Some tractor collectors build new barns as their fleet expands; others just install a new shelf in their house.
Farm toy collecting allows enthusiasts to assemble an extensive compilation that can be stored on a bookshelf or in a display case. Although the tractors are small, farm toy collecting has a big following.
The popularity of farm toy collecting is exhibited annually in Sheffield and Moulton. Vendors and collectors from the Southeast and Midwest attend the farm toy shows to buy, sell and trade vintage and modern pieces. Locals attend to see what the fuss is about.
Josh Aycock, who organizes the Northwest Alabama Farm Toy Show in Sheffield, said the event attracts a diverse audience.
“You have serious collectors who will drive all day and spend hundreds of dollars for a rare tractor,” Aycock said. “Then you have people who are looking for a toy like the one they played with as a kid or a farmer who is looking for toy tractors like the ones they use on their farm. You also have parents who are just looking for toys for their children.”
While many farm toys sold in stores are plastic, most at shows are metal.
“You can still find die-cast metal toys that will last forever and can be passed down through generations,” he said.
Daniel Gray, who organizes the Harvest Of The Valley Farm Toy Show in Moulton, warns that farm toy collecting is addictive. He also said farm toy collecting doesn’t have to be costly. While rare or highly detailed farm toys can sell for $250 or more, many can be purchased for less than $20.
“Some people go to their first show just to see what they have, and they will buy a tractor or two,” Gray said. “After they go home, they begin following some of the farm toy social media sites, subscribe to Toy Farmer magazine and start ordering toys online. Next they go to other shows, and all of the sudden they have a house full of farm toys.”
Farm toys include replicas of combines, implements, wagons and trucks. Some enthusiasts create elaborate tabletop displays with buildings, fields, pastures, woods and streams and compete at shows.
With multiple farm toy manufacturers, Dyersville, Iowa, is the Farm Toy Capital of the World, according to collectors. It hosts the National Farm Toy Show, attracting more than 5,000 people annually, while the National Farm Toy Museum attracts more than 30,000 visitors each year.
“It’s a great way for parents to spend quality time with their children,” Gray said. “My son and I spend a lot of time together with our farm toys.”
Similarly, father-son trips encouraged Aycock to begin the Sheffield toy show.
In 2017, Aycock traveled with his father to North Dakota. His dad, who has collected miniature tractors and machinery for 30-plus years, was headed to a farm toy show, while Aycock was competing in a 5K race.
“When we got there and I saw all the people at the toy show, I told Dad, ‘We can do this in The Shoals,’” Aycock said. “I got back home and started working on putting a show together so people in north Alabama would not have to drive so far to attend a farm toy show.”
The Sheffield and Moulton farm toy shows are Alabama’s only standalone events for farm collectables.
Gray said toys ranging from matchbox-size miniatures to pedal tractors are found at farm toy shows.
“Whatever kind of farm toys you like, you can find them at a show,” he said. If one vendor doesn’t have what you are looking for, they will direct you to another vendor who does.”
The 11th annual Harvest Of The Valley Farm Toy Show is Oct. 23-24 at Moulton Recreation Center. For details, call Daniel Gray at (256) 214-2647. The 3rd annual Northwest Alabama Farm Toy Show is Feb. 12-13, 2021, at Clarion Inn Hotel in Sheffield. For details, call Josh Aycock at (256) 320-7490.