If you haven’t heard the news, a Farmall H tractor sold for $40,000 at the Mecum Gone Farmin’ Auction on November 7. That’s not a typo – it was really sold for forty thousand dollars.
After an interview with John Kennay, the man who sold this tractor at the auction, I’ve got the inside scoop on why this tractor was worth so much. Here’s the story.
First things first: this really is an incredible selling price for a Farmall H! There are plenty of Farmall H tractors still around – hundreds of thousands were produced, and here in Michigan you can usually by a Farmall H for as little as $1,000. These tractors are loved by many (my dad included – here’s his story), but I’ve never heard of one selling for more than $9,000 – and that one was something really special. Even a great restoration rarely brings more than $5,000.
What makes this tractor so special is highly original condition. Plenty of people enjoy restoring tractors, making them shiny and new again – but there’s also something to be said for the unaltered original. That’s exactly what you have in this tractor – nearly as original as you could imagine.
According to John, the tractor was bought new by an elderly farmer from Monroe, IL. The bachelor farmer and his sister ran an 80-acre family farm, with around half of it planted in corn. The farmer used the tractor to cultivate his 40 acres of corn one year, but never used the tractor for farming again – choosing instead to rent out the land. The tractor sat unused and was later passed down to the farmer’s niece, who kept it for sentimental reasons but rarely pulled it out of the shed.
14 years later, John and his father purchased the tractor. They are dedicated Case IH men, using red power to farm 2,000 acres in western Illinois. John and his father recognized that the H was something special and kept it well-preserved. John estimates that in the time he and his father owned it, they got it out only once or twice a year for short rides around the yard.
John’s best guess is that the tractor has only 200 hours on it. The tractor’s condition certainly supports this. It still has red paint on the fan belt and the gear shaft rod. Even the piece of cloth tape that the factory put on to hold the spark plug wires together is still there.
While John knew he had something special, he never expected the tractor to sell for so much. John and Dan Mecum had originally settled on a reserve of $7,500, but on sale day John and his wife agreed that they would let it go for as little as $6,000. When it came up to the auction block, the selling price hit $10,000 in a heartbeat. The bids climbed to $20,000 so quickly that the auctioneer jumped straight up to $30,000! The bidders soon thinned out, and two buyers marched right up to $40,000. The winning bid went to a man from Connecticut.
So what did John do with his unexpected windfall? John agreed that it felt a little bit like winning the lottery – “I was so happy!” he said. Later that day, John bought a beautifully restored 1206 Wheatland as a gift for his father. “My dad is still farming at age 89,” John explained. “He’s always wanted a 1206 Wheatland,” so when it came to the block John couldn’t resist. Together with his father, John brought the 1206 back to their 2,000 acres in Illinois.
Here’s the moral of the story: if your grandpa’s Farmall H is sitting in the back corner of the barn, untouched and in highly original condition, think twice before taking it in for a paint job!
What a story! Thanks, John for sharing with us.
Photos from Mecum.