Many ancient toys have become sought-after antiques by collectors all around the world. Toy tractors are no exception, and are becoming increasingly desirable among vintage collectors.
This guide will cover all you need to know about antique toy tractors, from some of the most renowned manufacturers to what determines their pricing and how to sell your own.
Tractors Making Their Way from Farmland to Toyland
Farming relied on strength and power until the late 19th century: plows were driven by horses, mules, and oxen, and guided by people who walked or rode behind the animals.
In the 1869s and 1870s, steam and gas-powered engines debuted, followed by tractors in the 1880s. The term “tractor” is quite enigmatic.
George Edwards exploited it in 1890 when he invented a steam-powered agricultural vehicle that got traction from the motor’s power (thus, “tract-or”).
As Henry Ford believed that improving agricultural equipment would progress civilization, he and his son built the Fordson factory in 1917 to manufacture the Fordson Model F gas-powered tractor.
Tractors soon gained popularity and became standard farm machinery.
Companies began to see the possibilities of farm-related toys not long after the development of a full-size tractor.
After all, agricultural laborers and farmers made up over 40% of the US labor force in 1900, and millions of young people were captivated by the massive, loud farm machinery.
Companies And Manufacturers
Arcade Manufacturing Company was among the first to manufacture toy tractors. Founded in 1885 in Freeport, Illinois, the firm began by creating home products like coffee grinders.
But by 1921 they had launched a toy vehicle and, not long after, probably the first commercially made toy tractor, the Fordson.
One of the toy’s intriguing questions is if the man operating the tractor is Henry Ford! Arcade demonstrated that Americans were willing to spend more for a farm toy, and other firms quickly followed suit.
Other prominent toy tractor makers included:
- Wilkins Toy Company, New Hampshire, Keene. According to Bill Vossler’s book, Toy Farm Tractors, some of the first farm toys in the tractor family were manufactured there about 1886.
They were horse-drawn vehicles (not self-powered tractors), but cast iron toys were the forefathers of all toy tractors and were sold in Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck, and Company catalogs.
- Hubley Company was established in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1894. The firm produced molded metal toys, which were then painted and decorated in the company foundry.
Hubley was the world’s leading maker of cast iron toys by the 1940s.
- Dent Hardware Company was established in 1898 and manufactured cast iron and die-cast aluminum toys, notably farm tractors.
The company is still in operation, although it now produces hinges and other utilitarian products.
- Frederick Ertl created Ertl in 1945 in Iowa, while waiting out a strike at his industrial employment. By 1952, the Ertl firm began manufacturing John Deere toy tractors, and it has since produced die-cast toys for cinemas, cars, and other companies.
At What Age Is A Toy Tractor Considered Antique?
The majority of collectors think that an antique is something that is at least 100 years old. Because most toy tractors were manufactured after the 1930s, there aren’t many vintage examples of toy tractors.
There are, however, a plethora of old toy tractors. A vintage object is often defined as one that is at least 40 years old.
Are Antique Toy Tractors Valuable?
The majority of ancient toy tractors are expensive antiques. Many toy collectors are looking for ancient models and are ready to spend up to four or five figures for a rare tractor.
Most vintage toy tractors, on the other hand, cost between $50 and $150.
Before we look at some recently sold vintage tractors, let’s look at what elements influence the price of a toy tractor:
As with most antiques, the older the piece, the more precious it is. The early toy tractors are hard to come by, resulting in a demand that exceeds supply, raising the price.
Toy tractors created in the 1920s and 1930s are some of the most costly, and the price of vintage toy tractors decreases significantly with age.
Toy tractors are collectible antiques, and their condition strongly influences their worth. It’s also worth noting that when the condition improves from mint to superb, the value decreases.
A single scratch is enough to keep a toy tractor from being rated mint. The ensuing deterioration reduces its worth, but not as much as dropping from mint to a lesser grade.
