Tim Talbert has loved farm toys for as long as he can remember. That's what drove him to start the Central Maryland Farm Toy Show at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster 30 years ago.
"I ran the show for several years until it got to be too much," the Westminster resident said. "Then I turned it over to the [Carroll County] fair board. They asked me to join the fair board and continue to run it for them, and that is what I did."
The 30th annual show, benefiting the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair, will be held on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster with sales 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a live auction of unique toys and farm memorabilia at 5:30 p.m.
"I've been a farmer all my life. I grew up on a farm, and I always liked the toys," Talbert said. "I've been collecting them for close to 40 years. Some time ago, I sold off part of my collection, and now I only collect Oliver toys, and the Oliver sales literature and sales memorabilia — even though they no longer make Oliver farm equipment. I collect old farm magazines, too. I have a Farmer's Almanac from 1894, and I have 1913 letters from Oliver [Tractor Co.] to farmers who purchased their equipment."
According to Talbert, 35 to 40 vendors will offer toys for sale, some as old as from the 1940s and '50s.
"This is a big hobby," he said. "The national show in Dyersville, Iowa, draws 25,000 people every year. The town shuts down for the first week in November and many residents open their homes to people coming in.
"A lot of people don't realize how big farm toy collecting is. When I first started this show, the closest show was Lancaster [Pennsylvania]. Now there is one in Frederick and one in Taneytown that started a few years ago."
Donald Shoemaker runs the Taneytown toy show annually in March. He said he plans on stopping by Saturday's show. His toy collection has grown so large that he made a museum inside his Taneytown home where he holds an open house once a year with custom-built toys, rare toys and farm toys.
"I've come to the Westminster show for at least 10 or 15 years," Shoemaker said. "When I was growing up, my father would go to the Frederick fair every year and get me a toy. I started collecting by age 10.
"After I got married, my son and I would go to the big shows like the national show in St. Louis. That's how we continued collecting."
Vendor Tim Rock, of Keymar, said he has attended the Central Maryland Farm Toy Show since it began. He's collected farm toys since he was a boy growing up on a farm. Every time his dad got a new tractor on the farm, Rock said he would get a toy model of the same tractor.
"I was 14 years old at that first show," Rock said. "I was doing layouts then with my two brothers, and I have never missed that toy show since it started."
Talbert said they will again have a contest for the best layout — displays of farms built to scale with toy trucks and equipment incorporated into the design.
"Trophies will be awarded for the best 1/16th and 1/64th displays, and there's a contest for scratch-built farm toys, custom-built and best-in-show models," he said. "The 1/64th is like Matchbox car size and 1/16th is the bigger size. I had a truck last year that was customized that won, a lime spreader. Participants do it to try to win a trophy and for bragging rights."
According to Talbert they will also have a number of door prizes and a variety of foods — including breakfast, lunch and lots of dessert items — served in the kitchen by the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair Board. He also spoke of the toys vendors will offer.
"There will be a little bit of everything," Talbert said. "It is mainly a farm toy show, but there will be all sorts of toys. You'll see Matchbox cars, NASCAR, antique trucks and even newer styles. Vendors will have vintage toys and some will have new toys. We are going to have something new in Blizzard Hall because it is our 30th year, a hospitality room with videos, pictures and memorabilia from past shows, and a place for people to stop and chat."
Rock said that chat time is a big part of what is so appealing about toy shows.
"We meet new people and we meet a lot of the same people that come to every toy show in the area," Rock said. "You can make new friends and see your old friends. We love to joke around."
Finch Services donates a pedal tractor every year to be raffled off, and this year is no different. Tickets will cost $1 per chance.
At 5:30 p.m. the show will conclude with a live auction.
"We have 200 to 300 items to auction off, mostly farm toys and farm memorabilia," Talbert said.
Rock said the farm toy craze has been embraced by farmers for many generations. Most of his toy collection includes toys from the 1960s and early '70s, his growing up era. His favorite brand is International.
"Growing up on a farm made me become a collector. After I stopped playing with toys, I started collecting. I've actually bought toys made in the '60s that I paid a small amount for that are now worth double that price.
"If there is a toy show or a toy auction near here, 90 percent of the time you will see me there. I look at every one of them in a 50-mile radius. I've even left one show just to go to another. I am always looking for something. There's always something that I need," Rock said with a laugh.
Talbert and Rock both hope to see more young people coming to the shows.
"We see a lot of older people and a lot of families," Talbert said. "People who are into agriculture in any way would like it, and this is a good way to learn about it. For some of the farm displays [the builder] will go through and explain how everything works. It makes you see farming in a whole different way."
Rock agreed with Talbert.
"The young ones will be the generation to take over one day," Rock said, adding that he is also looking forward to the competitions.
"I like to restore toys back to original or customize. I'm putting an International 856 in [the customized competition]," he said of a model he customized for a Sharpsburg toy collector. "He bought it and it was broke. It had a wide front, but the original has a narrow front, so I got it back to the original form. I strip them completely down. I'm also going to put a Minneapolis Moline G-1000 [tractor] in the restored competition."
Talbert hopes to see a large turnout at the show, supporting the county fair.
"This can be a very fulfilling hobby," Talbert said. "It has filled my time with a lot of joy."