Farm toy show brings together collectors, enthusiasts

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have their Turtle Van, and the Avengers can fight crime while tooling around in a flying Helicarrier, but for some toy fans, nothing beats the authenticity of toys which accurately capture the look of tractors, combines and antique cars.

Featuring Tonka trucks, die cast replicas of tractors and John Deere memorabilia ranging from buttons to preserved magazine advertisements, the annual Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company Toy Show included just such fare, drawing farm toy enthusiasts from around the region.


More than a dozen vendors offered toys for sale, appealing to shoppers in nearly every budget range, from a $3 Hot Wheels forklift to a $400 limited edition custom tractor replica. Organizer Don Shoemaker said the toy sale started 20 years ago, born out of an interest he shared with his son in farm toys.

"My son started taking me to shows out in the Midwest, and eventually I started asking, 'Why can't I put one on for the fire company and make some money?'" Shoemaker said.

According to Les Sigrist, a toy vendor from Waterloo, N.Y., replica farm toys first became popular out in the Midwest, before expanding to the East Coast. Sigrist has been selling farm toys since 1985, and specializes in toy parts used in repair and customization. At his table, Sigrist had dozens of small metal and plastic pieces for sale, including parts ranging from mufflers to engines.

"The customization scene started with some toy collectors who started making their own parts," Sigrist said. "They wanted to make the toy look like the one they had on the farm, so they started adding levers and pedals, lights and mufflers the original toy body might not have had."

Sigrist said there is a market for these kinds of modified and customized toys, with sellers able to unload dozens of $200 to $400 18 inch tractors every year. He said his own interest in farm toys goes back to his childhood.

"I never had a lot of toys when I was growing up as a kid, but it just interested the heck out of me," Sigrist said. "I grew up on a dairy farm, but I don't have cows any more. I don't go to farm machinery auctions any more, but these toys can take me back."

Many of the shoppers at the toy show said they were there because of their childhood love of farm toys. Lee Hanson, of Manchester, said as a little boy, he would take his farm toys out in the dirt to play.

"I saw a construction set here, and I thought, how great would it be to be a kid and have that grader and that crane in a big sand pile? You could play all day," Hanson said. "Now, I have most of my collection displayed around the house. I've got some on shelves, and when the shelves got full, I bought more shelves. When those got full, I started storing them in closets. Pretty much everywhere you turn there's more toys."

The toy show wasn't built entirely on the reminiscence of those who played with the toys years ago. According to Shoemaker, it's designed to appeal to the younger generation as well.

"While there are a lot of people looking for old stuff, or things they used to have on the farm, I know with my collection it's the idea of passing it on that makes it exciting for me," Shoemaker said. "My toys will be handed down to my kids and my grandkids. I have a 7-year-old grandchild now who is absolutely into these toys."

Anthony Rock, 4 of Taneytown, was walking around the showroom with his mother, Kimberly, looking for combines and corn pickers. Kimberly said this love of toys has been a family tradition for years.

"Both his father and his uncle are toy collectors," Kimberly said. "He's just always gravitated towards these tractor toys. They've always been his favorite."

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or