National Farm Toy Hall of Fame Inductees
In recognition of their contribution to the farm toy collecting hobby.
Neil Fishel grew up on a small farm near Winston-Salem, NC and is the third generation to work this farm and to collect both toy and full-size tractors. An old Christmas photo shows a very young Neil receiving a blue box 1066. As an active hobbyist he has bought and sold farm toys, built displays, restored pieces in need of TLC, and passed his love of tractors to his own children as well as others. In 2008 Neil started the Wind Mill Acres Farm Toy Show held annually on their farm. Always a promoter of farm toy collecting, Neil is a willing source of information and encouragement for new collectors in an area where the hobby is growing. Neil is serving a second term directorship with the National IH Collectors Club.
Bill Walters is the public face of the company that first brought farm toys to toy farmers. He grew up enjoying a typical farm boy’s life on the family farm, just 20 miles north of Dyersville, Iowa. After serving eight years in the Air Force, stationed in South Carolina, Bill and his family returned to eastern Iowa and landed a job at the Ertl Company. By 1999, Bill became a manager responsible for the farm toy line. Throughout his career at Ertl, he has maximum contact with the user and the collectors of Ertl Products. He is constantly learning about toys that consumers want. His management style is something he learned in the Air Force, “Nothing gets done without teamwork” still hold true today at Ertl/Tomy. He helped develop great toys for kids and collectors while preserving history. What Bill’s work means to him can be summed up in his quote, “My passion is what I do every day~ Toys! It’s really fun,”
Douglas and Hilke Dann
Douglas and Hilke Dann grew up on dairy farms in the area of Canandaigua and Penn Yan, New York. But it was in Canada where they made their mark in farm toys. The couple started the Parts Shop and very successfully sold parts for farm toys, primarily at shows in Canada but also through a mail-order business. Douglas wrote articles for a Canadian publication to help educate others about farm toys; he also restored farm toys for many years. They bought and sold farm toys, customers would even call Hilke and ask her to find a particular scale model for them (which she did very effectively). The couple started the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival Toy Show in Elmira, Ontario, where they have lived since moving to Canada after college graduation. The Danns have also collected scale models and own an extensive selection of literature, as well as full-size tractors.
Al and Cathy Van Kley
A shared love of farm toys and collecting with his father blossomed into an exceptional business. Al and Cathy Van Kley bought, sold, and pioneered in the farm toy business under their close attention and mastery of customer service. This allowed them to operate for more than 30 years. In the early years of running their business, Al and Cathy would attend up to 30 shows a year. Van Kley toys grew tremendously when it launched one of the first websites among farm toy business in 1997. Al and Cathy specialized in custom 1/64 farm toys and branched out into larger scales as their business continued to grow. Al retired in 2001 after working in the fertilizer/chemical industry for 37 years. He then joined Cathy full-time working for their family farm toy business. In 2014 the Van Kley's decided it was time to sell their business. To the very end, friends were the best part about Al and Cathy's business. They both agreed, "It's the people, it has nothing to do with the toys."
Jim Proctor grew up around farming. His grandparents farmed, and he helped his uncle custom bale when he was old enough. Jim considers himself a proud accumulator as he also collects memorabilia and real tractors focusing on items that provide a connection to his past. He started collecting farm toys around age eight and already had an extensive collection when the hobby was growing exponentially in the 1980s. Starting in the mid-1980s, Jim supported the hobby as a vendor at numerous toy shows where he readily shared his knowledge with other collectors and encouraged many others to get involved in the hobby. Jim continues to focus on helping young collectors both with his knowledge and affordable farm toys. The real reason for Jim's passion for collecting is connecting with all of the wonderful people he has met through the farm toy hobby.
Growing up as a boy Jim Bloomstrand played with toy tractors and implements and dreamed of turning machines into tabletop miniatures. He collected scale models of tractors, automobiles, and trains. He built a model of an IH 782 cotton picker. In 1986, Jim made patterns for SpecCast. Several individuals asked him to make patterns including the show tractor for the 2nd North Dakota Farm Toy Show. Jim next produced detailed limited editions of the 1918 Moline Model D tractor and under license of John Deere the Deere 620 tractor with 227 corn picker and 50 sheller attachment gaining praise from fellow collectors. Jim passes on his love of farm toys to the next generation with a custom 1/64th portable farm diorama that he uses to teach elementary students through the Agriculture in the Classroom program.
