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Navasota man has a 'Deere obsession'

By LAURA HENSLEY

Eagle Staff Writer

NAVASOTA — Farming enthusiasts usually turn green with envy after taking a look at Alton Smith’s impressive assemblage of everything John Deere.

The Navasota resident began collecting miniature versions of the classic green machines in 1980 while he owned and operated Smith Brothers Implement in Navasota. From there Smith’s John Deere memorabilia collection started to grow to include everything from coin banks, lamps, calendars and dolls to John Deere wine bottles, wind chimes, pens and measuring tape.

“I started when some of my customers wanted to start collecting,” Smith said. “I decided I would keep one of everything I ordered for them and it has gone from there.”

After retiring and selling his family’s business two years ago, Smith had to move his massive collection from his office at the shop to his office at home. It’s at the Smith home where the love affair with John Deere can be found everywhere from the front yard to a bathroom. Outside the home, visitors are greeted by a deer silhouette metal cutout proclaiming “The Smiths,” and a metal weather vain with a jumping deer mounted on top is propped on a picnic table. But the jewels of this John Deere collection can be found inside the Smiths’ converted garage. That’s where Smith, with the help of his son, have set up a John Deere “museum” complete with display shelves and exhibit cases all perfectly captured with track lighting.

On one of the office walls more than 90 die-cast models are lined in chronological order starting with a replica of one of the first tractors made by John Deere in the early 1900s. Another one of Smith’s prizes in his collection is a replica of the first toy tractor John Deere produced in the 1940s.

As a result of John Deere’s successful history that began in 1837, the Deere & Company name has established and maintained a faithful following of both customers and collectors. The rich history of the name-brand tractor and agricultural equipment manufacturing company contributes to the country’s fascination with John Deere paraphernalia.

Like other American brands such as Coca-Cola, John Deere has an extensive group of memorabilia collectors around the world. On John Deere’s official Web site one can order everything from toys and T-shirts to rain gauges and thermometers. Also contributing to John Deere’s collectorship is hometown implement houses that usually offer an inventory of toys and other items.

Although the Smiths still add to their collection (the most recent addition was a John Deere table lamp), they have slowed the pace. “We’re running out of room to put things,” Smith’s wife, Jo Ann, said. “But it’s been a lot of fun collecting it all.”

• Laura Hensley’s e-mail address is lhensley@theeagle.com.

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