Naturally, the value of a toy tractor is influenced by its scarcity. Some special edition tractors were produced in extremely limited quantities, making them highly uncommon and difficult to locate.
Bidders are ready to spend far higher than they should for really rare objects since it is uncertain if such a toy tractor will ever be auctioned again.
We can now look at some recent sales of vintage toy tractors to determine how much they were worth:
1. Lego Duplo Red Farm Toy Tractor
2. Hanse Vintage 1950’s Wood Toy Tractor
3. Vintage Iron Toy Tractor With John Deere Colors
4. Antique Arcade Cast Iron Metal Toy Tractor
5. Ertl Allis Chalmers WD-45 Antique Tractor
6. Vintage/Antique Farm Toy Tractor
7. Vintage 1980s Ertl International Row Crop Farm Tractor
8. Antique Old Vintage Hubley Tractor Toy
9. Antique Cast Iron Toy Tractor Ford
Toy Tractors on the Production Line
While numerous firms manufacture toy tractors, the manufacturing processes tend to fall into a few categories:
- Cast iron toys were made in precisely carved master moulds, therefore cast iron tractors feature a lot of detail and some hand finishing.
Cheap contemporary copies may lack subtle features and are rarely meticulously painted.
- Die casting was performed by injecting a metal alloy into a toy mould. Die cast things are usually lighter than cast iron, and the differences are noticeable when comparing an early cast iron component to an early alloy tractor.
Some businesses republished previous toys as die cast goods, which might be difficult to identify if created by Hubley or Arcade. Toy tractors produced in Taiwan are frequently poorly built and lack intricacy.
- Tin toys had their patterns lithographed into a metal sheet, and details were occasionally added by experienced finishers.
After that, the toys were folded into form and completed. Tabs hold the components of inexpensive toy tractors together.
Lead, plastic, wood, rubber, and aluminium were among the other materials employed.
The Modern Toy Tractor
By the 1970s, the toy tractor sector had grown into a significant area of collecting, and it continues to be so today, with events, magazines, and fairs devoted to the toys.
The standard model sizes are 1/16 and 1/64 (although tractors are also available in 1/8, /125, 1/32, 1/50, and other sizes), which means that 1 inch on the toy tractor equals 16″, 32″, 64″, and so on on the full-size tractor.
Vintage and modern toy tractors are classified into four major categories:
- Toy tractors in limited edition are produced in tiny quantities, generally as a one-time manufacturing or with a limited number of pieces. However, “limited” might refer to either 25 or 250 pieces. It is determined by the manufacturer.
- Over the years, a shelf model toy tractor has remained in production. As a result, the toys are less desirable than a limited edition tractor.
- Precision toy tractors are very realistic, with features such as accurate engines, upholstered cabins, and functional windows. Serious collectors typically seek for these tiny tractors, and newer models allow the owner to display the toy without removing it from its original box.
- Large toy tractors designed for children to ride are known as pedal tractors.
Identifying Rarity and Value
Since there are hundreds of toy tractors for sale, as well as several new collector sets, judging rarity and worth can be difficult.
You may check recent sale prices on sites like WorthPoint (a membership value site) or eBay, or you can start with basic pricing guides and work your way up to speciality guides.
Guides to Books
Copies of toy manufacturer-specific guides, such as Ertl Toy Tractors by Patrick Ertl and Catherine Lee Phillips, general publications on collecting farm toys, such as Karen O’Brien’s Standard Catalog of Farm Toys, and guides to individual tractor companies, such as John Deere Collectibles by Brenda Kruse.
Find the books at various bookstores and resellers, as many are out of print.
What to Look for When Buying Toy Tractors
Although individuals of all ages collect toy tractors, many tractors are acquired for show rather than play. Prices range from $50 to hundreds, however nice collectable copies may sell for much under $200.
The best approach to assure that you are getting what you want is to buy from a dealer who will stand behind the sale.