Growing up in Carver County Minnesota where several of his uncles were farmers, Rick Campbell spent summers helping to put up hay and picking rocks out of the bean fields. Rick started collecting farm toys in high school favoring older brands including Allis-Chalmers, Minneapolis-Moline, and International Harvester, mostly in 1/16 scale. In 1993, Rick went into the business of buying and selling farm toys and kept busy with a variety of customized farm toys for which he also marketed parts and decals. Rick stayed involved in farm toys through the Toy Farmer column that started in 2001 and offers a rich history of each model based on the full-size machine. It is Rick's vast knowledge of farm equipment and his willingness to share his love of the hobby that sets him apart.
Pete Freiheit is a custom farm toy building pioneer and has made nearly 60 unique incredible models going back to the late 1970s. Pete's creations are unique in their details combined with casting and durability this is rarely seen in custom models. His toys look as good today as they did nearly 40 years ago. His train rail cars loaded with 1950s IH tractors are masterpieces. He is extremely knowledgeable about farm toys and continues to help new collectors join the hobby to this day. Pete continues to do expert customization work and has been an active toy collector for over 40 years. He is a tremendous asset to the farm toy collector community.
Rick Murray was a major force in the founding and growth of farm toy collecting in the Mid-Atlantic states. After traveling to the early National shows in Dyersville and other shows up North, he started the Tarheel Farm Toy Show in Burlington, NC in 1987 and it remains the major show in the Southeast. As a show manager, he makes a concerted effort to bring in dealers with a variety and quality of farm toys not usually found in the South and who are willing to share their knowledge with collectors. His other major objective is to encourage the participation of young collectors and the crowd at the Tarheel Show reflects this with a much younger cohort than other shows. He continues to advance the hobby as dealer and collector at other shows as well being an auctioneer who educates his bidders on farm toys.
Jay Kobiske was an avid collector with the mind set of collecting everything and not specializing on just one brand. He was a collector of sales brochures and company literature with a collection even surpassing his farm toys. He had a knack for memorizing facts and figures from many of these papers which made Jay an incredible source of knowledge on farm tractors, implements and their replicas. Jay provided numerous toy companies and custom builders with literature and advice on the development of farm toys. Jay was the "go-to-guy" when historical information was required.
Dale Swoboda has been a collector of farm toys for over 60 years and attending shows as a dealer for over 40. He has amassed a vast collection of early agricultural toys and literature. Dale has a true affinity for the history of the real tractors and farm toys originally made in Wisconsin. He has participated in events and shows throughout the country contributing his knowledge to toy manufacturers, books, and publications on farm toys and farming. Since childhood Dale has shared a passion for preserving and promoting rural agricultural heritage through farm toys keeping the hobby strong for all generations.
Earl Terpstra graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in agricultural engineering. Following military service in Germany with special troops, he went to work for USDA's Soil Conservation Service. This provided frequent travel opportunities for Earl to purchase toys. It also resulted in working for the US Secretary of Agriculture for a period of time. Since 1964 Earl Terpstra's affection for the hobby grew in the pursuit of toys for his extensive collection. Earl especially like the Minneapolis-Moline brand and treasured Vindex and Arcade cast iron toys. Drawn by the search for toys, Earl stayed in the hobby for the numerous friendships he acquired. Earl contributed to the hobby as a researcher for Al Aune's classic book Arcade Toys. Earl was also one of the managers of an early toy show in Maryland. Earl is pleased to have passed on his passion for collecting to Earl Jr. and future generations.
Ralph and Joanne Jolley
A background on the farm taught both Ralph and Joanne Jolley valuable life lessons about hard work and discipline. It is these formative characteristics that propelled them to prosper in life. Jolley's Farm Toys has become one of the most well-known Canadian retailers for farm toys. The Jolley's had a knack for business and offering customers what they wanted. A true husband and wife collaboration was the secret to the businesses continued success. Joanne even encouraged Ralph to start his own personal toy collection. Ralph really appreciates the knowledgeable collectors with whom he attended shows and who taught him so much about the hobby. Perhaps the most important lesson learned about was that there is more to this beloved hobby than toys; it is the treasured friendships collected over the years.
