EAST SPARTA, Ohio – There are only seven Farmaster tractors left in the world and just six Intercontinentals. But the American tractor beats them both in terms of rarity – there are only three.
Tractors like these are hard to locate, but a Stark County collector has managed to find at least one of each, plus about 30 other rare antique tractors.
Marvin Cook has been collecting antique tractors for about 12 years. As a dairy farmer, he spent years buying, selling, fixing and using tractors on his farm. Then his interest grew from tractors used solely as farm equipment to antiques.
When he started out, Cook simply wanted to collect antiques.
“We first thought an old tractor was all it took,” he said.
Focusing. But the collector soon found out he was wrong and decided to focus on lesser known classics instead of the broad category of antiques.
Cook’s tractor collection ranges from a Themian made in the early 1930s to an Allis Chalmers WD45 made in the 1950s.
While he enjoys collecting these rare tractors, he likes sharing them even more. About 10 years ago, Cook built a barn to store his collection and opened Cook Tractor Museum, right on his farm.
The collector didn’t start out intending to open a museum, but as he added more and more tractors, he found he wanted to share them with anyone who might be interested.
“There just got to be more and more tractors,” he said.
Looking. Tracking down a specific tractor made decades ago can be difficult, according to Cook.
“They’re getting harder to find all the time and the price is getting higher all the time,” he said.
But estate sales are often a good place to look. The collector has gone as far as North Dakota and Texas to find the right tractors to add to his collection.
There are some tractors, like the Global, that Cook simply can’t find. Then there are others that, despite their rarity, weren’t so hard to locate.
The American is the rarest tractor in Cook’s collection, but he owns two of the only three still in existence. The collector especially enjoys the Americans because they were made in Canton, not far from his home.
Some of the other lesser known classics in Cook’s museum are the Empire, Earthmaster, Brockway, Leader, BF Avery, Friday, Graham Bradley, OMC, Silver King, Gibson H, Slopemaster, Sheppard Diesel and Wards.
Another feature. Although the tractors are the highlight of the museum, Cook also has a collection of 35 cast iron implement seats on display. The seats, used on horse-drawn farm equipment, were made from the Civil War until the turn of the century.
Cook became interested in the seats after seeing them several times while looking for tractors.
The collection focuses partly on local history, as several of the seats were made at C. Aultman and Co., a Canton-based business.
Learning. When Cook began collecting tractors, he didn’t have much of a background on any of the lesser known classics and he gathered most of his information through reading.
“I kept studying up about them all the time,” he said.
Cook hasn’t added to the museum for a while, mostly because the barn he built is getting full. The tractors are already packed in so tightly their wheels touch and the building is a continuous sea of reds, greens, yellows and oranges.
Besides finding them, Cook said the biggest problem in collecting rare tractors is deciding how much to pay once he finds one. Then, there’s the problem of getting it from the seller’s house to his farm.
But Cook doesn’t mind. For him, it’s worth it to be able to share his finds with other antique tractor lovers.
“I guess the people you meet is probably the best” part of collecting these tractors, he said.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)