America is Oliver Country | TheFencePost.com

America is Oliver Country

Fred HendricksBrian Gwiazda holding a 1:16 scale die-cast Oliver model 880.

Rare, exceptional, out of the ordinary are a few descriptives of Brian Gwiazda’s Oliver farm toy collection. Brian’s unusual trove did not happen by chance. He focused on accumulating the old and rare Olivers. “I grew up with the old equipment. I had them as toys when I was a boy so that has been my passion since I started collecting,” Brian said.

Brian and Bonnie Gwiazda live in the northwest Wisconsin county of Chippewa. Aside from being known for the fertile soil that supports extensive dairy farming, their community of Chippewa Falls is home to numerous industries.

Brian’s Storied Beginning

Brian Gwiazda was one of five children that contributed a great deal to their family farm when growing up. He relates, “I grew up on a Gilman, Wisconsin dairy farm. I lived there with my parents and four siblings. Our farm operated a little differently than most during those times. My father was a truck driver so he was on the road a lot. My mother operated the farm most of the time, but we all had chores to help my mom. I often wondered how she did it; raising five children, managing a household, gardening, milking, field work and all that goes with farming.”

Brian does not regret the work when growing up. He liked the farm and associated activities, including playtime. “We found time to play with our toys. My brother played with International Harvester tractors and equipment. I loved the Olivers and had several to play with. I had quite a collection by the time I was a teenager,” Brian related.

When Brian was in high school, his family had to sell the farm because of health related issues with a family member. The Gwiazda Family relocated to the town of Thorp. “The move off the farm to town was a difficult change for me,” Brian suggested.

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Following graduation from high school, Brian earned an Auto Body Technician degree while attending a technical college. When attending college, his father accidentally got rid of Brian’s Oliver collection. “I was not happy, but I vowed someday that I would get them back,” Brian reflected.

Accident Provides New Opportunities

While working as an auto body technician Brian married Bonnie. They had two children, Shannon and Nicholas. Shortly thereafter, he changed avocations. This new work required travel away from home. Being a family man and wanting to spend more time at home, he found employment nearby with Grassland Dairy. Through this work, he became a licensed butter maker.

About this same time, Brian’s father-in-law took him to several local farm toy shows. The bug to once again collect Olivers quickly caught on. “I started buying some 1:16 scale Olivers that I had as a child. My two children caught the collecting bug, as well. They both had different desires so we started going to farm toy shows as a family. We loved the hunt to find pieces that we could add to our different collections,” Brian shared.

One winter day when Brian was traveling to work, he incurred injuries through an automobile accident. Those injuries resulted in his being partially disabled. Brian commented, “Because of my limitations, I had to find something I would be able to do. That something did not happen right away. In fact, it took a few years.”

As fate would have it, the new opportunity happened one day while Brian and Bonnie were attending a farm toy show. Bonnie reflected on that conversation, “It just came to me as we were browsing at the show. I told Brian that with his knowledge and experience of auto body repair work, he should repair old farm toys. It would be like repairing cars and trucks, but on a much smaller scale. Brian thought about my suggestions and soon started restoring old toys.”

Brian has been restoring toys for several years and enjoys the challenge each toy provides. Brian was a little reticent at first, but soon gained confidence. “As I began to repair old toys, I realized that I could do it. Sometimes it is not easy, but I enjoy watching each piece come together. Soon, I was repairing items that I could display. My preference in both collecting and restoring is 1:16 scale. I’ve now sold items at local farm toy shows and on eBay,” Brian noted. He has also completed requests to make replica custom pulling tractors. Customizing tractors as pullers has proven to be a fulfilling deviation from restoration.

Collection Highlights

Collectors will often cover the gamut from old toys to the newest releases. Brian has focused on the old, rare and hard to find models. “I find the value of old toys will fall when new versions of the same model are made later. I really prefer the old time models because they seem to hold their value better,” he explained.

The avid collector will find great favor with almost anything that carries their favorite brand label. Brian has close to 1,000 pieces in his Oliver trove, but there are favorites. He touts the 1954 1:16 scale die-cast Oliver model 77 by Slik as his treasured piece. The unit has an open engine. It also has wide tires on green wheels. “This toy is special because it was made the year I was born. It has not been restored. And, I still have the original box,” he indicated.

The 1:12 scale die-cast Oliver model Super 55 produced by Slik in 1955 is another treasure. Brian has maintained this tractor in mint condition. The original box has been preserved, as well.

The Oliver 1:16 scale die-cast model 1800-checkerboard grill by Ertl and made in 1963 is a cherished tractor. This tractor is just like Brian’s very first toy that he received as a child.

In addition, the 1:16 scale die-cast Oliver PTO baler by Slik is a very special implement. “The baler is in mint condition and one that is very hard to find so I’m proud to have it in my collection,” he recounted.

Another special item, but a non-Oliver piece in Brian’s cache is the International Harvester tractor. Ertl manufactured this 1:16 scale die-cast IH model 350 in 2006. This is a replica of the tractor that Brian operated when growing up on the farm.