T. Charles Baird
Involved in the farm toy hobby for a lifetime, T. Charles Baird began collecting with the tractors he received as a youngster. Later in life he multiplied his collection with pieces he bought for himself during frequent stops at dealerships as a semi-driver. As a well-traveled toy vendor, and custom combine builder, Charley gained experience and a local following. With encouragement from area friends and family support, Charley was responsible for bringing the hobby to the eastern states surrounding Pennsylvania by starting the Beaver Falls Toy Show in 1980. Baird's enthusiasm for farm toys and collecting has reached generations of toy collectors who now enjoy and treasure the hobby.
Rick and Linda Larsen
For nearly 20 years, Rick and Linda Larsen published The Toy Tractor Times a monthly magazine for farm toy collectors. For a family with two young children it was quite a schedule; one that required hard work, long hours, and a real commitment, in addition to their jobs in the medical field. Weekends meant road trips, attending farm toy shows, promoting the publication, meeting collectors, and keeping a close connection with the hobby. "Linking Together the Chain of Farm Toy Collectors" was the motto for the publication that focused on collectors. What started in a basement in 1983 left an indelible mark on the hobby of farm toy collecting.
In 1982, Gottman Toys was created utilizing farm toys to promote businesses, a combination perfected by Danny Gottman. Working with companies, Danny used model toys to promote their brands. One such successful partnership was with Kinze Manufacturing. Danny s attention to detail made him well known and his toys highly sought after for their intricate work. Danny promoted the farm toy hobby through the Mark Twain Great River Toy Show, which he helped establish in 1985. In 2005, the National Tractor Pullers Association awarded Gottman Toys, Manufacturer of the Year, for building quality pulling tractor replicas. Danny was the premier manufacturer producing highly detailed tractor pull tractors and led the way in replicating major puller tractors.
Wayne Cooper's fascination with pedal tractors began when he purchased two pedal tractors as Christmas gifts for his young sons. For over 25 years, Wayne added enjoyment to many young children's lives by establishing pedal tractor pulls and promoting the collection of farm toys. His hobby developed from growing up on a dairy farm and attending farm toy shows. Wayne spent his time restoring over 500 pedal tractors while originating pedal pulls for thousands of children in Pennsylvania and Alaska. He also wrote about pedal tractors for Toy Farmer and Toy Tractor Times magazines. Through his many pursuits, Wayne Cooper has influenced countless lives with his enthusiasm for the farm toy hobby.
Kates choice of a degree in Mechanized Agriculture, and an early career working for a major tractor company expanded her passion for farm toy collecting. Founded in 1985, Bossen Implement, Inc. helps toy farmers with equipment sales, parts and service or restoration like the real implement dealer. Being located in the small rural town of Lamont, Iowa did not stop Kate from doing business worldwide. In addition, Kate is a contributing author for many of the published farm toy books and price guides, including The Standard Catalog of Farm Toys and Dicks Farm Toy Price Guide. Kate also lends her extensive knowledge of farm toys and the agricultural industry to the National Farm Toy Museum Advisory Board. She has been personally collecting and sharing her expertise of farm toys worldwide for over 30 years!
David and Debbie Sharp
David and Debbie Sharp have been involved in the farm toy hobby since 1979. In fact, the Sharps have been to every National Farm Toy Show since its beginning. David is instrumental in creating custom-built four-wheel-drive tractors; producing brands like Versatile, Steiger, International, Oliver and Minneapolis-Moline. These customized four-wheel-drive models were later used as a basis for commercially manufactured models by private companies. In addition to tractors, he produces trailers, dump trucks, custom built implements and replacement parts. Debbie handles the mail orders, also producing parts and doing assembly work. After growing up on the farm and helping at Sharp Brothers Implement Company, David Sharp understands farming and tractors firsthand. Debbie also grew up with an understanding of rural life, passed down to her from her grandparents. The Sharps enjoy the friends they have made and places they have visited thru the farm toy hobby.
