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Toy Show draws collectors, children, Christmas shoppers

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Don Buntjer, Worthington, (left) and his grandson, Zach, 10, of Ellsworth, look over a large combine at the Optimist Club Toy Show Saturday at Worthington Middle School.1 / 2
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Collector Duane Erickson, Lamberton, looks over a toy tractor during Saturday's Optimist Club Toy Show at the Worthington Middle School. "I collect a lot of different things" said Erickson.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- For many, Christmas means time with family, celebration of religious beliefs and an abundance of great food, but children who most look forward to receiving new toys got a sneak peek at the holiday at the Worthington Optimist Club's annual toy show Saturday and Sunday at Worthington Middle School.

Parents and grandparents shopping for Christmas presents and collectors shopping for themselves all showed up for the toy show, some bringing children, who found a massive selection of toys that could be added to Christmas lists. The spending was in a good cause, too, with profits from the event going toward the Optimist Club.

"We had 18 vendors this year, down a couple from last year, but not too bad for the economy being the way it is," said Larry Ailts, co-chair of the toy show along with Marvin Voss.

The economy and the recent wet weather that kept farmers out of their fields until late in the season may have harmed the show a little, Ailts said, because farmers are the biggest collectors of farm toys, but toy show was still as well-attended as it had been the previous year.

Kami Bird, 8, was most interested in some of the NASCAR vehicles, although she hadn't quite decided yet which of the toys at the show to add to her Christmas list.

Many of the vendors at the show specialized in specific types of toys, such as farm toys, NASCAR vehicles, construction toys, tiny semi trucks and classic car models. Some toys were in mint condition and still in the box, and others had been loved and battered by previous owners, and were priced accordingly.

Farm toys made up the largest part of the toys at the show, in seemingly every available brand, from John Deere and Case to New Holland, Farmall, Massey Ferguson and Minneapolis Moline, not to mention International Harvester and Allis Chalmers. And there were accessories for every brand too -- hats, belt buckles, paintings of toy and full-sized tractors, tins, jigsaw puzzles, key chains, trains, and even some John Deere wrapping paper.

"Older collectors are buying (larger toy tractors)," said Jack Angle, of Tools n Toys, out of Swea City, Iowa. "The small, little ones are for kids, but there are collectors (for those) too."

Nostalgia is a major motivator for older toy tractor collectors, because they often buy tiny replicas of equipment they used when they were young, Angle said.

Some collectors were looking for specific items or very specific brands at the show. Freeman and Connie Taylor of Slayton were on the lookout for the blue and silver of the Ford brand, but Freeman especially wanted to find a Ford 6000, considered a failure due to its many technical issues.

"The 6000 was their first big tractor, and the first one with Select-O-Speed automatic transmission," Freeman explained. "They had a lot of problems with Select-O-Speed."

Marty Kirkham of C & M Enterprises of Rochester said that about 60 percent of his customers were buying presents for children for Christmas, with the smaller scale classic cars being the most popular.

"It's $10 to $15, so it's priced so kids can afford it," Kirkham explained. The larger car models, while more detailed, are also more expensive and thus a little less practical for children who are hard on their toys.

Toy cars from the 1950s and 1960s are most popular, because kids still recognize them and know their brands, whereas vehicles from the 1940s and earlier aren't as familiar to young people.

"People are looking for Christmas presents. They're buying more for Christmas than for their (own) collections, it seems like," said Lisa Ackerman of Owatonna, who specializes in construction toys.

She started selling toys on EBay about seven years ago, because her children enjoyed construction toys. Most of the toys she sells are models of Caterpillar construction equipment.

"On the roads, that's what you see people using, mainly," Ackerman said.

Brett and Sheila Peelen of Sanborn, Iowa, were on a Christmas shopping mission and stopped at a display of pedal tractors. Brett's father, Tim Peelen, and his grandfather, Larry Peelen, collect and restore Oliver tractors, and Brett has been collecting toy tractors his entire life.

"I remember having toys I was allowed to play with and toys I was not allowed to play with," Brett recalled with a grin as he searched for Christmas toys for his own son.