John Deere bike with chain

by Dr. Lori Verderame

The history of the John Deere company, like many such American firms, chronicles high points of American history. In my family, John Deere meant quality equipment and I had one uncle in particular who always relied on John Deere products because they would last and last.

History of John Deere

John Deere tractor toy

In 1837, John Deere who was best known as a blacksmith and inventor fashioned a polished steel plow. He made it in his Grand Detour, Illinois blacksmith shop. This plow allowed pioneer farmers to cut clean furrows through the sticky and hard to plow Midwestern prairie soil. By the next year, Deere is actively manufacturing his innovative plow. By 1849, John Deere had moved his business to Moline, IL and employed a work force that produces 2,000 or so plows for American farmers. In 1852, John Deere buys out his partners and establishes John Deere & Company. Branch offices and dealerships are established throughout the late 1800s to include walking plows, corn planters, wagons, buggies, and other quality products.

Bikes and Collectibles

When it comes to collectibles, the John Deere firm put its stamp of approval on many objects that today are sought after, collected, and cherished. For instance, John Deere had a long history in the realm of bicycles. It is not widely known but John Deere had dealerships and farm equipment stores that were a main source for the purchase of bikes.

John Deere bike

John Deere’s grandson, Charlie was the bicycle leader at the company. Charlie developed a special trademark of a deer riding a bike to be used on John Deere’s early bikes. In the late 1800s, bikes by John Deere like the “Deere Leader,” “Deere Roadster,” and “Moline Special” were so popular that the company realized $150,000 just from bicycle sales in the fiscal year of 1895. While the mid 1890s was an era known for its great bicycle craze, John Deere was a leader in the youth bike market. There was even a Deere Road Race, likened to a Midwestern Tour de France, in August of 1895.

Although John Deere discontinued bike sales by 1900, the company resumed selling bikes during the 1970s when the country’s next big bike crazy occurred. John Deere & Company revisited the bicycle business from 1972 to 1976. They also sold new product lines like consumer lawn and garden equipment, bikes, snowmobiles, snowblowers, etc. Deere sold more than 2 million bikes including standard 20 inch boys and girls bikes, men’s and women’s three and ten speed bikes and even a bicycle built for two.

In addition to bikes and equipment accessories, John Deere collectibles included toy tractors, hats, belt buckles, posters, prints, toy train sets, cast iron farm toys, constructed metal toys like Buddy L Toys, and the list goes on. Values for these John Deere collectibles vary widely with collectors paying high prices for original, authentic objects relating to the history of farming and the John Deere company. Of course, I can help with determining values for your particular John Deere collectible.

What to Look For

John Deere collectibles have various logos and marks on them. In 1876, the famous leaping deer trademark was registered and this logo was used extensively. However, the famous slogan, “Nothing runs like a Deere” was not introduced until 1971. It was used to introduce Deere’s snowmobiles and it did not appear on early John Deere objects, vehicles, or other collectibles prior to that date.

The logo used on John Deere bikes was a deer jumping over a log riding a bike. That logo dates from 1936 and is used until 1949. This along with the object’s patina will help you date that old bike that you find in an old garage, barn, or yard sale.

Make sure the logo matches the era of your collectible made or distributed by the John Deere company. Be careful since I have seen a 1936 logo decal fraudulently positioned on a 1975 John Deere piece.

Always look for good condition when it comes to John Deere collectibles. Many of these John Deere collectibles were used over time and were made to last. In the case of John Deere collectibles, condition is vitally important.

Get an online appraisal of your John Deere collectible from Dr. Lori.