MCCOMB, Ohio — Across the vast landscape of farm equipment toys and model replicas there are some rare gems in many collections. A gem, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. One such cache of toy gems from bygone days is the collection of farmers Dan and Colene Shoop, who have a vast array of John Deere farm toys and cherished replicas. These rare collectables are cast-iron Vindex toys made by The National Sewing Machine Company of Belvidere, Ill. Dan played with cast-iron toys by Arcade as a child.
“Those old toys were tough and durable. As kids, we farmed’ hard with them. In toy terms, we probably farmed a thousand acres in the garden or making hay using yard grass. In the winter, we wore the knees of our pants through as carpet farmers. Those old toys were always around, even after we grew older,” Dan said.
He continued: “Later in life I started collecting toys, like the equipment we farmed with. I always liked the cast-iron toys. And, since Vindex made the John Deere line just like the equipment we farmed with, those became my favorites. That’s where we’ve focused our collection.”
Dan was born and raised in the northwest Ohio community of McComb. Colene grew up in the nearby village of Rawson. They raised their two daughters and have farmed near McComb their entire life.
The Shoops’ Inspiration is Personal
Dan and Colene both grew up on farms outside McComb. This underpinning of farm life provided the impetus for their extensive farm toy collection.
Dan was raised on a livestock farm. His family had dairy cows, sheep, hogs, chickens, ducks and dogs and they milked cows in their old stables after horses left the farm.
“I started milking cows by hand when I was five years old. I helped milk by hand for eight years before we got our first DeLaval milking machine,” Dan said. “I am old enough to remember my parents farming with horses. In fact, when I was five or six, I got to drive a team to haul wheat bundles from the field to the threshing machine. Those were great times when our family and neighbors came together for threshing. Young farm boys, when I grew up, helped out with general work around the farm, no matter the job. Things were a lot simpler then.”
He remembers the family’s first tractor — a used 1937 John Deere Model B. He drove it for the first time when he was six years old.
“After working with horses, driving that tractor was a real thrill,” Dan said. “John Deere provided our field power from then through today.”
As Dan and Colene took over the family farm, they began focusing on registered Holstein dairy cattle. They bred and exhibited Holsteins over the years. The Shoops hold the record for showing dairy cattle 68 consecutive years at their local Hancock County Fair.
Many farm toy collectors relate their interest to the toys they played with as youngsters, or the equipment they farmed with. Dan is no exception.
“Those countless acres we farmed as kids were done with cast-iron toys. Many of those toys stayed around, so they launched my collection,” he said.
They include two Arcade John Deere tractors and a plow, disc and wagon. There are also two John Deere pieces built by Vindex; a Model D tractor and a threshing machine.
“I always liked the Vindex because they were John Deere toys. From my perspective, Vindex were the Cadillac of cast-iron toys. They had excellent design. And, they were thin-walled with a few moving parts,” Dan said.
His main interest has been collecting the Vindex John Deere pieces that haven’t been repaired or repainted. He’s even found a couple that have never been played with. He has an original Vindex catalog that shows the toys being offered for $10 per dozen.
“I like horse-drawn toys,” Dan said. “They remind me of those times when I drove the team of horses to haul wheat in from the field for threshing. You will find a Wilkins horse-drawn mowing machine hitched to a team on my shelves. To keep things interesting, I have a Vindex Case tractor and plow. This keeps my friends from accusing me of being color blind for green.”
In staying with the theme of John Deere, Dan has more than 300 modern-era toys.
While he prefers cast-iron toys, he also collects John Deere toys that relate to the real machines used today. And, Colene has countless pieces of John Deere memorabilia scattered about the house as decorator pieces. Together, they enjoy getting out to farm toy shows or the antique malls to see what they can find.
“The hunt for that next special piece is the challenge and provides great satisfaction for both of us. Colene helped make the money that bought our collection so we’re in this together,” he said.
Farm Toy Hobby<\n> Retrospection
With their many years of experience in the farm toy hobby, Dan and Colene offered up valuable parcels of wisdom.
“The milk cows have restricted our ability to travel away from the farm overnight, but we’ve been observant about this very fascinating hobby,” Dan said. “We stay abreast with trends and current releases through the Toy Farmer magazine. We check out farm toy websites, including eBay to see what is being offered and how they’re priced. We take in a few local farm toy shows each year.”
“The contacts we’ve made over the years have been invaluable,” Dan said.
Robert Smith from Monroeville, Ohio, helped them network in finding many of their Vindex toys. Ray Lacktorin of Bear Lake, Minnesota provided the lead for their Vindex John Deere combine and Van Brunt grain drill. Henry and Nicki Lindeman from Michigan helped them obtain much of their John Deere memorabilia.
“It’s the people in this hobby that add great joy to life. Those acquaintances and their friendship make it heartwarming. It sure gives us a nice break from milking cows and the farming operation,” Dan said.
Dan and Colene were assisted by other collectors when they first started. Help from those contacts along with their experiences provide great advice for the novice collector.
“As you begin, do your homework. Read the publications that cater to farm toy collecting. Attend farm toy shows where you can look to see what is available. Start small and stay focused. There are older collectors willing to provide constructive advice. Talk to them and ask questions. This will help guide you away from potential pitfalls,” the Shoops said.
They added: “Above all, do not buy toys expecting them to gain value. Current farm equipment models, in particular, are not likely to appreciate very much with time. There are so many replicas being made with very little variation from one model to another. They are definitely great values for the price, but not likely to gain in value. Be patient, as there are still valued gems in vintage collector pieces. It’s a great pastime.”
For more information, Dan and Colene Shoop can be reached at 419-293-2355.
Fred Hendricks owns SunShower Acres in Bucyrus, Ohio, a dairy cattle consulting business.