For Dave, the doors opened when his full time job ended in 1991! He started collecting farm toys in the 70s and his passion for the hobby grew. In 1980 Dave introduced the pocket-sized "Farm Toy Price Guide". Next, he started the "Back-East" farm toy shows and auctions in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in1983. Then seven years later, Dave received licensing from John Deere to build and sell high detail tractors that were never produced previously. After losing his job, Dave went on to establish Nolt Enterprises LLC, officially started in 1991. His interest in farm toys relates to working for his Dad, a self-employed used farm machinery dealer. "I am indebted to many others, especially pattern makers, machinists, painters and fellow hobbyists" says Dave.
Weldon worked with his father on the farm for many years giving him a good knowledge of farm tractors. As a boy he began carving airplanes from wood. Later he spent some years working as a tool & die maker. During this time he would often restore and add details to toys he found in dumps. In 1975 he started his own machine shop. Then, in the late '70's he began collecting toy tractors and producing replacement and customizing parts for collectors. In 1980 Weldon, along with his son Terrill, started Yoder Models. Weldon's vision was to produce highly detailed, accurate models for the average collector. Weldon, with his wife Helen, and another son Kenton, produced over 50,000 plastic model tractors in their family business over the next 16 years. These models included show tractors for the Lafayette, Goshen IN, and Beaver Falls, PA, shows. Weldon was a pioneer in the detailed model tractor industry.
Back in the 50's when Stan was about 10 growing up on the family farm, he began modifying toy trucks that he received as Christmas gifts at the Tonka Toys' Christmas Party. After working several jobs, a tour of Korea with the Army and college, his interest continued well into his adult years. By 1981 he along with his new wife, Sandi established Standi Toys, Inc. a husband and wife collaboration, which produces 1/64 scale toys & accessories, 1/16 replacement and custom parts. Stan labeled "The Godfather of 1/64 Scale" in recognition of all the various parts Standi Toys has produced for that scale. Now, after more than 25 passionate years in the farm toy hobby, Stan is just as enthusiastic now as he was as a youngster. Stan is yet another example of turning his passion into a profession.
Fred Ertl, Jr.
Fred was born in Dubuque, Iowa on 6-6-1930 to a German immigrant father and his mother, a Cascade, Iowa farm girl. In September 1945, his father started the Ertl. Co. in the basement of their Dubuque home. Since the beginning, Fred Jr., was continuously involved in the business until retirement 47 years later. Fred assumed the active management and Vice President position in September 1948 at the age of 18. He led the continued growth, including the move to Dyersville, Iowa and sale of the company to Victor Comptometer in December 1967 when he became President. He continued in this position through the acquisition of Victor by Kidde Corp. in December 1977 and Hanson PLC in September 1987. He became CEO in 1990 and retired on September 30, 1992. He was inducted into the Toy Manufacturers of America Hall of Fame in February 2000. He served on many toy and hobby industry boards and President of the Toy Manufacturers of America from 1970-1971 and the Hobby Association in 1976. The Ertl Co. became and still is the heart of farm toy collecting world wide.
Robert Earl Gray
Bob grew up on a farm near Eldora, Iowa and farmed there most of his life. He witnessed the early mechanization of farming and it left a distinct impression upon him. He carried those early memories with him all of his life. His talents allowed him to make model toys from those memories. He began building those model toys in the early 1950's and with encouragement from family and friends began to produce models for the public in 1968, under the name Pioneers of Power. Together with his wife Leona, they produced various "cast-iron like" model toys until his death in 1983. His passion for Farm Toys lives on through his model toys today.
Dick Sonnek's interest in collecting toys began in 1968 when he attended his first auction. Though he was unsuccessful in his bid for the cast iron Vindex toy, the experience opened his eyes to the value of collecting rare toys. In 1998, Dick complied the first comprehensive price resource for Farm Toy Collectors, appropriately "Dick's Farm Toy Price Guide". The popularity of this guide was immediate; now over 4500 copies are sold annually. Today, Dick continues to organize the Mankato Toy Show and enjoys the quiet solitude of the family farm, tending to several acres of gardens and lawns near Mapleton, Minnesota.
