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Introduction to Tractor Collecting

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  • Introduction to Tractor Collecting

    Now is a wonderful time to be active in agriculture related diecast. Never before has there been the level of detail, realism and accuracy as the new models issued today. There's a price range, scale and model selection for everyone potentially interested in the hobby. This will serve as an abbreviated intro as well as a refresher for those more 'seasoned' collectors.

    Who makes farm toys?

    Ertl, SpeCast, Scale Models, First Gear, Diecast Promotions, Universal Hobbies, Siku, Bruder, Greenlight and many others are actively making ag related models.

    What scales are farm toys made in?

    Scale is a term used to define the size of a model. For instance if a model is of a John Deere 70 and it's is sized at 1/16 scale then it would take 16 models lined up back to back to equal the size of the actual John Deere 70. Companies typically produce most models in 1/64, 1/16 and 1/32 scale. Construction diecast is often in 1/50. Other scales include 1/87 for train layouts and all the way up to 1/8 or larger. The most common are 1/64 and 1/16 in the United States. 1/32 is more common in Japan and Europe as they offer good details but without taking up the room of 1/16. 1/32 is growing in popularity in the US.

    What models are made?

    Brand new versions of 1/1 models all the way back to vintage tractors of the 1940s and older are currently being produced by numerous toy companies. Licensed models from John Deere, Case IH, New Holland and Agco are among the most common and popular. Caterpillar, Big Bud, Versatile and others are also popular.

    What do models cost?

    Loose new models from ERTL in 1/64 scale retail for $5 or slightly more. Higher end more detailed versions in larger scales may retail for $100-$250.00 new. Some can range even higher than that. This leads into the next question . . . .

    What's the difference in models?

    Many companies will make a base model. Alterations to say the trim, rims or paint plus lower production numbers often results in 'Special Edition' or 'Collector's Version' of the model. A basic model is often referred to as a shelf model and typically intended for larger market releases. In recent years mid tier releases offer more details, realism and scaling more 'true'. Higher end models such as ERTL's 'Precision' line start at $100 and up. These are largely 1/16 scale and offer strict scaling of parts, correct paint colors and lots of details. These are not meant as toys and only produced for the adult collector.

    Where can I purchase models at?

    New models can be bought directly from implement dealers. John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, AGCO and other dealers often have a decent assortment of newer toys in stock. Depending on your area these dealers may not be very close. Another terrific source is online/hobby stores that cater to collectors. A quick online engine search will yield dozens of toy stores that offer niche models, new in stock items and older hard to find toys. Flea markets would be another source. Prices and selection varies greatly. If you're lucky enough to live in an area with lots of ag related business then farm toy shows are a great place. Toy dealers often have newer items at shows and you won't have to pay for shipping. Another possibility is through auctions. Online auctions from ebay and others are good places. Another great idea is live auctions. I've often found the best deals are at auctions specifically ones focused on farm toys. For the most part these are most popular in the Midwest, upper plains and parts of the east coast. Auctionzip is a wonderful resource to use when hunting for toy auctions.

    What should be my focus?

    My advice is to buy the best models you can afford with the space you have available. For many this might mean limiting your collection to 1/64 or 1/32. Many models in those scales can be displayed in wall mounted cases, cabinets or by other means with out sacrificing much room. Different companies have different focuses. ERTL offers up new licensed models from John Deere and Case IH yearly. SpecCast for the most part offers up higher detailed models of vintage tractors from the 50s-70s in various scales. Scale Models directs most of their energy towards American tractors in 1/16 scale with all toys made in USA. Bruder, focuses on models for children, produces 1/16 models made in high impact plastic with lots of moving parts all made in Germany. Perhaps growing up your family or grandpa farmed with a particular brand and you wish to collect only models of that brand. Vintage toys from the 30s-70s can be found at toy shows, auctions and other places. These tend to be more for the seasoned collector with more money to spend.

    Where can I find out info on new releases?

    Toy companies websites, online forums such as Diecast Garage!, blogs, youtube and facebook are all good sources to learn about new items. Toy Farmer and Toy Truckin' are both monthly magazines dedicated to the companies, dealers and people in the hobby. I've been a subscriber to Toy Farmer for several years and highly recommend the magazine as an excellent source to learn about new releases, dealers, trends in the hobby as well as toy shows.

    Are farm toys a good investment?

    In short, yes they can be a good investment. Emphasis on 'can be'. At the same time I wouldn't want to count on them as a retirement fund. Just like any other toys please enjoy them as a hobby and it will be rewarding in it's own right. If you want an investment look into stocks, mutual funds or other means and/or consult a financial advisor. The farm toy hobby often rides the waves of the current ag market forces and inputs.

    Enjoy the hobby. I've met a lot of nice people and became friends with many through personal contacts as well as through online contacts. There's something for anyone!

  • #2
    Well done piece on farm/ag toy collecting Zach!


    • #3
      Excellent info and intro on tractors and tractor related items. personally i could use a "name that tractor" app because i can barley (not barely) tell a potato picker from an Axial-Flow Combine
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