Bill Lueke’s tractor collection auction on Tuesday morning started with the faded red, yellow and green ones that hadn’t been restored yet. An hour and a half in, Jordan Leiker, of Hays, already had bought three, including a 1946 Minneapolis Moline UTS.
“I was here for the Case,” said Leiker, pointing down a line of tractors in the gravel parking lot to a 1948 Case LA. “I don’t know, I think I paid a few hundred bucks. We farm, so I just play around with them, I like the old stuff.”
Leiker’s family, including his dad, Paul Leiker, grows wheat and milo south of Hays near Munjor. Right now they only have one antique tractor, he said, so this more than doubles the collection.
“I’ll store them at my dad’s place,” Leiker said, smiling. “He won’t care, he’s given up on us.”
Auctioneer Kelly Konken, with Nixon Auctioneers of Wichita, worked from a cart shaded from the bright sun and surrounded by the auction crowd. Konken called out bids rapid fire, watching the crowd as heads nodded and fingers lifted.
“They all run,” Konken said with encouragement. “We don’t get to say that very often.”
“The first one’s always the cheapest,” he said, when a 1952 Allis Chalmers CA sold for $450.
Next up, a 1944 International Harvester Farmall A sold for $725, and a 1941 Allis Chalmers WC went for $725.
Floyd Moore, of Wellington, has a collection of 80 tractors, all Masseys. Bidding on a 1952 Massey Harris 33, he stuck to it, with some encouragement.
“Look at that rubber,” said Gib Therman, patting the new tires. “And the sheet metal’s good on it.”
But at $1,600, Moore was losing interest.
“What if I bought you a soda pop?” asked Therman.
Giving up, Moore shook his head no.
“If the price was right,” he explained afterward, “it would have went home, but I already have two of them. So far the prices have been cheap, except for this one.”
The 82-year-old Lueke’s collection, 70 tractors restored and unrestored, came about after he retired from farming.
“This is a very emotional day for him,” said his son, John Lueke, who watched as his dad prepared for the day. “I collect motorcycles and I can’t imagine losing them all in one day, at any price. It’s the turning of a page.”
Also a mechanic, Lueke restored the tractors himself, clear down to repainting them, John said. While he originally intended to pass them on to grandkids, the day came, John said, when his dad thought it best to dispose of them himself, being knowledgable of the market and value.
“There are some rare ones,” John said. “Each one has a story.”
Gene Gabel, of Hays, was just there to watch. Gabel saw a batch of a dozen or so tractor seats sell for $30.
“I’m a retired farmer, and I’m here just looking at the tractors,” he said. “For me, it’s all Internationals.”
Mike Condon drove out from Brighton, Colo. He had his eye on three, fairly certain he would take home at least one.
“It’s a good sale, a big sale,” said Condon, who has nearly 50 tractors in his collection, most of which he restored. He admired Lueke’s work. “He’s sure got a lot of nice ones, he’s mostly Minneapolis-Moline and Oliver, but he’s got Fords and Internationals too. He’s kind of like me, he’s not tied down to any one brand.”
Condon grew up driving a tractor in Iowa.
“I spent all my younger days on a tractor. Back then we worked dawn 'til dusk on those things,” he said. “The first one I really liked was a Ford. It was my uncle’s and we used to pick corn together. I just fell in love with that Ford, when I was 7 or 8 years old.”
Condon said market prices right now for the old tractors are relatively low compared to what they had been. Not only are commodity prices low, but a lot of older collectors, like Lueke, are selling off their collections.
“I used to pay $2,500 or $3,000 for one and then restore it,” Condon said. “Now you can buy them restored for that.”
Bidding on a small cardboard box of mixed tractor parts, Kolb Kobler, of Hays, won it for $17.50 and got what he wanted: the emblem for a 1953 Ford Golden Jubilee NAA tractor commemorating Ford’s 50th anniversary.
“Isn’t it kind of cool?” Kobler said. “I just wanted that, although I don’t know what I’m going to do with the piston.”
Retired from owning a car dealership, Kobler Jeep Eagle, Kobler had no plans Tuesday to buy a tractor. “I have no idea why I’m here, I don’t know anything about tractors,” he said. “So maybe I’ll learn.”
Mike Wegman, Canyon City, was wearing a McCormick Farmall cap and admitted, “You cut me and I bleed red.” The owner of M&L Equipment, Wegman is in Palco installing temperature and aeration control equipment on a new grain elevator.
It’s no accident he’s here for the auction.
“I planned it that way,” Wegman said, who said he read about the auction in Red Power magazine.
He was interested in a 1972 Farmall 154 Cub Lo-Boy.
“It’ll be one of my newest tractors,” he said. “I have about 30 and the majority are Farmall. Our oldest one is a 1929 Farmall Regular. My daughter and I restored it in 2017. It takes a lot of time and money to do that.”
One of his first purchases of the day was a small box of mixed parts.
“For $5,” he said. “A cutoff switch and voltage regulators. The thing is, when you restore old tractors, it’s nice to have old parts around.”