Soukup’s Toyland and Museum in North Bend, Neb. | TheFencePost.com

Soukup’s Toyland and Museum in North Bend, Neb.

Fred Hendricks
Burcyrus, Ohio

Shown is a bird's eye view of Soukup's extensive Toyland and Museum.

Harold Soukup began collecting model farm toys and trucks at an early age. Suddenly Harold realized he was a collector when there was no more display room. “I started collecting when I was 9-years-old. I collected most everything including: model farm equipment, trucks, signs, advertising literature, car brochures, catalogs and more. It didn’t occur to me that I had accumulated so much until I realized it was time to build and buy buildings to put the collection in them,” he lamented.

After living in different states as the result of employment, Harold and Leona Soukup now call North Bend, Neb., their home. North Bend is situated in eastern Nebraska, a little northwest of Omaha. A party of Scottish immigrants settled the area of North Bend in 1856 when they stopped for a July 4th celebration in a community called Emerson. In route from Illinois to establish a settlement in Kansas, the group put down roots, as they were concerned about a “Border War” in Kansas. They founded a nearby town site named Franklin. In 1858 Emerson was renamed Wallace, after a Philadelphia philanthropist who had offered to build a library in any town taking his name. The areas combined settlements came together and agreed on the present name of North Bend in 1864. The Union Pacific Railroad acquired a piece of ground for its depot on the proposed transcontinental railroad. For year’s, surveys had showed the town’s location as “the north bend,” indicating perhaps the northern most bend of the Platte River.

Background –

Collection Interest

Harold’s interest in farm tractors and farm equipment replica’s evolved quite by chance. “I worked in a filling station when I was 13-years-old. After high school graduation, I went to work for Western Electric installing phone related equipment. I had a little extra time so I worked nights at the filling station. Eventually my work with Western Electric required extensive travel throughout the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. I started collecting things when I was 9-years-old. Through my travels working with Western Electric I became more aware of farming and the equipment farmers used in the field. I guess the interest in collecting farm equipment models evolved from those experiences. I started collecting on my own and kept everything in the closet for quite a few years,” Harold related.

Harold’s interest began quite early in life, “When I was nine or 10 my dad worked as the parts manager at a Chrysler Dealership in Fremont, Neb. At their annual Christmas dinner, a 1946 slush-metal or sand-cast sedan was given as place favors. When mom and dad brought them home I thought they were pretty neat so I put them on a shelf. The manufacturer information was stamped on the bottom side of the sedan so I sent away for their price list. With my allowance, I bought one a week to start my collection.”

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He went on to say, “I soon discovered two more companies making slush-metal vehicles, Bantrico and National Products. Like before, I obtained information on buying from them. I bought a replica every third week from those companies. The Chrysler Dealership where Dad worked also owned a Firestone store that sold truck and construction equipment models. Dad brought home some GMC cab-over trucks by Smith-Miller and construction toys by Doepke.”

Farm equipment models were featured items at the manufacturing companies displays during the state fairs. “Dad and Mom would take my grandparents to the Nebraska State Fair every year. I had to go along until I was 16. To get me there, they would buy the scale model version of the farm machinery that was featured each year for me. After high school graduation, real cars came into play so my interests changed. I soon got on with Western Electric and ran the wheels off two trailer houses moving form one state to another to live and work. The scale model toys at my parent’s house started gathering dust so we put them away in storage. Eventually we bought a house in Fremont. The toys were pulled out of storage for display once we were settled in there,” Harold reminisced.

A collector will often focus on a particular brand or scale, but not Harold, as he recounted, “I really enjoy my toys and like to share them with other enthusiasts. Collecting is a way to keep a history for future generations. I don’t have any one thing that has special value or is sentimental. Leona and I collect anything and everything that catches our interest. In the last 20 years we’ve become more selective. We concentrate on nice originals and new in the box toys along with rare or unusual replicas.”

He noted further, “We have no preference as to scale. If we like it, we’ll buy it. In 1987 we had over 3,000 pieces. Collecting continued so I don’t know what the count would be now. At one time we had 50 antique cars of special interest. We’ve sold those down to 17, but the affection for toys has gone up considerably. Matter of fact, we have toys from all over the world. Generally, price is not an issue. If we like it, we’ll get it. Some people think we’re extreme, maybe even crazy, but we enjoy the hobby.”

