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Acres of ‘old iron’ pulls bidders from 25 states

MILTON, Ind. — “Acres and acres of iron” would be an apt description of the Leo Daniel auction on April 29.

Daniel had collected all manner of farm antiques, engines and tractors for more than 50 years on his 140-acre farm in East Central Indiana. Although many of the items had sat outside – exposed to the Indiana elements – for almost as long, the interest was strong among collectors and dealers simply due to the massive amount of iron and the unqualified rarity.

Auctioneer Kurt Aumann, surveying the scene, summed it up best: “Some of its fair, some of its rough, but a lot of its rare.” A crowd estimated to be as high as 1,200 bidders, from 25 states and Canada, attended the two-day, two-ring auction.

Many of the collectors of these “big toys” were typical of Galen Wilkinson of Larwill, Ind. who owns a “couple dozen” antique tractors. Even he was impressed by the Daniel collection.

“You find stuff out here I’ve never seen before,” Wilkinson said. “This is the biggest auction I’ve seen in 50 years. You have to think if he (Daniel) hadn’t bought this stuff years ago, a lot of it would not be around now.”

There were more than 100 cast-iron tractor seats, selling anywhere from $25 to $300 apiece. There was no buyer’s premium at the Daniel auction.

Topping the list of old cast-iron seats, complete with no breaks albeit in rusty condition, was a Chilled Plow seat, manufactured in South Bend, for $300. Another Chilled Plow seat, in almost as nice condition sold for $200. A Fuller and Johnson seat, in nice condition with no breaks, sold for $155, while a Syracuse cast-iron seat ran the bids up to $120. A near perfect Solid Comfort seat sold for $50, while a cracked Climax seat brought $80.

“I’ve never seen so many tractor seats in one place,” said Matt Chandler, Stilesville, Ind., in what was to begin a familiar refrain during the weekend. “I didn’t know him (Daniel), but I almost feel like I did, seeing all this stuff. It’s amazing … all these years of hard work and love.”

Among the Daniel collection was an early International Harvester 12 horsepower horizontal engine, complete with original gear and cooling screen, which sold for $12,500. Leo Daniel’s son, Jerry, remembered the old engine from his childhood days.

“That engine was one of the very early ones – 1905, I believe,” he said. “I remember dad got that down in southern Indiana. We had it fired up and it ran. It was a little loose when we got it going. I’m sure somebody will be able to tighten it up. It’s a nice old model that should run fine.”

Two early Indian motorcycles, both in rough condition, generated a lot of interest among restorers. A 1937 Indian Chief, with the engine missing the front cylinder, saw bids soar to $2,000, while an Indian V-twin engine from the late 1930s sold for $750.

The auction’s top seller was a Rumely G 20-40 early oil pull tractor in fair condition, and appearing to be complete and restorable. It sold for $18,000. Close on its heels was a John Deere D tractor, fair to rough condition but mostly complete, that sold for $15,000.

Competition was stiff for a Baker 25-50 tractor, in original and complete condition, some paint and lettering visible. It reached $13,000. An absentee bidder from the United Kingdom was instrumental in pushing the bidding up on the Baker.

Some of the odder items included a Henderson 4-cylinder motorcycle engine with aircraft conversion that sold for $2,900, and a Hershell-Spillman two-cylinder vertical steam engine, complete with original boiler and cart. The innovative steam engine, which was used to operate a carousel, sold for $2,500.

The next big Aumann vintage antique tractor auction is scheduled for June 22-24 in Cornland, Ill. The Carl Ebbersten Estate auction features more than 300 tractors, a farm toy collection, a cast-iron seat collection, 100 vintage tractor signs, hundreds of implements and thousands of parts.

For more details, call 217-563-2523 or visit

This farm news was published in the May 31, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.