Children playing with $5 toy trucks in their backyards in the 1950s had no idea that these toys would one day become treasures that grown men would greatly value. But Tonka trucks, selling for hundreds of dollars or more in mint-condition boxes, experienced precisely that fate.
The nostalgic appeal of old Tonka trucks makes them great collectibles. Tonka Toys produced thousands of toy trucks a week in the middle of the 1950s for children. But they have become prized collectibles among collectors since they evoke fond memories.
Are you looking for old Tonka trucks for your collection? Do you have a vintage Tonka truck you want to sell? We will discuss the types of Tonka trucks and their price guide in this blog post.
Who Makes Tonka Toys?
The Tonka Toy Company is well known for the robust steel sheet metal toys that it started making in the middle of the 20th century.
However, classics like the metal Tonka dump truck haven’t changed all that much in their years of production.
The Tonka Toy Group, a part of Hasbro, Inc., continues to produce Tonka toys today.
Tonka Corporation, first established in an abandoned school building in Mound, Minnesota, was a modest metal manufacturing business. The company was founded in 1946 by its three founders, Lynn Baker, Avery Crouse, and Alvin Tesch.
Known initially as Mound Metalcraft, the business produced tie racks and gardening tools. However, the company also added toy trucks to its product line, presumably as a side business, and the three founders started displaying them at the New York Toy Fair in 1947.
After selling 37,000 of their first two toys; a toy steam shovel and crane. In their first year of business, Mound Metalcraft decided to concentrate on making toy trucks.
During the first few years after creating the steam shovel, Tonka trucks came in many shades, and the product line expanded to include dump trucks, fire trucks, semis, vans, and wreckers. The first Tonka Toy catalog, published in 1949, had this version.
The company changed its name to Tonka Toys Incorporated in 1955 as these Tonka trucks took over as its flagship product. The Tonka name emanated from a nearby Lake Minnetonka, which the original factory faced.
Erling W. Eklof, a resident of Mound, Minnesota, designed the first Tonka logo. The logo depicted the factory’s lake area and took Erklof only three days to finish.
According to the logo design, the waves represent the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
After the company officially changed its brand name to Tonka in the 1950s, the Universal Jeep became a part of its product line. Numerous variations of this 10-inch-long steel jeep, including versions for the U.S. Army and Air Force.
Parents of the post-World War II baby boom generation enthusiastically adopted the company’s Tonka Truck because it was sturdy, incredibly realistic, and long-lasting.
Sales at Tonka tripled between 1955 and 1960 due to high demand, and the business built a solid reputation for its great toys.
Tonka sales increased by more than doubling in the following four years, from $22 million to more than $45 million, following the launch of the Mighty Tonka line in 1965. Additionally, the corporation had strong profit margins due to its prudent management.
Over the following five years, the Tonka Toy line expanded to include interactive computer games like Tonka Raceway, toddler items, mini-die cast cars, and Super Sonic Power vehicles.
Tonka Trucks were admitted to the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2001 in Rochester, New York’s Strong National Museum of Play. Toys that “achieved longevity and national significance in the world of play and imagination” are recognized with this award.
The Winifred Museum in Winifred, Montana, houses all 3,000 different toys that Tonka Toys created during its existence.
Notable Vintage Tonka Trucks Value
The company now offers a line of more than 30 Tonka trucks, toy cars, and toy playsets, up from its original two truck models.
The inventors wanted to provide consumers with an enduring, reasonably affordable, enjoyable toy. Therefore, each Tonka truck underwent extensive testing before being designed.
Remember that most trucks—probably a considerable number got destroyed via abuse. A child might tear the box open, throw the truck against a wall, and, years later, the truck might be a rusty pile in the backyard.
So the main challenge, therefore, is to find vintage Tonka trucks in pristine condition with the original box.
Below is a list of vintage Tonka trucks worth some dough and their estimated values to serve as a price guide
1. Vintage Tonka Cab Over log Hauler
One costly Tonka truck is the cab-over log hauler made of pressed steel.
