2023 - Volume #47, Issue #1, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Mini Reaper Sold For $18,000 At Toy Auction
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it come through the NFTA,” says Cornwell. “It was a pretty rare item, really detailed and such a large piece. It took two people to carry it out.”
The size alone may have made the item rare. Buckeye mowers and reapers were anything but rare in the second half of the 19th century. At the age of 20, Lewis Miller began improving on the McCormick reaper. He added a floating cutting bar parallel to the ground that could be raised or lowered. It was the prototype of the modern mower.
Although some patents were sold to John Adriance in 1856, Miller and several partners formed the Buckeye Mower and Reaper Co. in 1863. Miller continued making improvements on the Buckeye and other farm equipment, earning more than 90 patents over his 68 years. Both the Adriance and Miller companies thrived selling the innovative mower. Nonetheless, the salesman sample sold at the NAFT is the only one known to exist.
It wasn’t the only salesman sample sold at the auction, however, nor the only large one. Other salesman samples included a 2 1/2-ft. long stationary hay baler, a barn cupola, a horse-drawn sickle mower with a working sickle and a terrace plow.
“All of them came from a collector who passed away,” says Cornwell. “He collected salesman samples of all kinds. I once sold him a salesman sample pitchfork, just a short little thing.”
Cornwell has sold a lot of salesman samples over his 42 years in the auction business, 38 of them doing toy auctions. However, he suspects most salesman samples get traded privately.
“I’ve seen some awfully nice things come through these auctions,” he says. “A few years ago, I sold a Gandy Belt display with a John Deere D tractor and a threshing machine. It was displayed at a World’s Fair. It was a really neat piece and sold for $22,000.”
Salesman samples aren’t the only items selling for high prices at the NFTA. “I sold a cast iron hay tedder for $27,500,” recalls Cornwell. “It was one of four cast iron pieces made by the Wilkins Co. Altogether, the four sold for $41,000.”
One of the most expensive toys he sold was a John Deere Top and Block Model A pedal tractor. It brought in $71,000.
While most toys and even salesman samples he sells are likely to end up in a personal display, Cornwell is curious about the future of the Adriance Buckeye mower and reaper.
“I knew it would bring a lot of money, but not that much,” he says. “It will take a special kind of person or museum to display it.”
While Cornwell has turned over the 75-year-old business to the third generation, they are continuing his tradition of toy auctions. He is looking forward to calling the NFTA in 2023 with even higher-priced items likely.
“All the online farm toy collector clubs have helped toys continue to climb in value,” says Cornwell. “I don’t know if we will have more salesman samples at the 2023 show. Every year, it changes, and there is always something new.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Cornwell, Inc., 1108 13th St., P.O. Box 43, Aurora, Neb. 68818 (ph 402-694-2216; mobile 402-694-9104; cornwellauction.com).
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