Model tractor collecting – ‘A delightful disease’

The old saying that the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys was apparent at the latest SA Model Tractor Association (SAMTA) gathering in Bothaville. Annelie Coleman spoke to collectors about the passion of model tractor collecting and the joy it brings them.

Model tractor collecting –  ‘A delightful disease’
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“Collecting is an all consuming passion. It is like a disease, but a most delightful one.” That is how veteran collector Jeep Veenstra describes model tractor and agricultural implement collecting. He has been the SAMTA secretary since 1990 and says, “The satisfaction of finding a specific model one has been searching for many years can hardly be described.

“We go to great lengths to find such items. I, for instance, once asked an SAA pilot to find me a model of a Jeep bakkie that my father bought shortly after the Second World War in 1948, during one of his flights to the US. Lo and behold, he brought me one! The model cost me nearly R1 000, but it was worth every cent. “I recently also asked a lady on a visit to her children in Australia to get me a model Valiant car there,” Jeep continues.

Collecting is a fine art
Model collecting is a fine art, according to Jeep. He advises prospective collectors to decide on a theme and on the model scale they want to collect. It is not wise to collect indiscriminately, as the collection will become too big and difficult to manage.

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Jeep Veenstra, SAMTA secretary; Dirk de Koster, SAMTA auctioneer and vice-chairperson; and Frans Jacobs, SAMTA chairperson. Photo by Annelie Coleman

“The collecting bug bit me as a very small child. In 1939, at about the age of four, I started my collection. It was a very broad collection in the beginning, but over the years I honed it down to a couple of themes. I now collect model tractors, cars, bakkies and 4×4 vehicles on a scale of 1:43. I grew up on a dairy farm near Pretoria and I also collect models of the vehicles and implements we used on the farm.’’

Valiant, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Ford and Volkswagen cars and Jeep models form a significant part of his collection. ‘‘My model car series is nearly complete but I’m still looking for a 1968 Chrysler Valiant. “Some collectors collect items on a scale of 1:64 and even 1:16 but I stick to the scale of 1:43,” he explains.

The most valuable piece in Jeep’s collection is a Corgi Toys set of model tractors and farm implements in the original packaging. The set, known as Set 22, includes a Ford tractor, a Massey Ferguson, a combine harvester and a Land Rover. A similar set was recently sold for £9 000 (R128 000) in England.

Uniting collectors
South African model tractor collectors became one big family under the auspices of SAMTA on 20 August 1989. “The companionship between the collectors is one of the joys of our hobby. We find so much pleasure in learning from each other, to see other’s collections and to get to know people from all corners of the country. Since my retirement in 1995 I developed a new lease on life through my hobby and SAMTA.

“The one thing that gives me great pleasure is the involvement of children and young people in the workings of SAMTA. An auction is held at every SAMTA meeting and a few years ago we introduced an auction for children 12 years and younger. The adult members usually donate items for the children’s auction. I’m always surprised by the enthusiastic bidding of the young ones!”

Going once, going twice, SOLD!
Auction time is usually eagerly awaited at the SAMTA get-togethers and auctioneer Dirk de Koster has become a legend in his own right for the way he handles the sales. “What do you say? Ja or Yes? Don’t look away, look at me!” he passionately prompted the buyers at the Bothaville auction. Dirk describes himself as obsessed with anything that has wheels and an engine. He has been the SAMTA auctioneer since 2000 and says it makes him very happy to get the best price possible for the sellers.

John Deere is the most popular brand among collectors, says Wiets Botes.

“The most expensive item I ever auctioned off was a John Deere Number 10 children’s tricycle tractor for R7 100 at the Potchefstroom meeting in August 2012. “One of the funniest moments in my career so far was when one of the members, who was a bit strapped for cash, asked if the seller wouldn’t mind taking sheep instead. “The most unique item I auctioned off was a handmade model of a Fiat 640,” Dirk recalls. The most expensive item ever sold at a SAMTA meeting was a John Deere 965 combine harvester that went for R8 000 in 1995.

Fervent collectors
Model tractor dealer Wiets Botes from Potchefstroom explains that SAMTA members are much keener about their hobby than Blue Bulls supporters. “The camaraderie and sportsmanship between SAMTA members is wonderful.” It seems the majority of model tractor collectors are green – John Deere green. “One of the most fanatical collectors I’ve ever met is Piet van Rensburg from Schweizer-Reneke who owns probably the biggest John Deere collection in the country. Chris Heynecke from Potchefstroom is a close second.”

Massey Ferguson and Ford are a close second. You could find a Ferguson Vaaljapie, Ford 5000 or a Fordson Major on most farms in the previous century. Model cars such as Chevrolet and Ford are also quite popular. “I sold a Bugatti Veyron model at the Bothaville meeting for R2 350. This car is one of only 300 in the world,” says Wiets. “The monetary value of the items in our collections is of secondary value,” says SAMTA member Johan van Huyssteen from Virginia. “The most expensive model is not necessarily the most special.

“In our collection we have a John Deere model that our friend Ben Viljoen brought from Zimbabwe. He lost his farm and everything he owned to Mugabe’s land invaders and the last thing he brought out was this little tractor. To me and my family it means more than the most expensive model we own. “My sons Francois and Johan Junior are co-collectors and we as a family are delighted to be SAMTA members.”

Contact Jeep Veenstra on 076 387 2277