Brian’s impressive toy collection also includes a dozen pedal tractors of assorted brands.

Toy Hobby is People

People differ in so many ways. Some people function best by working alone. Other people appreciate lots of people activity around them. For Brian, meeting and interacting with people connected with the farm toy hobby provides great fulfillment. He explained, “As much as I enjoy repairing toys that requires working alone, I find the greatest pleasure in meeting so many different people through the collector hobby. I enjoy hearing about their collection. The history associated with some of their pieces is interesting. I also like to encourage someone who is thinking about starting to collect.”

The next generation is the future of the farm toy hobby. Catering to their interest and getting them involved is an ongoing challenge. Brian takes great pleasure in working with young people interested in farm toys. “I really like helping those getting started, particularly young people. The best advice I usually give them is to always save the box. Sometimes boxes are worth more than the toy. I also encourage them to keep a diary. I tell them to record bits of information about each purchase; where they bought it and what they paid for it,” Brian stated.

He went on to share these excellent recommendations for the beginner. “Collect what you like. It doesn’t matter the condition, collect them, if you like them. Just follow your passion. Learn the details about the brand you’re interested in. Always get advice from honest informative people regarding the farm toy hobby. I’ve also suggested to parents who are buying for their children to let them play with shelf models. If kids are not allowed to play with the tractors even as carpet toys, they will lose interest.”

Hobby Meanderings

Brian’s enthusiasm for the farm toy hobby is undeniable. He has assimilated thoughts and observations that strike an interesting cord, however, “Although I am very excited about the farm toy hobby and my interest in Oliver toys, there are a few discouraging things. There seems to be so many new things out there. There are many models with minor variations. I feel this dilutes the value of a model when small changes are made to release a slightly different version,” he mused.

Brian went on to comment regarding positive aspects of the hobby, “I think eBay has opened new doors for toy collectors. I have seen some rare toys go on eBay that most people would never have had the opportunity to see or buy. The downfall to buying online is not being able to meet, talk or learn from other people. I still attend shows so I’m able to interact with other collectors.”

And, for the treasure hunter, Brian suggests, “Many times parents packed their kids toys away for safe keeping. When going through old toys, make certain you don’t pass up the sand-cast toys as they still have real value. Even if the original box has been destroyed, the toy can be worth a lot.”

If you would like to learn more about Brian Gwiazda’s Oliver collection or just talk farm toys, you may call (715) 720-4682 or send an email to gwiazda@charter.net.

About the author: Fred Hendricks owns SunShower Acres, Ltd. of Bucyrus, Ohio, a dairy cattle consulting business. Mr. Hendricks is an avid farm toy collector and a freelance writer.

Rare, exceptional, out of the ordinary are a few descriptives of Brian Gwiazda’s Oliver farm toy collection. Brian’s unusual trove did not happen by chance. He focused on accumulating the old and rare Olivers. “I grew up with the old equipment. I had them as toys when I was a boy so that has been my passion since I started collecting,” Brian said.

Brian and Bonnie Gwiazda live in the northwest Wisconsin county of Chippewa. Aside from being known for the fertile soil that supports extensive dairy farming, their community of Chippewa Falls is home to numerous industries.

Brian’s Storied Beginning

Brian Gwiazda was one of five children that contributed a great deal to their family farm when growing up. He relates, “I grew up on a Gilman, Wisconsin dairy farm. I lived there with my parents and four siblings. Our farm operated a little differently than most during those times. My father was a truck driver so he was on the road a lot. My mother operated the farm most of the time, but we all had chores to help my mom. I often wondered how she did it; raising five children, managing a household, gardening, milking, field work and all that goes with farming.”

Brian does not regret the work when growing up. He liked the farm and associated activities, including playtime. “We found time to play with our toys. My brother played with International Harvester tractors and equipment. I loved the Olivers and had several to play with. I had quite a collection by the time I was a teenager,” Brian related.

When Brian was in high school, his family had to sell the farm because of health related issues with a family member. The Gwiazda Family relocated to the town of Thorp. “The move off the farm to town was a difficult change for me,” Brian suggested.

Following graduation from high school, Brian earned an Auto Body Technician degree while attending a technical college. When attending college, his father accidentally got rid of Brian’s Oliver collection. “I was not happy, but I vowed someday that I would get them back,” Brian reflected.

Accident Provides New Opportunities

While working as an auto body technician Brian married Bonnie. They had two children, Shannon and Nicholas. Shortly thereafter, he changed avocations. This new work required travel away from home. Being a family man and wanting to spend more time at home, he found employment nearby with Grassland Dairy. Through this work, he became a licensed butter maker.

About this same time, Brian’s father-in-law took him to several local farm toy shows. The bug to once again collect Olivers quickly caught on. “I started buying some 1:16 scale Olivers that I had as a child. My two children caught the collecting bug, as well. They both had different desires so we started going to farm toy shows as a family. We loved the hunt to find pieces that we could add to our different collections,” Brian shared.

One winter day when Brian was traveling to work, he incurred injuries through an automobile accident. Those injuries resulted in his being partially disabled. Brian commented, “Because of my limitations, I had to find something I would be able to do. That something did not happen right away. In fact, it took a few years.”