Bob Condray has had a lengthy and multi-faceted involvement in collecting and manufacturing farm toys. His interest in collecting was sparked in the early 1960's when he began repairing his children's toys. As Bob's knowledge of farm toys grew, he began to build custom scale-model toys. His toys are identified by their rich history and play value. Bob also contributed to the toy collecting hobby by organizing a popular toy show in Kansas City for 20 years. His support and passion for preserving a toy's story has been an inspiration to enthusiasts of all ages.
Doug Harke's enthusiasm for farm toys was sparked in his early childhood years. Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta Canada, the variety of model toys to collect was limited. He began attending toy shows in the eastern U.S. and eventually started to participate at shows as a dealer. His interest in collecting and restoring farm toys continued to grow and so did his interest in researching farm toys. Doug began writing for Toy Tractor Times in 1987 and Toy Farmer in 1992. As a teacher involved with academics, Doug enjoys research work necessary to write an informative article and finds it rewarding to educate new collectors.
Dennis & Joan Parker
As early pioneers of building and customizing scale model farm toys, Dennis and Joan Parker paved the way in opening that facet of the hobby to all collectors. Realizing the need for custom and OEM parts, Dennis and Joan started Dakota Toys in 1981. The Parkers are recognized for simplifying the process of restoring and customizing farm toys by providing instructions and itemized parts lists in magazines and custom building books. Dakota Toys' parts catalog has become the most recognized resource manual known to farm toy collectors. Since retiring in 2000, Dennis and Joan continue to share their knowledge of customized farm toys with collectors world wide.
Everett and Myra Weber
Ev and Myra Weber along with family members had created many award-winning exhibits depicting a wide variety of significant milestones in agricultural history. The Weber's use of handcrafted precisely detailed scale models having operating features makes exhibits almost come alive. Their dedication to accurate research and creativity is not only admired by farm toy collectors but serves as a foundation for farm toy manufacturers' new products satisfying an ever more demanding market.
Having been involved with farming much of his life, Mr. Bell's knowledge and experience provide a sound basis for his later involvement with farm toy manufacturing. First with the Ertl Company and later and a CEO of his own company, SpecCast, his visions and dedication helped create the National Farm Toy Show and National Farm Toy Museum. Farm toy collectors and Dyersville residents are thankful for Dave's untiring efforts.
Graham and Michelle Miller
Graham and Michelle Miller have been a driving force in farm toy collecting both in Great Britain and Europe. Their desire to bring collectors together to share the hobby is quite well known. Their daily sharing of information about the farm toy hobby has generated thousands of new collectors. The Millers are also involved with the farm toy hobby in the United States as both importers and exporters. Each year they host an "open weekend" that brings collectors from near and far to share the farm toy experience.
Joseph Ertl founded Scale Models in 1978. Scale Models is devoted to smaller production runs of models, filling a niche for both the farm toy collector and original equipment manufacturers. Ertl has been an innovator of new models for the collecting hobby with Scale Model's large-scale models (1:8), the revision of pedal tractors and the reissue of past farm toys.
Wayne Samuelson has devoted many years of his collecting life both studying and identifying pedal tractors. Samuelson is now widely recognized as an expert in the pedal tractor area. Samuelson later established Samuelson Pedal Tractor Parts, a supplier of both parts and valuable information to the pedal tractor collector.
Considered a pioneer in farm model building business, Lyle Dingman, working hand in hand with Gilson Riecke, provided a steady stream of quality custom-made models that were not readily available from major farm toy manufacturers. Dingman was one who always had time to explain to collectors the How's, What's and Why's of farm toy collecting. Dingman passed away in 1992.
Gilson Riecke's talent to build models "just like the real thing" has made him recognizable to farm toy collectors around the world. A dedicated artesian who never thought any detail was too small to display; Riecke was faced with many challenges during his early years. His work is now widely recognized as some of the finest in the farm toy collecting hobby today.
