A small Wisconsin town is home to a tractor collection so exceptional that it’s drawn spectators from as far away as Belgium, Holland and the UK.
The collection – almost 600 tractors strong – belongs to Hagerty PCS client Walter Keller and his son Bruce. Walter is a former John Deere dealer who is known throughout the tractor community as “the man” for rare, low production, experimental and first and last production models. He collects some of the biggest names in the implement business, including John Deere, Minneapolis Moline and Case, as well as some lesser-known brands such as Gibson.
His collection took root in the ‘70s, with a lone tractor kept aside after the sale of the dealership he shared with his two brothers. While he’s now consumed by his passion for vintage farm equipment – traveling far and wide in search of unique additions – Walter can’t quite put a finger on exactly why he started collecting.
“Why do you catch a cold?” he said.
Walter and Bruce specialize in John Deere and own over 300 of the signature green machines.
“For some reason or other John Deere is the most popular tractor for collecting,” said Walter.
One of the Kellers’ most notable Deeres is a 3020 LP Orchard model, which is one of three ever produced. “Orchard” tractors boast elaborate fenders designed to protect delicate fruit trees and vines from the tractor’s tires.
They also own a group of first production John Deere models, including a 3010, 4010, 5010 and 8010.
“This group is probably the crown jewel of the collection,” said Walter.
Minneapolis Moline is also heavily represented in the Keller collection. They own close to 100, including a UDLX, the car-like model known as the Comfortractor that came equipped with an enclosed cab, radio, heater, windshield and headlights. Of the 150 UDLXs that were produced, only 80 are believed to survive.
“I’m lucky to have a lot of rare tractors – I have more than I ever dreamed of having,” he said.
Walter said he’s not alone in his penchant for rarity. It’s a growing trend, with collectors paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to snatch up limited-production models and experimental one-offs.
“I think the hobby is definitely heading toward the rare tractors. People are starting to seek them out more and more.”
Like a lot of tractor aficionados, Walter also collects tractor-themed toys, including gold-plated miniatures and pedal cars.
“We’re not as knowledgeable on those as we are on the real tractors. However, we know there are a couple of things that will complete our collection and we’ll go out of our way for those,” he said.
Hagerty Private Client Services (PCS) offers personalized service, dedicated account executives and benefits tailored to clients with rare automobiles, large collections or specialized needs. Vehicles valued at $250,000 or more, or collections totaling $500,000 or more, qualify for PCS service.
Our PCS team can help you provide specialized service and products for your special clients. Please call 888-460-6040 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.