Collection Expands

Many times a collector will stop to ponder and wonder how the cache grew so large. “The shelves throughout the house were filling up. Showcases started finding their way to the basement of our house. We built a garage in our backyard with shelves all around the inside perimeter to display still more toys. When our children left home, their rooms began filling up with models of all kinds. We now have one large museum with display cases, floor to ceiling. We also have two warehouses chucked full with things we’ve never opened,” he noted.

The Soukup’s farm toy assimilation came on more slowly. “During our first visit to the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa, we didn’t buy anything because it was all farm equipment. We bought a few trucks at the Ertl outlet store and the other toy stores in that area. When we got home we looked around and decided that our space was limited. We didn’t have the museum or warehouses then. We decided that farm toys didn’t fit in with the automotive collection,” Harold reflected.

Harold and Leona were in a quandary. They wanted more automotive pieces, but there was no display space. They took this regrettable course, “In 1978, we loaded our car trunk with farm toys from my childhood and headed to the National Farm Toy Show. We befriended a gentleman from South Dakota who checked out our toys in the trunk of the car. He instantly wanted them, as they were all new in the box. It seemed like a good decision at the time, but I wish I hadn’t sold any of them. Now, I tell people when I’m buying their toy or collection; make sure you want to do this. You’ll never replace those exact toys. It’s part of your past you are selling. We’ve since bought back a great many farm equipment models so we have a nice collection with nearly every manufacturer brand on our shelves of them.”

Collection Hobby Meanderings

You would be hard pressed to find a large collection without custom or scratch-built pieces. Harold’s trove has an assortment of both. “When you tour our museum, you’ll find many unique one-of-a-kind scratch-built items. We also have many customized replicas. I enjoy tracking down missing parts and I’ll do some repainting myself. Dick Leis who owns Looking Glass Toys of Portland, Oregon, has customized and restored numerous pieces for us. John Reeves of Fremont, Neb., created our custom-built wood models. Toys requiring striping and special lettering is the handy work of Steve Carmon of Omaha, Neb.,” Harold remarked.

As with any hobby there is an evolution. Harold commented on that evolution with his hobby interest, “Over the past 20 years the over 50 crowd seems to be interested in models of the real things – tractors, cars, trucks, airplanes and etc. Unfortunately, the newer toys are not made to last like the early ones. The younger crowd has followed the electronic age and therefore goes after radio controlled or high tech toys. Fortunately, farm toys have not gone in that direction quite as much.”

As the hobby evolves staying abreast can be challenging. Harold handles that task quite simply, “We did toy shows a lot, but not as much since we’re not reselling. Attending shows helps you know what’s out there and how things are priced. Toy Farmer, Toy Trucker & Contractor, Antique Toy World and Collector’s Journal are very helpful publications to help stay current on things, especially learning what’s new.”

The never-ending debate goes on regarding a collection appreciating in value. Harold offered up this advise, “Don’t buy for investment unless you’re a dealer. Certain pieces may appreciate in value, but that takes time. I tell people to get in the hobby for the enjoyment and not as an investment. I know we have many items in our collection that are more valuable than when we bought them. That appreciation took many years, though. If the truth were known, we probably have things that have gone down in value as well. Just stick with what you like and buy it.”

The hobby? What is the future? Where is it headed? The collector aficionado, no matter the subject of interest will share their enthusiasm. Harold is no exception when he suggested, “Some have said we have a collector illness.

Call it what you want, but we love it. It’s so enjoyable to walk through our museum and see all those special pieces, each with a unique story. It has provided great enjoyment as we share it with others who come by. And most importantly, we’ve met wonderful people and made countless friends just through our association with this wonderful hobby.”

* Note: This story was written posthumously with permission of Harold’s Family. Harold Soukup passed away January 11, 2011.

The Family will be maintaining the Soukup’s Toyland and Museum in North Bend, Neb. Visitors are welcome via appointment. Please call Leona Soukup in advance to view this fascinating collection at (402) 652-3481.

Harold Soukup began collecting model farm toys and trucks at an early age. Suddenly Harold realized he was a collector when there was no more display room. “I started collecting when I was 9-years-old. I collected most everything including: model farm equipment, trucks, signs, advertising literature, car brochures, catalogs and more. It didn’t occur to me that I had accumulated so much until I realized it was time to build and buy buildings to put the collection in them,” he lamented.

