from throughout Michigan and surrounding states. Their focus: nearly 1,000 vintage toy tractors from the lifelong collection of Bruce and Ruth Ann Sackett, presented by Jason H. Clark and his crew from Pioneer Auction Services of nearby Alma.
The crowd was fired up. The Sacketts, longtime Michigan farmers, began collecting the toy tractors and implements in the fall of 1982. Focusing on John Deere, Case and International Harvester products, the Sacketts reached back into the 1950s and 1960s always buying based on condition. Most of the toys were like new in their original boxes.
“We really didn’t know what we had; we have been out of collecting for the past 12-15 years,” the 73-year-old Bruce Sackett said. “We knew that Jason had a good farm toy auction last year, so we heavily relied on him.”
And it paid off in spades. More than 20 toy tractors sold for more than $500. Auctioneers Clark, Bill Martin and Andy Hostetler ripped through 803 lots (many of them multi-item pieces), the camaraderie among Midwest farm toy collectors and the friendly competitive bidding prevailed over the sale from beginning to end, as the ringmasters strived to keep up with the action.
About one-third of the way through the sale, a common-looking Case 1070 with a box crossed the auction block. The box was far from perfect; the pre-sale estimate was $500. But, little matter, there were several bidders hiding in the cattails.
“That tractor came out of nowhere,” Clark said. “It was an Ertl tractor, and the figures we were getting, was that it was going to go for around $500.”
Bidding began cautiously, but once the tractor crossed the $1,000-mark, the ears of the audience became to pique.
“Once it rolled over $2,000, that place just exploded,” Clark said. “I mean, that place was hopping. The family was clapping, laughing and having a good time. Collectors were going crazy.”
At $2,000, the battle was between a southern Illinois collector and an advanced phone Case collector from Pennsylvania. Moving to $2,100, the Pennsylvania collector hesitated, giving faint hope to the in-house bidder. However, he took the $2,100 bid and carried it to the final $2,500.
“Everyone was just clapping and hooting when that was over, it was incredible,” Clark said. “If the box had been in perfect condition, I was told by two collectors (including the underbidder) it would have been worth $5,000. Ertl made very few of those…only four of them have ever been seen, I was told.”
The toy implements initially chosen by Clark and Sackett to the “star of the sale,” a John Deere 7520 and disc with box, sold within estimate for $1,300. Other top sellers included a Precision Case IH 440 yellow industrial, $1,000; a Case SC and manure spreader with box, $750; a Case 1370 with box, $700; and two Farmall 560 tractors each sold for $625.
All quoted prices are hammer prices. Pioneer Auctioneers does not charge a buyer’s premium.
“In this area of Michigan with all the boomers and farmers, a buyer’s premium is just not appreciated,” Clark, who bought Pioneer Auctions from his uncle in 2010, said.
Pioneer Auctions also does not participate in online auctions.
“We’re not a big corporation, and I don’t want to be a corporation,” Clark said. “What we have up here are good old traditional auctions. I don’t want anyone to feel pressured into buying anything. We have old traditional auctions that are becoming more of a social event. There are a lot of couples — both young and old — who come to our sales just to browse, have a good time and bid if they see what they like.”
As for the consigners, they’re more than pleased. “We made more than what we thought we would,” Bruce Sackett said. “Jason is very, very good to work with, and his crew worked extremely hard to pull off a good sale.”
Pioneer Auction Service next auction is April 13, near Vestaburg, Mich., in which they will be selling personal property — including household, antiques and collectibles, shop tools, lawn and garden equipment, horse tack, guns and other sporting equipment.
Contact: (989) 621-7194