Iowa Public Television


Big Bucks for Toy Trucks

posted on December 19, 2008

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With Christmas just days away, it's quite possible that some children already have carefully inventoried the items under the tree. And if they've been especially good this year, one of the packages just might contain some kind of farm toy.

Most will be ripped out of the box and put into service immediately. But it might be wise to carefully remove the item since both the toy -- and the box it came in -- could be worth quite a bit of money someday.

Market to Market visited the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa last winter where we found some rather old "boys" paying a lot of cash for some rather old "toys." Jeannie Campbell explains.

Frank Miller just paid $2,500 for a peddle tractor that, to some, might appear to be nothing more than a piece of junk.

Frank Miller, Mott, North Dakota: "It came out in about '49. This particular tractor and the John Deere ‘A' were the first two pedal tractors that any company built."

Miller has been collecting farm toys since 1979, when an implement dealer gave him two toy tractors that matched a real one he had just purchased for his farm. He gave one to his sons and set the other one aside.

Frank Miller, Mott, North Dakota: "…and I thought when [they] raise Cain with that one well, I'll give them the other one and I guess from there it started, I started adding, and they never did get the one by the way."

While Frank Miller is a buyer, Everett Weber is a seller.

Everett Weber, Lima, Ohio: "If you're going sell it, it's better to keep it in the box. A lot of things right now, like today they sold just a box only for like seven hundred dollarsand the toy in it probably if it would have been mint, well they would have brought it only another seven hundred."

In farm toy circles, Weber is actually better known as a builder than a seller.

Everett Weber, Lima, Ohio: "Everything is done by hand. Just getting the creases in here with the curvature took me a couple of years to figure out how to do it. That brought the record price of $12,300.00."

Every year, buyers and sellers like Everett Weber and Frank Miller make the pilgrimage to Dyersville, Iowa for the National Farm Toy Show, which is known as the "Grandaddy of ‘Em All." The November, 2007 get-together marked the event's 30th anniversary and drew 15,000 collectors. Matt Scheibe's father Claire, was one of the founders.

Matt Scheibe: "The show was started in 1978 by my father and a good friend of his, Dave Bell. Dave is now the president of SpecCast, a toy company here in Dyersville. At the time, Dave and my dad decided we should have an event for the collectors that were forming at the time. We're in our 30th year this year. We have seen a lot of growth over the years it's been really actually quite stable the last ten years in terms of the size of the crowd and the facilities that support all the visitors that come to Dyersville. So it feels quite normal for us to see the crowds that we see here today."

Dyersville is home to three companies that produce farm toys. But only one, Scale Model Toys, still manufactures miniatures in Dyersville. The company is owned by Joseph Ertl - - a name that might seem familiar because Ertl, is probably the most recognized names in farm toys.

Joseph Ertl, Scale Model Toys: "And when my dad started making the toys in the basement all of us five boys would help him of course one of the jobs that I had at first was to take the little toy and tap with a hand tap, tap a hole into it. So, we're now into the third generation working here and now some of the grandchildren are starting to work part-time too. And we're just a family owned business and we'd like to kee it that way."

In addition to being the "Mecca" of farm toy production, Dyersville also is home to the National Farm Toy Museum. The first tractor produced by Fred Ertl in 1945, is one of its most prized artifacts. For some, the National Farm Toy museum is an opportunity to learn about farming history. For others, like Bob Perdue, who collects and restores farm toys, it's an opportunity to see how the toys looked when they were new.

Bob Perdue, Mercells, Illinois: "Some of this stuff in here I sold for three and four dollars when it was new. The top prices was four dollars and now it might run two, three hundred dollars, and occasionally $1500 new in the box. It amazes me that there's still new in the box to be found. Even at this show I've seen some."

The National Farm Toy Museum features the largest collection of farm toys anywhere, and connects buyers and sellers of hard-to find collectables.

There are hundreds of vendors selling all kinds of farm toys and an auction. In 2007, 450 items were auctioned for a total of $160,000. The highest bid was $5,100 for a 1950 Ford Pedal Tractor.

Tom Cornwell has worked the auction at the National Farm Toy Show for 15 years.

Tom Cornwell, Cornwell Inc: "Old, rare farm toys are real strong, but the market fluctuates just, it fluctuates just like anything else. I've been doing this for 20-24 years, specializing in farm toy sales, and the market's been, for the most part, been real good."

Currently, pedal tractors are hot among farm toy collectors, and at the 2007 show, Scale Model Toys unveiled its latest in a long line of pedal products… The John Deere Combine. The suggested retail price is $220.00, but they're already selling for more. Steve Von Handorf is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Scale Model.

Steve Von Handorf, Scale Model: "It's really setting new standards for what as a ride-on is available. This ride-on has an unload auger, it steers in the rear, and it's, it's the same concept as a traditional pedal tractor, but it takes on a new look and it's got a new application and so I think kids are going to enjoy it a lot."

People of all ages, and from all walks of life are buying and collecting farm toys. Whether you believe they're more valuable on the shelf and in the box, or out in the back yard and in the sand box, might have something to do with your age.

Brian Hines, Collector: "Oh, we like to play with them a little bit. Ours are all out of the box."

According to Joseph Ertl, who has been making miniatures since he was ten, their real value is as a toy.

Joseph Ertl, Scale Model Toys: "I don't think there's anything better than to build a toy where by a child can sit down and play with that and he can be a pretend farmer. It's as good of an occupation than anything that you can put in a kids mind."

For Market to Market I'm Jeannie Campbell.


Tags: agriculture collectibles Dyersville Iowa news toys tractors trucks