by Tom Van Dusen
AgriNews Staff Writer
RENFREW – Renfrew aggregates operator and – former – Allis-Chalmers collector George Nesbitt intentionally chose a high-profile American auction company to disperse 300 mainly orange units and assorted parts July 14-15… and he wasn’t disappointed.

He wanted maximum exposure and a tightly organized sale. When it was all over, Nesbitt had nothing but good to say about the professionalism and helpfulness of Mecum Auctions of Walworth, Wisconsin, which assigned 28 staff to the Renfrew event.

The auctioneer’s cut is a percentage off the top which Nesbitt wouldn’t divulge. However, he did say the company did a fantastic job and he doesn’t regret a minute of it, even though he didn’t earn as much as anticipated and some items didn’t sell.

For Mecum, it marked the company’s “Gone Farmin” division’s first international on-site auction, a late addition to its 2017 calendar after Nesbitt reluctantly decided to put his orange beauties on the block. Pre-sale, he estimated they could sell for up to $5-million; final numbers won’t reach that total.

The two biggest sellers were an A-C 220 FWA at $75,000, and a 1920 A-C 6-12 at $55,000. Most machinery offered had been meticulously restored and cleaned. Nesbitt said most of the high-end merchandise went to buyers in the United States, with lower-priced items staying in Ontario.

Asked if he’s in mourning following dispersal of his prized collection, he said the mourning started when the Ontario Ministry of Labour got him in its sights about two years ago. He’d been told by others that once the ministry began sending in inspectors looking for transgressions, the harassment would never stop. And that’s exactly the way it went.

It was one of the main factors influencing Nesbitt’s decision to sell… ongoing struggles with the MOL. Following a court battle he didn’t have the stomach to continue, Nesbitt settled with the ministry this spring, paying $36,700 for several convictions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Inspectors have returned to his aggregate quarry since the settlement, looking for more offenses.

The charges contended that Nesbitt Aggregates Ltd. and its owner failed to ensure that adequate safety measures and devices were in place. Nesbitt maintained MOL inspectors acted against him following complaints from a disgruntled employee. Before that, he said, cordial visits by inspectors were few and far between.

Although the action by the ministry was directed towards his 50-year-old custom aggregate business, it impacted his Allis-Chalmers collection housed on the same premises. That’s because Nesbitt was forbidden from using employees during down time to restore his antique machinery. Restoring and painting pieces off-site was too costly and the quality wasn’t as high, he explained.

The ministry interventions cost him “a couple of million” dollars in lost sales which Nesbitt doubts he’ll ever recoup. His business, which specializes in ornate granite sold across North America, has been reduced to a fraction what it was.

Even gawkers had to pay something to attend the Nesbitt sale… a $15 admission fee to watch Mecum dispose of in Canadian dollars what was described as one of the world’s most comprehensive A-C collections, including representatives of almost every model produced by the venerable tractor company.

In addition to the show on the auction block, the admission fee included live musical entertainment from two local bands.