The National Farm Toy Show
By Bill Proft
The 32nd annual National Farm Toy Show was held in Dyersville, Iowa in early November. It was memorable for several reasons. First, the weather was unbelievable. You simply never know what to expect at this time of year, but in this case we had temperatures near seventy degrees with sunny skies and very little wind. Second, the attendance seemed to be down. I have no official numbers, but judging by what I am used to seeing within the buildings on Friday evening and Saturday morning, there were fewer people mingling through the halls. The fact that the weather was so nice may have contributed to simply more folks spending time outside with the vendors set up there. Another factor was the weather here in the Midwest during October. Many corn fields were still standing due to the extremely wet month. In addition, the wet spring and cool summer prevented much of the corn from properly maturing before the first major frost. As a result, many farmers were now using the good weather to their advantage to get the crops in. Whether or not the attendance was actually down, the show had a different feel.
There was certainly much to see in the way of new and old farm toys. As is typically the case, old new-in-the-box (NIB) toys command very significant prices. There were plenty of 1950s and 1960s vintage items in this category. Photo 1 is of a NIB Eska-Carter mounted corn picker from the 1950s. The toy was in very good condition but the carton had some tape on one end to secure a torn flap. The price tag was $425. While I’m sure that there may have been a little bit of bargaining room in that price, it gives you some idea of just how valuable these older toys are.
Photo 2 is of another Eska-Carter product from the same era. In this case it is a John Deere grain drill with yellow lids. Both the toy and the carton were in excellent shape and the price tag reflected that fact. $490 was the asking price for this piece.
The old patio series of John Deere garden tractors continues to be of interest to toy collectors. When Ertl produced these in the late 1960s, dealers were offered a special display stand to promote the product. In photo 3 you see an old original display stand complete with all four of the patio series tractors. I did not inquire about the price, but in the not too distant past this type of set has sold in the $3,000 to $5,000 range. For those of you looking for the truly unique and very rare farm toys, this is near the top of the list.
SpecCast is a company that produces few John Deere miniatures due to licensing arrangements and agreements. They have produced a few of the smaller two-cylinder tractors in miniature over the years along with a few pieces of equipment. The overall quality of SpecCast products has improved tremendously in the last couple of years as well. More recently they have been manufacturing resin models of various implements. This allows them to produce smaller runs at a reasonable price. Two very recent examples are shown in photos 4 and 5. The model 490 four-row planter and number 6 sheller were due for release in December and November respectively.
More importantly, in my opinion, one of the SpecCast employees at the show mentioned that they have plans to produce some John Deere two- and three-bottom trailer plows during 2010. If these are anything close to the detail, quality, and accuracy of the Case plows that they have produced in the last year, they will be big hits in the collecting world. No one has mass-produced small John Deere plows since the late 1950s. These new versions will look great behind the many two-cylinder tractor models that have been manufactured over the years. In addition, there are plans for a John Deere Van Brunt grain drill. More information will follow on these pieces of equipment as it becomes available.
The quantity of folks producing customized models has decreased a bit due to the greater quantities of highly-detailed pieces from the major farm toy suppliers. However, there are always some people devising clever ways to draw customer and collector interest. As an example, Pat Bartek had some “customized” precision attachments for the 140 lawn and garden tractors (see photo 6). As you may recall, Ertl produced a precision series of the patio 140 tractors, each with a different piece of equipment, a few years back. They also produced a green and yellow 140 with allied equipment. Pat removed the white blade, snow thrower, roto-tiller, and mower deck from patio series tractors and painted them yellow. He is now offering these for sale as attachments for the precision green and yellow 140 tractors.
Ertl announced a number of new models for 2010 through the release of their John Deere toy catalog just before the show. They have made some changes as well. Frankly, the number of different types or series of tractors that they had been producing was difficult at best to understand. Moving forward they will produce miniatures in four unique types. At the top of the heap are the Precision (Precision Key Series) models. These will have the most detail of any of their miniatures and are intended strictly for collectors. An example is shown in photo 7 with their 7020 tractor released in early 2009 as number 7 in the Precision Key Series. These were available through a number of the dealers at the show, ranging in price from approximately $150 to $180.