From collection to auction
Columnist Sandy Erdman says Elmer Duellman's fantastic collection of metal toys is going from being on display in Fountain City, Wisconsin, to for sale online.
In the farmland country of Southwestern Wisconsin, at the highest point, Eagle Bluff, overlooking the Mississippi River and city of Fountain City, Wisconsin, you'll find not only a salvage yard, but a destination devoted to collectibles and nostalgia: Elmer's Auto & Toy Museum.
Collectibles on site include more than 150 motorcycles and scooters as well as hundreds of bikes, and more than 700 pedal powered vehicles, including cars, planes, trains, trucks, boats and tractors. Over 100 full-size antique and collectible classic cars that will soon be up for sale at a unique Mecum Auction due to the family’s own personal lives and the late Elmer Duellman’s wishes, as Elmer passed away July 29, 2019.
The Duellman family plans to hold an auction of the extensive collection the week of Sept. 12, 2022.
If you love antique toys, well, they have around a thousand toys including cast-iron, pressed steel, tin wind-ups, Japanese tin and battery operated items to choose from. They also have a collection of antique farm tools, and carpenter and mechanic tools.
Collector Elmer Duellman once owned and operated a gas station and car dealership in Fountain City, a race track which is now Mississippi Thunder Speedway, and the salvage yard and wrecker service, which is next to family home and the museum. The home and five buildings all served as a part of the museum and the homestead for Elmer his wife, Bernadette, and family through the years.
Elmer said in an interview a few years ago at the local coffee shop Nana J's in Fountain City, “I began my collection, you know Sandy, in the mid-1960s when I started the auto salvage business. I would purchase many vehicles and I soon found that they took up space, and not just by crushing the vehicles or having the yard guys dismantle for parts. I had to start to put my own collection out in the yard and soon into the barn and other buildings.”
As Elmer always said, “Everything has a story.” That's true, and so do the items in Bernadette's vintage dolls collection also on display in the museum.
Since 1994, visitors from all over the country — and even the world — have traveled the rolling hills between May and September, every other weekend, to experience Elmer’s Auto & Toy Museum. Don't be surprised to see members of a classic car club or antique car club who not only visit, but some have even had their car show in conjunction with Elmer's collection. Even groups of motorcyclists while on a ride may decided to take to a trip up Eagle Bluff while enjoying one of the largest toy collections in the Midwest. You just never know what group or who may stop in.
There are directors and owners of other museums across the country, many of whom make the trip to Elmer’s every few years just to see the new stuff Elmer has added. Families on vacation or just folks on an afternoon ride come to get a glimpse of this nostalgia as Bernadette puts the number of annual visitors at between 2,000 and 2,500 annual visitors.
As Bernadette tells, “This being our 29th and final year, do bring a picnic lunch and sit in the many shaded areas with spectacular views of the Mississippi River Valley.”
Of course Mike Wolfe from "American Pickers," with his love of pedal cars, from time to time has made a phone call and even a trip to Elmer's Museum to visit his friend and mentor for over 25 years, Elmer Duellman. Why would Mike call his friend Elmer? One look at the items on display, and you'll see why.
You can view the museum website at www.elmersautoandtoymuseum.com .
For more information on the auction go to www.mecumauction.com And enter Elmer's Auto & Toy Museum Auction for lots, bidding, and the Mecum magazine article and more.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at email@example.com .