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September 25, 2004
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$262,500 is top bid for '17 tractor
Gloria Bauske
Special to Argus Leader
Frelance OK

BY GLORIA BAUSKE

For the Argus Leader

A North Carolina collector paid more than eight times what he hoped to pay for a rare antique tractor Wednesday, and more than 87 times its original sale price.

"Naturally we were all hoping it might be a $30,000 tractor," said Ken Eder, who bought the 1917 Russell 30-60 tractor at a Freeman auction sight unseen. "But I don't believe we'll ever find another one, and if we did, we'd probably end up spending a lot more money."

The tractor is thought to be one of only six that exist in the world.

Eder bought the tractor for $262,500 over the telephone at the farm sale of Orville and Audrey Waltner, who plan to move into town.

"The tractor was 9 years old when I was born," said Orville Waltner, 78. He remembers his father and brothers using it for threshing, grading roads, pulling trees to make way for a highway and moving snow and houses throughout the years. "My father and his brothers bought it in 1917, and the whole town came out to see it arrive," Waltner said.

It was purchased new for $3,000 from a dealer in Sioux Falls and came to Freeman by train.

Waltner replaced the radiator once for $1,500, but other than that, it has required only small repairs. It still runs. It was last used in 1948 to move a house to the Ervin Waltner farm. For the past 56 years, it has remained on the homestead site, and now it will join a collection of about 150 other gas and steam tractors in North Carolina.

"I was looking in one of the old steam engine magazine books at a Russell engine," Eder said, "and I thought, `Well, it would be good to have one of those over here on the East Coast because there's never been one over here.'" He plans to start a train tractor museum in Carthage, N.C., and saw the tractor purchase as a once-in-a-lifetime buy.

"It's the single highest-priced item, as far as personal property, that we've every sold, and I've been selling for 30 years," auctioneer Rich Wieman said.

For Waltner and his wife, who is 73, the sale means leaving the past behind and moving on.

Having no children to take over the family homestead, the Waltners sold their home and the 14 acres it sits on, along with many family heirlooms.

They'll leave behind the small log cabin and chapel Orville Waltner built in 1995 from old fence posts. Area people visited the buildings during the Christmas season, when the Waltners heated and decorated them and their yard for the holidays.

The couple has mixed feelings about starting the next chapter of their lives.

"She'd like to come back and see what they do with the house," Orville Waltner said. "When I drive out the driveway, I don't ever want to come back again, because (the new owners) will never do the things the way I did."

tractor facts

Year built: 1917

Manufacturer: Russell and Co. of Massillon, Ohio

Rarity: Believed to be one of six in world

Cost in 1917: $3,000 (when adjusted for inflation, would have cost about $48,500 today)

Wednesday's purchase price: $262,500






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