Introducing a bold idea... the NFTM Builder & Collector Society

What if??.... two relatively simple words when separate but together can quite often lead to more questions than answers. Two words that can lead to confusion and loss of answers. I had these two words given to me this past weekend while having a sit-down meeting at the National Farm Toy museum when six of us meet with Amanda Schwartz (museum coordinator) to try to figure a way out to give back to this hobby of ours that has been so good to so many of us for so long. We were putting our heads together trying to figure out what we can do for the toy community when Gene Ficken opened up a box of toy parts and a printed picture of a prototype Oliver 2150 that he was building. He asked us what if we use the idea of “What If” … What if you could take a picture of a model and utilize parts from this and parts from that along with a few scratch built parts to create a model that has never been produced before?? At the moment it didn’t really resonate with me all that much, as a custom builder that is what we do is utilize parts and pieces for umpteen different sources to build the model we want but like many times in life after giving things a good day to soak those words “What If” came back to haunt me again but in a completely different sense.

“What If”?? Yes “What If” … What if this hobby we love so much had a way of changing a person’s life for the better?? What if this hobby we have come to love so much had a much bigger impact on a person’s life we could have ever imagined?? What if this hobby was more then toys on a shelf or a long-term financial investment?? What if that tractor, truck or implement meant more than the $100 you paid for it?? What if this hobby helped someone battle with their war with depression?? What if this hobby helped someone with their battle with alcoholism or various other addictions?? Just “What If”?? I have to say this hobby has been a very good hobby for me in more than one way. Through this hobby I have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, I have meet millionaires and minimum wage workers alike. I have met people that have talent just flowing through their veins and people that are just happy that they are welcomed to share other experiences. The point I’m getting to is we all shared the love of the hobby on their own level. Meeting these people, I have come to know quite a few of them on a very personal level and heard their personal struggles and how they have had to handle them. I have met people that went through those battles, I have met people dealing with the struggle of having the closest members of their family ending up being the biggest poisons of their life and what they had to do to make peace in their own life. I personally have been fortunate that my only real addiction has been cheeseburgers. On the other side I have had that struggle where those family members that were supposed to be the anchor of your life instead turn out to be the biggest poisons in my life and for years I struggled to find peace eventually having to completely remove myself from those poisons only to find out I ‘m not the only one that has had these struggles.

Now “What If” I told you that the people that helped me find this peace have been the people of in this hobby. What I have found is that for our individual differences we are more alike than different. I have met tons of people that have had life figured out in every detail only to have all of those plans go completely array and before they knew it they were living a life they never dreamed they would be living far from the perfect plan they had figured out. Now “What If” I told you these same people used the hobby you and I love so much to keep in touch with that life they once were so sure was the life they were going to lead and “What If” I told you some of these same people out were using this hobby as a way of stay in touch with their past. Buying that model of the tractor Grandpa or Dad had. Using the hobby to remind them of a that simpler life before the world changed on them or the day before the economy crashed and the family had to move off the farm and head to town. The reason I am bringing all these “What Ifs” up is because I have personally seen all of these and experienced more of these that I would ever want to admit and seeing what this hobby has done to my life I wanted to figure a way out to give something back. So, for the last 3-4 years, I have been dropping hints with people with nothing become of it. Finally, after the Summer Farm toy show I knew it was time to just start something and contacted Amanda Schwartz with the NFTM and discussed with her the possibility of forming a Collector/Builder club to somehow give a little back to the hobby that has helped me and so many others through difficult times in their lives and after some back and forth e-mails and a private Facebook page a small group of us started the ball rolling. The ten of us discussed ways of giving back. It was discussed about the possibilities of having a raffle to raise some money and then use that money to provide seminars on various topics like “Insuring your collection”, “Starting up a LLC”, and “Copy Right Laws”. We also discussed ways of giving back by setting up a table in the NFTM during the fall show to display the basics of custom building and also a way of getting youth involved by having a simple hands-on build were the kids could customize a scale item and when finished take that item home hopefully inspiring them to continue in the hobby.

Now I know this sounds like it may be a big challenge to take on but “What If??” What if it can do what we want?? What if we get one more person involved in a hobby and they use the hobby to keep their mind off some of the struggles they are facing in life?? What if we motivate one kid to use his/her hands to start out a successful future?? Just “What If”?????? No one knows where the future will take them, all we can do is look from our experiences and do the best we can to make the best decisions in life and if others can use the hobby and the people of this hobby in making some of these decisions then what more can we ask for?? Right now, we are still just trying to get our feet under us, and if all goes well, we hope to able to start providing On-Line how-to videos, videos promoting collectors and builders, seminars and gatherings/meeting at the big shows (NFTS, SFTS, St. Louis, Lafayette, Sioux Falls) and ???? Only time can tell, but like anything in life there is a chance we may fail but here again “What If” we don’t?? Keep your eyes and ears open for the future National Farm Toy Museum Builders and Collectors Society either through the museum directly or social media.

~Society Member - Chuck Steffens

Visit the Group Page online

You can learn more and support this group's efforts by becoming a member of the National Farm Toy Museum!  You can take a look at the level option on the website.

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