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Thousands turn out to buy pieces of history

Staff writer

Glen Litke watched as the auctioneers’ van moved quickly down the rows of tractors, steam engines, and tools his father, Virgil Litke, spent a lifetime collecting.

He tries to think about tractors bought by young bidders eager to work on a classic.

That comforts him because it’s hard to let go of a piece of his father’s soul.

“I try to be positive about the next guy,” he said. “That helps me release this, knowing that young kids will restore them the way I did.”

About 1,000 showed up at the sale at 1373 Mustang Friday and Saturday which was conducted by Illinois firm Aumann Auctions Inc.

More than 600 bidders from as far away as New Zealand registered to follow the sale online.

Litke said his grandchildren counted license plates from 26 states including Maine on vehicles parked near the farm.

Alex Fuselier, manager of Aumann’s tractor division, said the collection had a lot of sought-after “barn find originals.”

“A lot of our bidders found pieces that will be the highlight of their collection,” he said. “They will give them a good life.”

A man from Vernon, Texas, who wouldn’t give his name drove 500 miles for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I wanted to bring my two grandchildren to let them see some things they will never see again,” he said.

He already won bids on parts and collectibles, but had his eye on a 1932 John Deere general purpose tractor and a restored Wallis 20-20 that still ran.

“So far everything over there is bringing in lots of money, isn’t it,” he said gesturing to rows of steam engines and tractors. “Today is the big day.”

An Emerson Brandingham Big 4 was one of several rare tractors that drew high bids from serious collectors. It sold for $92,500.

“I don’t know of more than two that exist,” said Fuselier.

A 1916 Big Bull Tractor went for $55,500 after nine bids and a Rumley 20-40 Model G. sold for $18,500 after 12.

A $17,000 bid placed online won out over 14 bids at the sale to score an Avery 20 HP Return Flue Tract Engine.

The sale of a Minneapolis Return-Flue Compound Steam Engine rescued from riverbank by Richard Wall in 1979 raised $2,100 for Tabor College.

Litke was pleased Marion County residents braved the 100-degree heat to attend the sale along with residents from nearby Goessel, Salina, and Wichita.

“I think that’s neat that many items will stay close to home,” he said.

Dale Dalke of Hillsboro bought a Case D.C. tractor that had been his grandfather’s for $460.

“I just like old tractors and it was grandpas,” he said. “I just got it back in the family.”

James Goertzen of Goessel had the winning bid of $7,500 for a 1937 Ford two-door.

He plans to clean all the sludge from the engine, fire it up and see if it runs.

“I really am into this kind of antique car,” he said. Goertzen also owns a 1936 Ford pickup.

“I will do what it takes to rebuild it and leave rest way it is,” he said.

Litke was happy equipment in the collection will be used again on area farms.

“An Amish couple bought a few threshing machines and a binder,” he said. “That thrills me, and it would have thrilled my dad, too. It’s neat to see something like this resurrected to be useful to someone.”

Litke said has spent “every spare moment” getting ready for the sale this past year.

“I’m exhausted,” he said Sunday. “I never have put myself through anything of this magnitude and I have an advanced music degree. It put me through the paces.”

But it was the right thing to do, he said.

The family would need to keep his father’s collection secure in locked sheds, but the engines would only deteriorate.

“I have driven through the country and seen situations where the children don’t take care of the estate because they didn’t want to go through the process,” he said. “Maybe it was too painful.”

After he and his siblings finish cleaning up his parents’ estate, he plans to hop on his motorcycle and check out restoration efforts of new owners.

‘It’s a comfort to me not to say goodbye forever,” he said.

Last modified July 29, 2021

 

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