After living in different states as the result of employment, Harold and Leona Soukup now call North Bend, Neb., their home. North Bend is situated in eastern Nebraska, a little northwest of Omaha. A party of Scottish immigrants settled the area of North Bend in 1856 when they stopped for a July 4th celebration in a community called Emerson. In route from Illinois to establish a settlement in Kansas, the group put down roots, as they were concerned about a “Border War” in Kansas. They founded a nearby town site named Franklin. In 1858 Emerson was renamed Wallace, after a Philadelphia philanthropist who had offered to build a library in any town taking his name. The areas combined settlements came together and agreed on the present name of North Bend in 1864. The Union Pacific Railroad acquired a piece of ground for its depot on the proposed transcontinental railroad. For year’s, surveys had showed the town’s location as “the north bend,” indicating perhaps the northern most bend of the Platte River.

Background –

Collection Interest

Harold’s interest in farm tractors and farm equipment replica’s evolved quite by chance. “I worked in a filling station when I was 13-years-old. After high school graduation, I went to work for Western Electric installing phone related equipment. I had a little extra time so I worked nights at the filling station. Eventually my work with Western Electric required extensive travel throughout the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. I started collecting things when I was 9-years-old. Through my travels working with Western Electric I became more aware of farming and the equipment farmers used in the field. I guess the interest in collecting farm equipment models evolved from those experiences. I started collecting on my own and kept everything in the closet for quite a few years,” Harold related.

Harold’s interest began quite early in life, “When I was nine or 10 my dad worked as the parts manager at a Chrysler Dealership in Fremont, Neb. At their annual Christmas dinner, a 1946 slush-metal or sand-cast sedan was given as place favors. When mom and dad brought them home I thought they were pretty neat so I put them on a shelf. The manufacturer information was stamped on the bottom side of the sedan so I sent away for their price list. With my allowance, I bought one a week to start my collection.”

He went on to say, “I soon discovered two more companies making slush-metal vehicles, Bantrico and National Products. Like before, I obtained information on buying from them. I bought a replica every third week from those companies. The Chrysler Dealership where Dad worked also owned a Firestone store that sold truck and construction equipment models. Dad brought home some GMC cab-over trucks by Smith-Miller and construction toys by Doepke.”

Farm equipment models were featured items at the manufacturing companies displays during the state fairs. “Dad and Mom would take my grandparents to the Nebraska State Fair every year. I had to go along until I was 16. To get me there, they would buy the scale model version of the farm machinery that was featured each year for me. After high school graduation, real cars came into play so my interests changed. I soon got on with Western Electric and ran the wheels off two trailer houses moving form one state to another to live and work. The scale model toys at my parent’s house started gathering dust so we put them away in storage. Eventually we bought a house in Fremont. The toys were pulled out of storage for display once we were settled in there,” Harold reminisced.

A collector will often focus on a particular brand or scale, but not Harold, as he recounted, “I really enjoy my toys and like to share them with other enthusiasts. Collecting is a way to keep a history for future generations. I don’t have any one thing that has special value or is sentimental. Leona and I collect anything and everything that catches our interest. In the last 20 years we’ve become more selective. We concentrate on nice originals and new in the box toys along with rare or unusual replicas.”

He noted further, “We have no preference as to scale. If we like it, we’ll buy it. In 1987 we had over 3,000 pieces. Collecting continued so I don’t know what the count would be now. At one time we had 50 antique cars of special interest. We’ve sold those down to 17, but the affection for toys has gone up considerably. Matter of fact, we have toys from all over the world. Generally, price is not an issue. If we like it, we’ll get it. Some people think we’re extreme, maybe even crazy, but we enjoy the hobby.”

Collection Expands

Many times a collector will stop to ponder and wonder how the cache grew so large. “The shelves throughout the house were filling up. Showcases started finding their way to the basement of our house. We built a garage in our backyard with shelves all around the inside perimeter to display still more toys. When our children left home, their rooms began filling up with models of all kinds. We now have one large museum with display cases, floor to ceiling. We also have two warehouses chucked full with things we’ve never opened,” he noted.

