Dale Prigge, of Lewiston, is an avid collector of many items that may interest him, toys among them.
"The toy market remains one of the hottest collecting categories, and toy tractors are among them," Prigge said. "I started in the '70s collecting various items, but my first toy tractor was an orange Allis-Chalmers because we had the real tractor on the farm. I bought it for $65 at auction in the '80s and still have it. Today it's worth around $140."
Jim Kieffer co-owner of Sarah's Uniques and Jim's "Man"tiques, St. Charles, is a collector of many items that includes tractors.
"Growing up on a farm, I developed a love for tractors and started by getting a few (toys) for Christmas as a child to play with," he said. "That's where the collecting started, and it is always fun to go out and find another one to add to my collection … a quest to find the exact kind that you had on the farm when you were a child.
"My first tractor was a John Deere farm tractor similar to the one we owned," Kieffer said. "I think I paid $25 for it in the box. Even in the shop, they are a collectible 'man'tique item and I always want to have them around."
Three types of tractors
Prigge has found at swap meets and flea-markets that tractors are divided into different collectible categories.
"The full-size antique and vintage tractor, such as the two-cylinder models, can run into thousands of dollars," he said. "Second, the pedal car tractor … such as a John Deere Coffin Block that sold at a flea-market in Florida for $800 and sold again for $80,000 at an auction in Ohio. The third is the scaled-down die-cast toy model group that sells for $5 on up, depending on how rare and condition."
Serious collectors take note of a toy tractor's rarity and condition.
"Do your research," Prigge said. "Those made in Taiwan usually are the reproductions and the value is down, but American-made, such as Ertl, Hubley who have manufactured names like John Deere, Internatinal Harvester, Farmall and Ford, the value is high.
"At auctions, these and others, like the Ertl Minneapolis-Moline GY50 Tractor, 1/16 die-cast metal, scale replica, rubber tires, in a box, went for $70, while a Minneapolis-Moline G1000 Tractor die-cast metal scale replica no box for $100," he said.
Kieffer continues to look for tractors. "I always look for John Deere, International, Farmall, Oliver and Allis-Chalmers," he said. "I had about 25 in my own collection and the Olivers were my favorite. They are all in the shop now. I do look for those made in the USA made of metal. Some of them are really hard to find and worth a lot of money. Others are just great to collect and are desired and affordable for all. At the shop, we sell our tractors from $5 to $250, depending on size, rarity, condition, in the box, etc."
Mostly men collect
At flea-markets, antique shops and auctions, Kieffer said, "Usually men collect the toy tractors, although I have sold a lot to families with kids. You want their kids to have a nice, durable tractor to play with, or they seem to collect a certain brand. They also bring back good memories from the past, and if kept in good condition, these seem to hold their value well or even go up in value over the years.
"We have about 60 toy tractors in the shop right now, but that is always changing," Kieffer said.
Prigge said, "I find a lot of farmers retired like I am who are collecting. I, myself, have about 35 Allis-Chalmers — that includes a Franklin Mint WC-Allis-Chalmers display model — a few John Deere, International and Farmall tractors. One magazine that I have picked up at the National Farm Toy Museum, Dyersville, Iowa, is the, 'Toy Farmer' magazine."
Kieffer said, "I and Sarah get so much satisfaction finding the tractors just like the ones I grew up with, and seeing someone else come into the shop and finding one that they have been searching for (for) awhile is a great feeling.
"One gentleman who comes in buys three of each tractor he collects to give to each of his three grandsons when they get a little older," Kieffer said. "He loves the search and we always try and find what he is looking for."
Prigge described it as "the fun of the hunt" and plans upcoming trips to Virginia and Florida to scout flea markets.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona freelance writer, antique dealer, speaker on antiques and collectibles and workshop appraiser. If you have an antique shop, make a hobby of collecting, make or restore antiques or collectibles and you want to share in this column, contact Sandy at email@example.com.
If you are trying to find the identification, date, price and a company name and to learn more about this hot on the market collectible check out the standard catalog of "Farm Toys: Identification and Price Guide" by Karen O'Brien at www.krausebooks.com that features collections from the National Farm Toy Museum at www.nationalfarmtoymuseum.com and check out the Toy Farmer Magazine at www.toyfarmer.com.