It's maximum fun on miniature farms for these hobbyists

February 09, 1997


Staff Writer

Leon E. Thomas picked up the little tractor, fondled its smooth red painted surfaces and said, "It's a Farmall A, 20 years old and it's handmade by a toymaker."

The fine workmanship, scale and precision are what attracts people, grown men mostly, to collect, buy, sell and trade toys like the 150 tractors and farm implements that make up Thomas' collection.

On Saturday, he was at the Valley Mall, manning a booth put up by the TriState Farm Toy Collector's Club. Thomas, 59, of Oak Ridge Drive, Hagerstown, is a past president of the club.


The club's booth, a farm scene with a scale-model barn built by Thomas' brother, Howard, and a silo that he built, are models of the barn and silo that his family owned on Doubs Road when he was growing up, he said.

The display was one of more than a dozen exhibits spread out in the corridors of the mall from Wednesday through the weekend. Exhibitors included local 4-H clubs, Ag Expo, farm equipment dealers, Grange clubs, the Cooperative Extension Service and other farm-related organizations.

The toy club's exhibit with its scale-model barn, fields and farm toys was one of the more popular exhibits. Thomas spent the day behind the rope barricade, explaining the display and his hobby to all who stopped by.

He said he's been collecting farm toys for about 15 years. His fascination stems from the fun he gets finding them and the people his hobby brings him in contact with, he said.

Farm toy collectors meet each other at club functions, shows and auctions, he said.

"We just enjoy the toys. We're like big kids who never grew up," he said.

Thomas said older, hand-made toys are the most valuable. An old, hand-made in good condition can costs hundreds of dollars, he said. "There are still a few toy makers left," he said. "Most are in Iowa, the farm toy capital of the world," he said.

He said modern toys are mass-produced and lack the quality and precision of hand-made models.

For Thomas, the Holy Grail is a model of a 1950s Allis-Chalmers 100 All-Crop combine. Such a toy would be made by a hand from scratch by a private toy maker.

"I saw one sold for $1,000 a couple of years ago,'' he said. "I guess that's why I don't have one," he said.

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