The Soukup’s farm toy assimilation came on more slowly. “During our first visit to the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa, we didn’t buy anything because it was all farm equipment. We bought a few trucks at the Ertl outlet store and the other toy stores in that area. When we got home we looked around and decided that our space was limited. We didn’t have the museum or warehouses then. We decided that farm toys didn’t fit in with the automotive collection,” Harold reflected.

Harold and Leona were in a quandary. They wanted more automotive pieces, but there was no display space. They took this regrettable course, “In 1978, we loaded our car trunk with farm toys from my childhood and headed to the National Farm Toy Show. We befriended a gentleman from South Dakota who checked out our toys in the trunk of the car. He instantly wanted them, as they were all new in the box. It seemed like a good decision at the time, but I wish I hadn’t sold any of them. Now, I tell people when I’m buying their toy or collection; make sure you want to do this. You’ll never replace those exact toys. It’s part of your past you are selling. We’ve since bought back a great many farm equipment models so we have a nice collection with nearly every manufacturer brand on our shelves of them.”

Collection Hobby Meanderings

You would be hard pressed to find a large collection without custom or scratch-built pieces. Harold’s trove has an assortment of both. “When you tour our museum, you’ll find many unique one-of-a-kind scratch-built items. We also have many customized replicas. I enjoy tracking down missing parts and I’ll do some repainting myself. Dick Leis who owns Looking Glass Toys of Portland, Oregon, has customized and restored numerous pieces for us. John Reeves of Fremont, Neb., created our custom-built wood models. Toys requiring striping and special lettering is the handy work of Steve Carmon of Omaha, Neb.,” Harold remarked.

As with any hobby there is an evolution. Harold commented on that evolution with his hobby interest, “Over the past 20 years the over 50 crowd seems to be interested in models of the real things – tractors, cars, trucks, airplanes and etc. Unfortunately, the newer toys are not made to last like the early ones. The younger crowd has followed the electronic age and therefore goes after radio controlled or high tech toys. Fortunately, farm toys have not gone in that direction quite as much.”

As the hobby evolves staying abreast can be challenging. Harold handles that task quite simply, “We did toy shows a lot, but not as much since we’re not reselling. Attending shows helps you know what’s out there and how things are priced. Toy Farmer, Toy Trucker & Contractor, Antique Toy World and Collector’s Journal are very helpful publications to help stay current on things, especially learning what’s new.”

The never-ending debate goes on regarding a collection appreciating in value. Harold offered up this advise, “Don’t buy for investment unless you’re a dealer. Certain pieces may appreciate in value, but that takes time. I tell people to get in the hobby for the enjoyment and not as an investment. I know we have many items in our collection that are more valuable than when we bought them. That appreciation took many years, though. If the truth were known, we probably have things that have gone down in value as well. Just stick with what you like and buy it.”

The hobby? What is the future? Where is it headed? The collector aficionado, no matter the subject of interest will share their enthusiasm. Harold is no exception when he suggested, “Some have said we have a collector illness.

Call it what you want, but we love it. It’s so enjoyable to walk through our museum and see all those special pieces, each with a unique story. It has provided great enjoyment as we share it with others who come by. And most importantly, we’ve met wonderful people and made countless friends just through our association with this wonderful hobby.”

* Note: This story was written posthumously with permission of Harold’s Family. Harold Soukup passed away January 11, 2011.

The Family will be maintaining the Soukup’s Toyland and Museum in North Bend, Neb. Visitors are welcome via appointment. Please call Leona Soukup in advance to view this fascinating collection at (402) 652-3481.

Harold Soukup began collecting model farm toys and trucks at an early age. Suddenly Harold realized he was a collector when there was no more display room. “I started collecting when I was 9-years-old. I collected most everything including: model farm equipment, trucks, signs, advertising literature, car brochures, catalogs and more. It didn’t occur to me that I had accumulated so much until I realized it was time to build and buy buildings to put the collection in them,” he lamented.

After living in different states as the result of employment, Harold and Leona Soukup now call North Bend, Neb., their home. North Bend is situated in eastern Nebraska, a little northwest of Omaha. A party of Scottish immigrants settled the area of North Bend in 1856 when they stopped for a July 4th celebration in a community called Emerson. In route from Illinois to establish a settlement in Kansas, the group put down roots, as they were concerned about a “Border War” in Kansas. They founded a nearby town site named Franklin. In 1858 Emerson was renamed Wallace, after a Philadelphia philanthropist who had offered to build a library in any town taking his name. The areas combined settlements came together and agreed on the present name of North Bend in 1864. The Union Pacific Railroad acquired a piece of ground for its depot on the proposed transcontinental railroad. For year’s, surveys had showed the town’s location as “the north bend,” indicating perhaps the northern most bend of the Platte River.

