Why spend millions on antique tractors?

Buz Livingston
Walton Sun

Walton County is negotiating to purchase dozens of antique tractors. It’s humbling to see a tractor I operated listed as an antique. Unique in South Walton, I come from an agricultural background. My ¾ ton Silverado had a “Don’t Complain about Farmers with Your Mouth Full” bumper sticker. Its after-market bumper was iron with a spring-loaded hitch designed for pulling heavy loads. As a Decatur County Young Farmer, I snared the highest peanut yield award. In college, I was a member of UGA’s Livestock Judging Team. Our son wore a blue Future Farmers of America jacket; he didn’t show hogs, thankfully, but was on board for forestry. No one needs to explain the importance of agriculture to me. I’ve got that merit badge.

Learning diesel mechanics is a valuable trade, but using antique tractors doesn’t make sense. Inexperienced operators will damage equipment. When that happens, the local John Deere dealer (or anyone else) won’t have replacement parts. Crop production is a worthy skill, but modern equipment does the job more efficiently. Antique tractors are not an effective way for today’s students to learn diesel mechanic skills or how to maximize crop yields.

According to published reports, the tractor lode is worth $4.5 million, but Walton County could get them at a discounted rate, $3.5 million. A basic economic tenet states price is determined by supply and demand. Mike Wolfe from American Pickers came to Walton County recently, but he bought Abe Partridge’s artwork, not farm equipment. Regardless of provenance, antique tractors have limited demand. A basic Google search shows numerous tractors, albeit not in pristine condition, for less than $10,000 per unit. Some of the tractors could bring substantially more but likely only a few. Abundant supply, coupled with minimal demand means lower prices. Another factor depressing is the location; it’s just like real estate. In the heart of the American Corn Belt, demand would be higher. Northwest Florida is not a major agricultural area.

As a contrast, look at the late, great Franko Washboard Jackson’s CD. They were being offered on Amazon for $50. None are available today — someone bought it. Fifty beans is a lot to pay for a CD, but scare supply leads to high prices. If 10,000 were for sale, a few might sell for $50, but not all.

One idea is Walton County could turn the exhibit into a tourist destination. “Let’s blow off going to The Red Bar and instead spend the day looking at old tractors,” said no one ever. We are an immensely popular tourist destination. We slowly squander it by inattention to growth management and proper infrastructure. People will come here to dive and snorkel reefs, hike the forests, and enjoy the beaches. We have world-class musicians and artists. Let’s support things that are already working. Show me how the $3.5 million will pay off.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.