Tractor collection nets £1.5 million

Tractors on display at the Cheffins auction.
Tractors on display at the Cheffins auction.

The family of two collectors has made £1.5 million from their hoard... of vintage tractors and steam engines.

John Keeley and his wife May amassed their fleet of vehicles and machinery over a 40-year period at their farm in Berkshire.

Their collection eventually grew to include 50 vintage tractors and 15 steam engines, stored in several barns around the farm and in the open air.

And the collection eventually became the centrepiece of the annual Knowl Hill Steam and Country Show.

However, Mr Keeley died in 1999 and when his wife passed away last year, relatives decided to sell the collection. And the auction attracted thousands of enthusiasts from as far away as the US.

"The marketing of the sale brought about a remarkable reaction and our offices were inundated with requests for catalogues, it was no surprise that some 1,500 people were estimated to have attended the auction sale," say auctioneers Cheffins.

"There were over 700 cars in the field and many catalogues were sold on the gate."

Some of the most appealing items in the sale were steam-powered fairground rides. One, a Dobby ride with paintwork by Hall and Fowel, was put back together for the first time in 50 years and sold for £19,800. Two carved wooden elephants from a children's fairground ride made £6,600 and £6,380 respectively.

But it was the tractors that were the highlight of the auction. One, a 1928 Foden D-Type Timber tractor made £140,000, while a 1929 Sentinel five-tonne steam wagon called 'Deborah' went for £80,000. A 1935 model sold for £75,000.

"With 50 vintage and classic tractors on offer, there was certainly a make and model to suit every collector and his pocket," say the auctioneers.

These included a 1917 International 12-25 Twin Mogul that set a new UK record for a vintage tractor by selling for £84,000.

"It is unlikely that we will ever see an auction sale such as this again," say Cheffins.

"Not only was it one man's collection containing an eclectic mix of steam, tractors, commercial vehicles, cars and memorabilia, but John Keeley managed to collect some of the most interesting items in all of those categories."

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