Prized Possessions

Kentuckiana Farm Toy Show
draws a crowd

Collectors buy, sell, trade toys
that bring them memories

CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (January 2017) – In the hot world of collectibles, farm toys rate near the top. They sell memories and create nostalgia. Farm toys have their own magazine, the so-called “Bible” of the industry, Toy Farmer. And, they have a devoted following.  Some are retired farmers. Others just remember that Dad or Grandpa had a tractor like that.
Collecting farm toys is big business for many. Take Chris Burnett of Bedford, Ky., for example. A former elementary and middle school teacher in Trimble County, he quit teaching in 2009 and turned his former hobby into a full-time business. In mid-December, he said, “We did eight shows in the past six weeks. It is a busy time of year.”

Kentuckiana Farm Toy Show

• Jan. 13-14 at the Clark County 4-H Fairgrounds, 9068 Hwy. 62, Charlestown, Ind.

• Information: (812) 293-3118

On Jan. 13-14, Burnett will sell his farm toys at the 30th annual Kentuckiana Farm Toy Show, taking place this year at a new location at the 4-H Fairgrounds at 9068 Hwy. 62 in Charlestown, Ind. This will be his 30th year at the event. Some 800 to 1,000 people are expected to attend, organizers say. There will be 50 vendors, according to Dale Brown, 68, one of three show organizers. Others are Jim Tennill and DuWayne Nation. 
The Kentuckiana Farm Toy Show previously was held at the Clarion Hotel in Jeffersonville, Ind. Brown and others decided to move it to the fairgrounds this year to reduce costs. Food will be provided by 4-H Clubs. Hours will be from 6-9 p.m. Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $2, with those 12 and under free. There will be door prizes and a snack bar.
Burnett said he got hooked on farm toys when he was in the fifth grade. His father was injured in a warehouse accident, so he stayed with friends. The father was parts manager at International Harvester. On the side, he customized toys. Burnett worked with his friend’s father and learned to customize farm toys. That now is his specialty.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Charlestown, Ind.’s Dale Brown shows off his large farm toy collection.

“We would customize toys to 1:64. That’s how I got started. The biggest part of my work is custom work, 1:64 work,” he said.
Mostly, he does farm tractors, pick-up trucks, gooseneck trailers and pulling tractors.
Interests change through the years, he said. “People still collect, but they want to see something different. Something that is popular now is to display farms with houses, barns and fields.” The more detailed the display, the better, he added.
Brown is a natural to head this project. A tall engaging man, he loves what he is doing. At age 50, he retired from Ford Motor Co. in Louisville, Ky., after working there 32 years. He continued to farm the land that has been in his family for three generations. In 2002, he and his wife, Eunice, built their home on property in Owen Township.
“I figure I’ll be here until the good Lord calls me home,” he said. Almost three years ago, he was hospitalized for the first time with a form of leukemia, but he is in remission.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Closeup of one of Dale Brown’s toy tractors is pictured.

The comfortable, cozy house is filled with Brown’s collection of some 1,000 farm toys and shelves of books. He has a toy tractor for every tractor he ever has had. He likes to joke that Eunice threatens to have a big yard sale after his death, presumably to dispose of the farm toys and free up some space. Nonetheless, she attends the Farm Toy shows and keeps careful records of attendance each year.
He was born next door, where his younger brother, Mike, now lives. Every Memorial Day, the Brown brothers line up 50 orange Allis Chalmers tractors between their homes on Hwy. 62, midway between Charlestown and New Washington. The flag-decorated tractors make for an impressive sight that draws visitors.
This pleases Brown because he likes to share his love of tractors and the farm with others, and he likes to help the community. Neighbors have been generous and helpful to him and his family in the past, farming land when someone was ill or bringing food. Clearly, he is grateful to be part of the fabric of his Clark County community.
In the early 1980s, Brown and some of his friends began to get interested in restoring toy tractors. One of his friends went to a farm toy show in St. Louis, Mo. Then Brown’s wife, Eunice, decided she wanted to go to a show in Lafayette, Ind., the second largest one in Indiana. Brown went along.
“I was blown away,” he said. “Little did I know we’d be doing a show.”

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Closeup of one of Dale Brown’s toy tractors is pictured.

Little by little, his friends encouraged him to think about organizing a show. Others approached people in the hotel business about renting space. The Kentuckiana Farm Toy Show came together purposely on Martin Luther King’s birthday so its organizers had a day off work, Brown said. Each year it is held on that weekend.
“It kept growing,” he said. “We ended up with 105 tables of farm toys and 50 vendors from Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana. It’s been a hit.”
“People show up with old stuff or they come in and say they have something at home they want us to see. We have found some good stuff,” Brown said.
Eunice noted, “A box is half your price,” adding later “At one of our first shows, an empty box brought $1,350.”
Brown said the people who collect these items “are mostly men who come, and the wives tag along,” said Eunice. “They bring their grandkids, and they love it.” 
Dale added, “A lot of retired farmers come and buy toys of the equipment they had on their farm. I’m as guilty as they are. I have Grandpa’s Deluxe 20 Cockshutt Tractor and W-Ds my dad had.”
Farm puzzles are among the more popular items at the show. “They are a hit,” said Eunice. “And pedal tractors, too, are still hot.”
“Something that has caught on is the plasma cut steel tractor sign,” Dale added. This is a detailed silhouette of a tractor with the name of the tractor cut into the steel. A friend in Jeffersonville had a set of highly detailed Dapple mules and a wagon with leads and harnesses, Brown said. He saw it in an auction this year.
He considers the vendors and customers to be “like family,” especially since he has been doing this show for 30 years. He also does a Lanesville (Ind.) Farm Toy Show in September.

• For more information on the Kentuckiana Farm Toy Show, call organizer Dale Brown at (812) 293-3118.

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