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Lifetime Massey collection goes on sale Saturday at Cosmos

Tractors, including a Massey Harris 44C Crawler experimental tractor, are lined up Thursday as Gerald and Charlotte Fank of Cosmos prepare to auction off their collection of Massey Harris and Massey Ferguson tractors and other equipment on Saturday. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)2 / 3
Gerald and Charlotte Fank of Cosmos are auctioning off their huge collection of Massey Harris and Massey Ferguson tractors, equipment, memorabilia and spare parts. Saturday’s auction has attracted the attention of bidders from all over the world. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)3 / 3

COSMOS –– Most farmers tend to favor a certain make of agricultural equipment that results in lifelong loyalty.

That’s certainly been the case for Gerald and Charlotte Fank of rural Cosmos.

“We’ve been Massey people since the ’30s,” said Gerald Fank, who was busy Thursday putting the final touches on his family’s extensive collection of Massey Harris and Massey Ferguson tractors, equipment, memorabilia and spare parts that will all be sold at auction Saturday.

The sale, which begins at 9 a.m., features a large collection of Massey farm equipment that is getting attention — and registered bidders — from all over the world.

“It’s getting a lot of buzz,” said Allen Henslin, from Henslin Auctions Inc.

Henslin said this auction stands out because the Fanks have a collection of rare tractors “that not everybody gets a chance to see,” and items that collectors have “searched and searched and searched for” that are now for sale at one location.

Gerald Fank said he’s already met potential bidders from Canada, Ohio and Indiana that arrived here several days ahead of the auction.

Henslin said he’s fielded calls from England, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. “A lot of bidders are already registered and ready to go all over the world,” he said.

There will be a live video stream of the auction and buyers can bid in real time, along with people who attend the auction.

Fank’s love of Massey equipment started with his grandfather.

“The first tractor he bought was a Massey Harris. A 101 Super,” said Fank.

Ever since his grandfather set the standard in the 1930s, Fank said he’s “always been partial to Massey Harris tractors” and he continued buying the “reasonably priced” equipment when he and his wife were married in 1969 and operating their farm near Cosmos.

“And it’s just turned into a collection,” said Fank. “We decided to invest in old tractors.”

There are more than 50 Massey tractors and more than 100 pieces of Massey equipment, including a potato planter and digger, on the sale bill.

The Fanks may have the only experimental crawler tractor, a Massey Harris 44C, that the company built in the early 1950s. Only a “handful” were built, but they were called back to the factory and destroyed shortly afterward, said Fank, whose knowledge about Massey equipment is as large as his collection of tractors.

One of the crawlers, however, was “forgotten about” and was used to remove trees in the woods near Duluth.

When Fank found it in 2008, the tractor was lying in pieces with “a bird living in one end of the radiator and a mouse living in the other end of the radiator.”

The collection also features three Massey Harris four-wheel drive tractors that were built in the 1930s — before the start of World War II when manufacturers stopped making ag equipment and switched to wartime needs.

Fank said he has one of only three Massey Harris four-wheel drive general purpose models known to be in existence today.

Over the years Fank and his wife traveled across the country, and to England, to display some of their equipment and to buy new pieces to add to the collection.

It’s been an activity they have enjoyed doing together, said Fank, adding that Charlotte “knows as much about tractors as I do.”

Deciding it was time to retire, travel and “let somebody else enjoy the tractors,” Fank said he and his wife decided to put the entire collection up for sale.

He confessed that parting with his four-wheel drive tractors will be the toughest part of auction.

The sale bill also includes thousands of Massey parts.

Fank said there are nearly 50 pallets and three hay racks of parts, like engines, carburetors and manifolds, that collectors may need to restore their own Massey Harris tractors.

“There’s one heck of a lot of parts here,” said Fank, adding that 90 percent of his collection has been stored indoors.

Henslin, whose own family has close ties to the old Massey Harris dealership in Clara City, said the auction will be an “exciting” opportunity for people to “purchase these items and build their personal collections.”

He said there will be a large tent on the auction grounds and shuttles will be provided to ferry people back and forth to parking areas.

The sale begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at 51633 120th Street, Cosmos.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750