Herbert Close, of Finksburg, points to the intricate gold lettering on the side of a finely detailed model of a steam-powered tractor, an iron black cylinder trimmed with red.

“This is all done by hand,” he says. “That’s 23 karat gold right there.”


A sign painter by trade, Close has done lettering for fire engines for work, but scale models of farm equipment are a passion, one he’s pursued for more than 30 years. Saturday morning, he brought some of his most involved works to the annual Central Maryland Farm Toy Show & Auction, held at the Carroll County Agriculture Center.

“I have almost 20 of them,” Close said of his works. “It takes me eight or nine months for each one, something like that, working off and on.”

Close was just one of dozens of toy and model farm equipment enthusiasts at the show, which has been held since 1987, according to the founder Tim Talbert, of Westminster.

“I’ve been doing this for 32 years, I’ve been collecting toys probably 40 or more,” Talbert said. “And 32 years ago I decided we needed a show in this area, because there were none. Most of them were Pennsylvania or New York, so this was one of the first ones started in this area.”

The event features two main sections, one for vendors selling farm toys and another, where Close was set up, where presenters competed in several display categories, including tabletop scale models of full farms, farm toys that had been modified to resemble real equipment, and other pieces, like Close’s, that had been manufactured from scratch.

“All these displays are competing for a trophy,” Talbert said. “People write down their favorite one and stick it in the box.”

Talbert’s own display is a green space around a model barn, with an array of green tractors of all different designs, though each bears a familial resemblance to the others.

“Oliver is an old farm line that went out of business years ago. That’s all I collect is Oliver stuff,” he said. “Nothing on this table, in reality, is newer than 1976.”

The origins of farm toy collecting have roots far older than that, Talbert said, probably reaching back into the early 20th century.

“A lot of farmers, when they went in an bought a real farm tractor and had their son with them, it was, ‘Here, give this to your kid,’ ” Talbert said. “Well, some of the dads thought, ‘I want another one, and put it away for later. Let him play with the one,’ and that’s how collecting got started.”

The event has grown and shrank in cycles over the years, Talbert said, the current challenges being keeping the interest up with the newer generations in competition with the internet. But in his own family at least, his children caught the collecting bug early.

“I’ve been here since I was knee high to a grasshopper, so I have seen it evolve in different ways,” said Laura Glass, of Taneytown, Talbert’s daughter. “We used to see a lot more displays, not so many sales, now it’s kind of flipped flopped with that.”

On Saturday, Glass was on the microphone, announcing the award of several door prizes.

“There are different things he’s done across the years I feel could be brought back,” she said. We used to do a pedal pull for the kids during the toy show, a pedal tractor. We would actually put weights in and have classes. That would be another thing we could get back into.”


Jason Bowers, of Jefferson, was one of the presenters competing Saturday. It was his second time in the customized toy competition and third or fourth time coming to the show overall, he said. He is trying to get his own children, a 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, into farm toys.

“I was born and raised on a dairy farm and I had my own pedal tractor. When they each turned a year old, they each got a pedal tractor,” Bowers said. “She has her first toy tractor, it’s a a little pink one. He’s more into it than she is.”