Logs are securely fastened to the trailer bed of the semi-truck with chains. The log hauler is around 20 inches long and is quite creative, making it feasible to offer hours of entertainment in its day.
This fine-looking truck was sold in May 2022 for $150 on eBay
2. Tonka Jeep With Houseboat
The Tonka Jeep with Houseboat offered people doubled the enjoyment when it was in its prime.
The truck manufactured by Tonka in 1970 is made of pressed steel, like most others; therefore, it is durable.
It is a mixture of purple and white, with the white having the ability to change from white to shadow violet depending on the light. The houseboat is in excellent condition.
3. Vintage Tonka Jolly Green Giant
Do you realize that the Jolly Green Giant is almost 100 years old? The Minnesota Valley Canning Company created the mascot for General Mills in 1925. Tonka produced a toy version of the delivery truck for the company in 1954.
This one was indeed a play vehicle back then, but since it’s constructed of steel, it has endured for nearly 70 years considerably better than modern plastic toys.
Despite its look, it is still worth over $200 online
4. Tonka Big Mike State Highway Snow Plow
On winter days, even make-believe cities need snowplows. Big Mike, a dual hydraulic snow plow for state highways, is another Tonka truck that brings fond memories.
Although the heavy-duty truck looks like it received the proper care from its childhood owner, the previous owner repaired the paint and replaced any missing components, such as a tire, hubcap, and front headlight.
However, all the hydraulics function, and the front sheet metal is undamaged.
It only goes to show that making an effort to keep your treasures in top condition is worthwhile. You never know what collectibles are worth based on collectors’ preferences.
5. Vintage Tonka Steam Shovel
We tend to concur with the adage that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This shovel from a classic Tonka old shovel looks useless. Yet, despite noticeable wear, rust, and paint loss, the toy mysteriously continues to function.
Although it is so uncommon that a professional collector would consider restoring it, we never would have expected anything so rusted would sell for $145. But as we know, rarity is critical.
6. Tonka No. 968 Extended Backhoe
The Tiny Tonka No.968 Extended Backhoe is one of the trucks with a construction motif that was popular with kids in the 1990s.
The robust backhoe has few plastic parts and is built of die-cast metal. It has realistic details for role-playing. The little Tonka vehicle has a length of roughly 15 inches. It is designed for push-and-go amusement.
This truck is incredibly stunning due to the high amount of detail, and it also looks fantastic.
7. Hook and Ladder Fire Trucks
A true gem is the Tonka No. 5 Hook and Ladder fire vehicle. It is one of the rarest Tonka trucks produced in the 1950s.
The truck indicates Tonka Fire Department in the letters TFD, which makes the fire engine appear authentic.
This rare Tonka truck is red and has a unique turntable attached to a trailer truck. The extinguishers, sirens, and ladders are all there and functional. But the fire engine is also wheeling. It was sold for $400
8. Minute Maid Tonka Truck
One of Tonka Toys’ private label lines includes the Minute Maid truck. The truck, manufactured in 1955, features a hypothetical example.
Following the cool minute-made refreshments served between game events, Tonka replicated this truck and gave all kids at the time an authentic experience.
The white box truck that houses the Minute Maid is made of pressed steel like most Tonka trucks, and it goes for over $400 online.
9. Vintage Tonka Marrell Meat Refrigerated Truck
Another highlight from Tonka Toys’ private label line is the Morrell Meats refrigerator truck.
The play truck resembles semi-trailer refrigerated goods.
The truck’s advertisement for “Morrell Meats,” which sounds like the meat-processing business John Morrell and Co., completes the motif behind the design.
The refrigerator trailer is grey, while the semi-cab is white. The vehicle is 24 x 9 inches in size. This 1954 refrigerator-style Tonka truck is quite rare today and fetches a high price. But if you want to lay your hand on this truck on eBay, you must have up to $600
10. Tonka Eckes Bitters
One of the private label series of Tonka is the Eckes Bitters truck. It is a small delivery vehicle with an open back and a raised door.