Toy tractors are major business, and most vendors are honest, know their stock, will guarantee your purchase, and will answer your inquiries. In the meanwhile, here are some fundamentals to consider:
- Scarcity may affect the value of a toy tractor, with specimens dating back to the 1940s fetching hundreds of dollars, such as this John Deere. A diecast model from that era.
- Condition is determined by the tractor’s original issue form, thus you must know what the original looked like before judging a duplicate.
Many new and old toys may be found at sites such as The National Farm Toy Museum, and their collector’s corner website features a variety of new replicas as well as historical treasures.
Web searches for earlier artwork might reveal up items in museums or individual collections. Visit exhibits whenever possible, ask questions, and study original toys in person.
- Consider the following while buying an antique or vintage tractor: Is the paint brand new, damaged, cracked, worn off in spots, or entirely gone?
Are all of the parts included, including the tyres and steering wheels? Have the parts been repainted (look at the colour, paint quality, and brush marks)? I
s there any corrosion or worn portions in the metal, and are the details clear? Is there paint on the interior of the moulded piece? According to collector and writer Bill Vossler in Farm Collector, modern replicas of earlier pieces often have the paint sprayed on the exterior, but the originals have some paint on the inside.
- Some earlier cast iron toy tractors, such as the Fordson, have been duplicated, and both seller and buyer may mistake the replicas for the originals, according to Vossler.
There are a few things to look out for to prevent making an expensive error. Thin paint and little painted features are common on newer paintings. Because of improved moulding and production procedures, reproductions are often smaller than the original.
Untrimmed metal edges and weak joints may suggest a replica rather than an original, antique, or vintage toy tractor.
- The most contemporary diecast reproductions, such as those by Ertl and other producers, are noted for their quality and details, which stand out when compared to a low-cost reproduction.
Buying Spare Parts and Kits
If you need to repair vintage antique toy tractors (or create your own), the following firms sell supplies and parts:
- BossonImplements sells tractor and agricultural implement replicas, toys, and kits to collectors.
- MiniSteam sells toy steam traction engine kits, models, and replacement components (early tractors).
Toy Tractor Show features links to various dealers and sources for toy tractor repairs and sales; they also mention toy tractor fairs around the United States where you may locate vintage and unusual toy tractors for sale.
They may also have kits available at their numerous exhibitions; keep an eye out for an upcoming one in your region.
How Do You Sell Your Vintage Tractor?
If you want to sell an antique toy tractor, there are a few things you need do to ensure that you receive the best possible price for it and that you really sell it:
1. Get It Ready
You must prepare a collectable antique, such as a toy tractor, for sale before selling it. You must ensure that the tractor is in good working order, so look for corrosion, scraped-off paint, or other signs of damage.
Most of the damage can be repaired, but bear in mind that it will take time, and you may be better off selling it as is rather than putting time and money into improving its condition.
2. Consider The Cost
Then you’ll need to conduct some research to see what similar tractors have sold for in the past. This will give you an indication of how much your tractor is worth and how much you should expect to earn for it.
You will lose money if you underprice it. No one will purchase it if you price it too high. We recommend looking on eBay for toy tractors similar to yours that have been sold in the past to see how much yours is worth.
3. Find the Buyer
Finally, you must locate a buyer for your vintage toy tractor. Again, we prefer eBay, where you can post a listing for free, but other sites like as Etsy are also worth exploring.
Another alternative is to sell your tractor at a local antique store or flea market. This may be a terrific method to meet possible customers in person, who can check your tractor on the spot and pay you immediately, saving you money on shipping expenses.
If you’re lucky enough to have a vintage toy tractor, determining its worth is undoubtedly something you’d like to do. This price guide will be a useful tool when you begin to price your antique toy tractor collection.
While you may not own one of the tractors on this list, the information provided may help you determine how much your vintage toy tractor is worth. You may use this information to compare your tractor to others.
For example, depending on where and when it was constructed, as well as the materials used, you may get a very decent estimate.
You will also receive market analyses and trends for various toy tractor models, which will help you determine the value of your toy!