Toy tractor enthusiast collects a bit of history
For almost 30 years, Eldon Myer, 70, of Hammond, has been collecting farm history in a miniature way.
In the last three decades, Myer has collected more than 1,000 toy farm tractors.
His hobby started in the early 1980s, when he came across a few toy tractors at Christmas time that reminded him of the equipment he saw growing up in a farm family, in East Ellsworth.
Toy shows, flea markets and auctions are the most common places Myer acquires his toy tractors.
"If I see a tractor at a toy show and I can remember a neighbor or somebody who did something particular with that tractor, I love to buy it and have it," he said.
Myer said every time he sees a tractor from the past nostalgia sets in, "thinking back when I was a kid, going by that stuff, seeing and wishing I had one. Now I've got the toy of it."
Myer said there are fewer tractor brands today than there were in the past. "There is maybe four or five major brands now, when there was probably 20 brands when I was a kid."
John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Hesston, International Harvester, Silver King, Tytan, Oliver, old brands, new brands -- name a tractor, Myer probably has it.
Myer said he doesn't stop at just one model of a particular tractor.
"I've gotten really carried away. I've got quite a lot of them that are just to fill out the models. I start out with a model, like the steam engine, then I get the gas tractor, the first ones, then all the way to the modern cabbed and air conditioned tractors," he said. "I have nine or 10 models of the same tractor. It's just a difference in the size of the tires, different sized fenders, they're all different."
Myer said he's never regretted buying any of his collectibles, not even the toy thrashing machine for which he paid $500.
Myer said the thrashing machine was worth the money because, "it's very detailed. There were a lot of hours spent to get it to where it looks like the real machine."
In addition to miniature tractors, Myer also has around 1,000 manuals for old farm equipment and cars, some dating back to the 1800s.
Myer said he estimates that his collection is worth roughly $100,000.
"I may be short, because some of those tractors are worth a lot of money," he said.
The most Myer has paid for a tractor is $500, but he said some people will pay thousands of dollars for a piece of miniature farm equipment.
Myer said he won't pay hundreds of dollars for just any collectible.
"You've got to know what you're buying," he said. "There's usually a reason I buy them. I've got history behind them."
Myer said there is more to collecting than just holding onto history. By going to 10-12 toy shows in the Midwest a year, Myer has found others who share his passion for toy tractors.
"You build a big friendship with people across the country."
Myer enjoys chitchatting about tractors with others who share his passion.
He said a unique tractor is "a conversation piece more than anything."
Myer said the conversations range from talking about people who once had a particular tractor, to talking about whether certain tractors were "any good."
Myer doesn't let his collecting consume his life though.
"If I'm busy it gets left by the wayside until I get time again."
Myer said the enjoyment he receives from his collection, and the friends he's made through collecting, make every dollar spent and every mile traveled worth it.
"It's fun to share, that's what I get the biggest enjoyment from."
Myer hopes to someday find a place to properly display his miniature collection.
Currently, Myer's tractors line shelves and tables in his basement, including every wall (and much of the floor) in his home office. Those tractors that don't fit in the basement are boxed up in storage.
Myer will be showcasing a couple hundred of his older tractors during the upcoming Yellowstone Trail celebration on June 19.
Myer said he would someday like a building to display his tractors, having each tractor on display accompanied by a short description, so individuals could learn the story behind each piece of farm equipment.
Myer said collecting toy tractors is exciting, but warns that, "It's kind of an addiction once you get started."