It features an advertisement for the German-based bitter manufacturer Eckes Bitters.
Tonka constructed this series in the 1970s from pressed steel, making it durable and providing a thrilling push-and-go excitement for children.
This delivery play vehicle in cream color is quite expensive because it is a genuine hard-to-obtain Tonka vehicle. It was sold for a little over $800
11. Vintage Hi-Way Dump Truck
Another treasured vintage toy is the orange Tonka State Hi-Way Department 980 dump truck from 1956. The hydraulic dump truck has lasted the test since it is made of pressed steel.
Depending on their condition, several Hi-Way dump trucks are currently priced in the $250 range on eBay.
You will also have numerous severely corroded trucks waiting for a thorough restoration.
If you’re looking for the next contender, this would be the perfect project for a “Tonka Flip” because many replacement parts are available.
12. Aerial Ladder Fire Truck
Another classic design from the Tonka fire department series is the Aerial ladder Tonka fire truck. It has a hydraulic ladder and two additional ladder segments.
The ladder stretches to a length of 35″ when completely extended. You can find a vintage aerial fire truck for a few hundred dollars.
This model debuted in 1956 as a Round Fender Cab Series member.
13. Tonka Steel Carrier
This gorgeous play vehicle shows a cool vintage from the 1950s. The container is forest green with vintage lettering, whereas the cab is a typical mustard yellow.
The overall length is 22 inches, 16.25 of which are accounted for by the trailer—6 inches broad at its widest point and 5 inches tall at its tallest peak.
Considering its spotless appearance, it seems to have stayed in a safe place. As a result, the scraped or repainted marks are in excellent original shape.
It is currently priced at $195 on eBay
14. Vintage Yellow Die Cast Metal Dump Truck
The designs are from the 1960s and 1970s.
It weighs a substantial 6 pounds and is 17 inches long, 1012 inches high, and 8 inches wide. Trucks without dents, corrosion, or other damage might sell for $100 or more.
Some 1960s-era yellow dump trucks sell for more than $200 each. However, dump trucks can be purchased for less than $100 if you’re content with less than perfect ones.
15. 1960s Clam Crane
The company produced more than just trucks. In the 1960s, various vehicles were produced, including this miniature clam crane.
Even though the toy was used in 1966 and has some rust and scratches here and there, it still functions perfectly, clam digger and all.
The clam train is among the most difficult to locate early toys.
16. 1953 Ford Cab Over Engine Livestock Model
This model appeared to withstand the test of time better than the subsequent models since the truck’s bed was made of wood.
This truck’s ramp slides down at the back, allowing the “livestock” to go in.
This truck made kids’ imaginations run wild as they also received the Tonka company’s animal series as a present.
This car’s cab alone is worth more than $70. The business produced this vehicle, model #500, for a long while, beginning in 1953.
Factors to Consider for Tonka Toys Price Guide
The old Tonka truck in your backyard may be worth a fortune if you take the necessary steps towards
The early, scarce, and in good condition trucks are the ones that are currently worth a lot of money.
The company still produces toys, but they cost less than $70. The vintage models of Tonka trucks are the ones that command high values.
Keep an eye out for vintage with superb craftsmanship from before 1961. Keep an eye out for models produced in a minimal number. Watch out for models in good condition, especially those still in mint condition boxes.
Below are some things to consider when valuing an antique Tonka truck, whether you are the buyer or a seller
“The older, the better” is a famous maxim among collectors. In general, older vintage items are more expensive.
The earlier pieces frequently have components or technologies that newer pieces do not, which is one explanation. So, before you open an account on that auction site, ensure to ascertain the creation date of your devices.
In general, vintage items have one thing in common, the harder it is to find, the more valuable it gets.