Robert "Bob" Zarse
Bob Zarse has always been a person who has unselfishly shared his "International" knowledge with farm model collectors. Zarse was one of the original organizers of the Annual Lafayette Farm Toy Show in Lafayette, Indiana in 1979. He has authored and co-authored numerous books on the collecting farm toys, including the Trumm & Zarse series of identification guides. Zarse is one who labors endlessly in the pursuit for knowledge that can be shared throughout the farm toy collecting hobby.
Eldon Trumm is known for his vast authoritative knowledge and collection of John Deere farm toys. He has authored and co-authored many informative books on the farm model hobby, including the Trumm Zarse series of identification guides. Trumm is one of the original organizers of the Annual Plow City Farm Toy Show in Moline, Illinois.
Roy Lee Baker
During the early years of his farm toy collecting, Roy Lee Baker was directly involved with manufacturing farm toy models, particularly 1:64 scale. Baker Manufacturing has provided scale model tractors for both the farm toy hobby and the Mid-America Toy Show held annually in St. Louis, Missouri.
Joseph Carter founded Carter Machine & Tool Company on January 1, 1940. In 1956, Carter's company began manufacturing toys for original equipment manufacturers as well as being marketed through Carter Tru-Scale, a name synonymous with quality scale farm models. The Carter Tru-Scale toys now stand as monuments to early die-cast and stamp metal manufacturing of farm scale toys.
Bob Heberer is one of the founders of the Gateway Mid-America Toy Show & Auction in St. Louis, Missouri and a charter member of the Gateway Toy Club also in the St. Louis area. Heberer has always been involved with agriculture, both through the agribusiness field and the support of various youth organizations.
Daryl A. Miller
Daryl Miller founded the first known publication entirely devoted to farm model collecting. Toy Farm Equipment, in late 1977. Miller, a fan of "real" farm machinery, started Red Power Publication in May of 1986.
Charles "Chuck" and Barb Burkholder
Burkholder Enterprises, established by Charles and Barb Burkholder, in the 1970's, has provided decals and parts available to farm toy collectors since the 1970's. Always in touch with the farm toy hobby, the Burkholders would attend numerous farm toy shows, big or small. Chuck also co-authored several books on farm toy collecting, including the highly regarded Collecting Model Farm Toys of the World.
Jim and Susan Higbee
Jim and Susan Higbee took an early lead in farm toy display excellence by winning the "best of show" award at the very first National Farm Toy Show, an honor they repeated in 1983. In the true and finest spirit of the farm toy hobby, Jim and Susan were always willing to help new or experienced collectors alike. In addition to their enthusiasm for farm toys, the Higbee demonstrated a devotion to American agriculture by helping with 4-H clubs.
For many years, Ray Crilley was the editor and publisher of Miniature Tractor and Implement, a publication designed for farm toy collectors. In his unceasing efforts to gather information that could be used by collectors (including himself), Ray has co-authored several books on farm toys-most notable among those books was one entitled Collecting Model Farm Toys of the World. When it comes to top names in the farm toy hobby, Crilley ranks among the most knowledgeable.
Claire and Cathy Scheibe
It's unlikely that Claire and Cathy Scheibe realized the impact they would have on the farm toy hobby when they started a new magazine, Toy Farmer in January 1978. Toy Farmer has grown from a meager seventeen subscribers to 30,000 subscribers worldwide and has come to be regarded as the bible for farm toy collectors. Another project initiated by the Scheibes in 1978 was the first National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa, and annual event-like Toy Farmer-that has grown tremendously since its early years. In addition, the Scheibes lent their support and played a major role in the establishment of the National Farm Toy Museum. Claire Scheibe passed away in 2000.
Fred and Gertrude Ertl
Fred and Gertrude Ertl, founders of the Ertl Company in early 1945, produced the first toy tractors in their Dubuque, Iowa basement. The company was later moved to Dyersville, Iowa and has since grown into the largest producer of farm toy replicas in the world by holding licenses to produce all major brands of farm toy tractors. The Ertl Company helped spur the growth of the farm toy hobby and has been most instrumental in the building of the National Farm Toy Museum. The Ertl's were a guiding force at the Ertl Company until they sold their business in 1968.