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Big Boys and Their Toys: Farm Toy Show Quickens the Heart Rate

The only thing better for a farm toy collector is an auction where you've got a chance to pick up a 'deal.'

Farm toy show? Where? When? I can't wait!

If you have this reaction, you're hooked on farm toy collecting. If your wife isn't, it can make for some interesting discussions.

If it sounds like I'm talking from experience, that's because I am. I caught the farm toy bug quite by accident. I went to a top flight auction held locally on New Year's Day many years ago, and my jaws dropped when someone paid $1,000 for a collection of three small New Idea toys form the '50s in boxes. I remember thinking, "you could buy an acre of land with that," so you know it's been a while back.

I came home with a replica-type Co-op tractor for $25. I was in such shock from watching toys sell for super high prices that I wrote a story about how toys should be for playing with, not sticking away and hoarding so you can cash in on them later.

Well, I wouldn't say I've flipped 180 degrees, but my wife probably would. Somewhere past a mid-life crisis in my mid-40s, I started getting more nostalgic. That led me to toy sales, and I started buying original toys from the '50s.

At the same time I went to an auction of an old Massey Harris dealer not far away who had long since closed up shop and then later passed on. The day he retired was the last time anybody had been in the old metal buildings, which were combination shop and dealership headquarters.

To say he might have been confused for a junk collector is an understatement.

During the auction the sales crew was still carrying stuff outside of the shop. They happened across an unopened manila envelope. Inside were 50 brand new Massey-Harris catalogs he should have sent to customers in the early 1950s. Apparently he never quite got around to it. The whole envelope sold for less than $20. One catalog in good shape is worth about $30 today. Not knowing any better at the time, I stood there and let it happen. Then I helped the buyer recover his cost by buying a single copy from him afterwards.

There were neat pictures inside. That's all it took. I was hooked, so I began collecting literature too.

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I tell my wife it's an investment. No, she doesn't really buy it. Like in any type of investing, you run across a steal once in a while, and you get taken to the cleaners other times, because you get caught up in the emotion of the moment, even in online auctions. Overall, it balances out. It really is a good investment. At least that's what I tell myself.

If somebody asks me how many toys I have, I just answer "several." My wife might answer "too many."

The same goes for literature. What's interesting, though, is to go through old genuine literature and note how proud companies were of their engineering marvels. They were great for the day.

There's a Toy Show coming up this next weekend, March 7 through 9, in Indianapolis. It starts Friday evening at 5 p.m. at the Crown Plaza Indianapolis Airport Hotel just off I-465 at exit 11. It continues Saturday and Sunday. There is no auction, but there will be big room displays by collectors offering their wares for sale, and room trading, where people open up hotel rooms and sell toys from there.

It's called the 36th annual Lafayette Farm Toy Show. Don't ask me why they still call it the Lafayette show when they've moved to Indianapolis. It's kind of like when the Purdue Fish Fry switched from pork to fish one year to support hog farmers after a rash of low hog prices. My dad loved fish, and he never quite figured out how you could have a "fishless" fish fry.

He never quite figured out why people paid so much for toys, either. He had his own collection, mostly of late model Ertl toys, but he liked them just the same.

Will you see me at the 'Lafayette' Farm Toy Show? It's possible. I may bring my four-year-old grandson and check it out. Oh, and they also have toy trains this year. Why not have toy trains at a "farm" toy show? After all, it's the "Lafayette Toy Show," held in Indianapolis.

Nobody said people who collect toys are geniuses – just good investors!

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