As fate would have it, the new opportunity happened one day while Brian and Bonnie were attending a farm toy show. Bonnie reflected on that conversation, “It just came to me as we were browsing at the show. I told Brian that with his knowledge and experience of auto body repair work, he should repair old farm toys. It would be like repairing cars and trucks, but on a much smaller scale. Brian thought about my suggestions and soon started restoring old toys.”

Brian has been restoring toys for several years and enjoys the challenge each toy provides. Brian was a little reticent at first, but soon gained confidence. “As I began to repair old toys, I realized that I could do it. Sometimes it is not easy, but I enjoy watching each piece come together. Soon, I was repairing items that I could display. My preference in both collecting and restoring is 1:16 scale. I’ve now sold items at local farm toy shows and on eBay,” Brian noted. He has also completed requests to make replica custom pulling tractors. Customizing tractors as pullers has proven to be a fulfilling deviation from restoration.

Collection Highlights

Collectors will often cover the gamut from old toys to the newest releases. Brian has focused on the old, rare and hard to find models. “I find the value of old toys will fall when new versions of the same model are made later. I really prefer the old time models because they seem to hold their value better,” he explained.

The avid collector will find great favor with almost anything that carries their favorite brand label. Brian has close to 1,000 pieces in his Oliver trove, but there are favorites. He touts the 1954 1:16 scale die-cast Oliver model 77 by Slik as his treasured piece. The unit has an open engine. It also has wide tires on green wheels. “This toy is special because it was made the year I was born. It has not been restored. And, I still have the original box,” he indicated.

The 1:12 scale die-cast Oliver model Super 55 produced by Slik in 1955 is another treasure. Brian has maintained this tractor in mint condition. The original box has been preserved, as well.

The Oliver 1:16 scale die-cast model 1800-checkerboard grill by Ertl and made in 1963 is a cherished tractor. This tractor is just like Brian’s very first toy that he received as a child.

In addition, the 1:16 scale die-cast Oliver PTO baler by Slik is a very special implement. “The baler is in mint condition and one that is very hard to find so I’m proud to have it in my collection,” he recounted.

Another special item, but a non-Oliver piece in Brian’s cache is the International Harvester tractor. Ertl manufactured this 1:16 scale die-cast IH model 350 in 2006. This is a replica of the tractor that Brian operated when growing up on the farm.

Brian’s impressive toy collection also includes a dozen pedal tractors of assorted brands.

Toy Hobby is People

People differ in so many ways. Some people function best by working alone. Other people appreciate lots of people activity around them. For Brian, meeting and interacting with people connected with the farm toy hobby provides great fulfillment. He explained, “As much as I enjoy repairing toys that requires working alone, I find the greatest pleasure in meeting so many different people through the collector hobby. I enjoy hearing about their collection. The history associated with some of their pieces is interesting. I also like to encourage someone who is thinking about starting to collect.”

The next generation is the future of the farm toy hobby. Catering to their interest and getting them involved is an ongoing challenge. Brian takes great pleasure in working with young people interested in farm toys. “I really like helping those getting started, particularly young people. The best advice I usually give them is to always save the box. Sometimes boxes are worth more than the toy. I also encourage them to keep a diary. I tell them to record bits of information about each purchase; where they bought it and what they paid for it,” Brian stated.

He went on to share these excellent recommendations for the beginner. “Collect what you like. It doesn’t matter the condition, collect them, if you like them. Just follow your passion. Learn the details about the brand you’re interested in. Always get advice from honest informative people regarding the farm toy hobby. I’ve also suggested to parents who are buying for their children to let them play with shelf models. If kids are not allowed to play with the tractors even as carpet toys, they will lose interest.”

Hobby Meanderings

Brian’s enthusiasm for the farm toy hobby is undeniable. He has assimilated thoughts and observations that strike an interesting cord, however, “Although I am very excited about the farm toy hobby and my interest in Oliver toys, there are a few discouraging things. There seems to be so many new things out there. There are many models with minor variations. I feel this dilutes the value of a model when small changes are made to release a slightly different version,” he mused.

Brian went on to comment regarding positive aspects of the hobby, “I think eBay has opened new doors for toy collectors. I have seen some rare toys go on eBay that most people would never have had the opportunity to see or buy. The downfall to buying online is not being able to meet, talk or learn from other people. I still attend shows so I’m able to interact with other collectors.”

And, for the treasure hunter, Brian suggests, “Many times parents packed their kids toys away for safe keeping. When going through old toys, make certain you don’t pass up the sand-cast toys as they still have real value. Even if the original box has been destroyed, the toy can be worth a lot.”

If you would like to learn more about Brian Gwiazda’s Oliver collection or just talk farm toys, you may call (715) 720-4682 or send an email to gwiazda@charter.net.

About the author: Fred Hendricks owns SunShower Acres, Ltd. of Bucyrus, Ohio, a dairy cattle consulting business. Mr. Hendricks is an avid farm toy collector and a freelance writer.