The phrase “hard to find” is common in the collectibles sector. Any historical item, including the Tonka trucks, gains value through rarity.
A Tonka vehicle will be more valuable the harder it is to find one. Therefore, a rare Tonka truck will be worth more than one built in large quantities.
A Tonka truck that is extremely difficult to locate may still command a reasonable price even if it is in poor condition because rarity is such a significant consideration.
Regarding worth, a vintage item’s condition could precede its rarity, Tonka trucks included. Vintage items’ condition is just as crucial as real estate’s location.
In the industry, different terminology is used to describe the state of the parts. The first is “mint,” which designates an ideal item concerning its status during creation. Other terms like almost perfect, very good, and sound can also be in listings online.
A Tonka truck in pristine condition will unquestionably be worth more than one with minor edge dings or paint loss.
Old Tonka trucks occasionally have the word “restored” on the label. This indicates that repair work was to bring the artwork back to good or nearly flawless condition. Unfortunately, Tonka trucks and other vintage items lose value due to restoration.
Finally, all collectibles are worth more when they are still in their original box. The reason is so that the original packaging may verify the authenticity. Collectors are motivated by feelings rather than a piece’s inherent value, and the original packaging adds to the experience.
As collectors look for the original boxes that their priceless vintage toys came in, authentic toy packaging has even developed its industry today. As a result, a Tonka truck that comes in its original box will be worth more than a comparable one that doesn’t.
How to Identify or Date Tonka Toys
The words “Tonka Toys” were red on a gold backdrop on the Tonka truck logo until 1955. Seagulls are flying over the words, and “Mount Metalcraft Inc.” is written beneath a blue sea.
Therefore, any old Tonka that bears this trademark was created between 1946 and 1955 and is one of the company’s earliest trucks.
The logo had a minor alteration between 1956 and 1957. Then everything remained the same. However, Mount Metalcraft Inc. led to the modification (remember that the company changed its name in 1955).
The logo underwent color variations between 1958 and 1961. First, they replaced the blue sea with a gold seal, and the gold background turned white.
The logo underwent considerable changes between 1962 and 1969. The oval was decorated with a red background, a gold seal, and white waves. Tonka was used in place of “Tonka Toys,” and it was spelled unusually with the “T” extending all the way and joining the “k.”
This format has been kept up to this point. In addition, a block letter version of “Mound Minn” was also added to the inscription on the marine feature.
Furthermore, between 1970 and 1973, there were changes in the logo again. The “U.S.A.” was substituted for “MOUND, Minnesota.”
The marine feature’s color turned from gold to yellow between 1974 and 1975. Additionally, “U.S.A.” was deleted.
The company’s emblem was streamlined between 1976 and 1977 to a white oval with an all-red “Tonka” inside.
The corporation stopped using the traditional oval in 1978. Instead, it chose the distinctively designed “Tonka” in red against a white backdrop with a red border.
This logo was used until 2007 when the business further simplified things by getting rid of all save the styling on the Tonka name. As a result, the distinctive “Tonka” in black is the only element of the current logo.
Where Can You Buy or Sell Tonka Trucks
Those beautiful vintage the corporation has probably forgotten about producing are the Tonka vehicles that are desirable today.
They are now in the hands of collectors or their original owners, who used to play with them when they were children. The previous owners frequently remove the trucks from their basements.
Because of this, the only places to find sellers and buyers of old Tonka trucks are through the Flea markets, garage sales, auction sales, or online shops like eBay and Etsy.
The inexpensive Tonka trucks that were youngsters’ favorite toys during the mid 20th century are now highly sought-after collectibles. The value of these trucks can range from $100 to $1,000, depending on the numerous factors we’ve examined.
The price of old Tonka trucks is determined by elements like rarity, age, and condition. A very early Tonka Truck that is difficult to find and in excellent shape is, therefore, a true find.
Even up to a considerable percentage of its worth might be added by keeping it in the original packaging.