Background –

Collection Interest

Harold’s interest in farm tractors and farm equipment replica’s evolved quite by chance. “I worked in a filling station when I was 13-years-old. After high school graduation, I went to work for Western Electric installing phone related equipment. I had a little extra time so I worked nights at the filling station. Eventually my work with Western Electric required extensive travel throughout the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. I started collecting things when I was 9-years-old. Through my travels working with Western Electric I became more aware of farming and the equipment farmers used in the field. I guess the interest in collecting farm equipment models evolved from those experiences. I started collecting on my own and kept everything in the closet for quite a few years,” Harold related.

Harold’s interest began quite early in life, “When I was nine or 10 my dad worked as the parts manager at a Chrysler Dealership in Fremont, Neb. At their annual Christmas dinner, a 1946 slush-metal or sand-cast sedan was given as place favors. When mom and dad brought them home I thought they were pretty neat so I put them on a shelf. The manufacturer information was stamped on the bottom side of the sedan so I sent away for their price list. With my allowance, I bought one a week to start my collection.”

He went on to say, “I soon discovered two more companies making slush-metal vehicles, Bantrico and National Products. Like before, I obtained information on buying from them. I bought a replica every third week from those companies. The Chrysler Dealership where Dad worked also owned a Firestone store that sold truck and construction equipment models. Dad brought home some GMC cab-over trucks by Smith-Miller and construction toys by Doepke.”

Farm equipment models were featured items at the manufacturing companies displays during the state fairs. “Dad and Mom would take my grandparents to the Nebraska State Fair every year. I had to go along until I was 16. To get me there, they would buy the scale model version of the farm machinery that was featured each year for me. After high school graduation, real cars came into play so my interests changed. I soon got on with Western Electric and ran the wheels off two trailer houses moving form one state to another to live and work. The scale model toys at my parent’s house started gathering dust so we put them away in storage. Eventually we bought a house in Fremont. The toys were pulled out of storage for display once we were settled in there,” Harold reminisced.

A collector will often focus on a particular brand or scale, but not Harold, as he recounted, “I really enjoy my toys and like to share them with other enthusiasts. Collecting is a way to keep a history for future generations. I don’t have any one thing that has special value or is sentimental. Leona and I collect anything and everything that catches our interest. In the last 20 years we’ve become more selective. We concentrate on nice originals and new in the box toys along with rare or unusual replicas.”

He noted further, “We have no preference as to scale. If we like it, we’ll buy it. In 1987 we had over 3,000 pieces. Collecting continued so I don’t know what the count would be now. At one time we had 50 antique cars of special interest. We’ve sold those down to 17, but the affection for toys has gone up considerably. Matter of fact, we have toys from all over the world. Generally, price is not an issue. If we like it, we’ll get it. Some people think we’re extreme, maybe even crazy, but we enjoy the hobby.”

Collection Expands

Many times a collector will stop to ponder and wonder how the cache grew so large. “The shelves throughout the house were filling up. Showcases started finding their way to the basement of our house. We built a garage in our backyard with shelves all around the inside perimeter to display still more toys. When our children left home, their rooms began filling up with models of all kinds. We now have one large museum with display cases, floor to ceiling. We also have two warehouses chucked full with things we’ve never opened,” he noted.

The Soukup’s farm toy assimilation came on more slowly. “During our first visit to the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa, we didn’t buy anything because it was all farm equipment. We bought a few trucks at the Ertl outlet store and the other toy stores in that area. When we got home we looked around and decided that our space was limited. We didn’t have the museum or warehouses then. We decided that farm toys didn’t fit in with the automotive collection,” Harold reflected.

Harold and Leona were in a quandary. They wanted more automotive pieces, but there was no display space. They took this regrettable course, “In 1978, we loaded our car trunk with farm toys from my childhood and headed to the National Farm Toy Show. We befriended a gentleman from South Dakota who checked out our toys in the trunk of the car. He instantly wanted them, as they were all new in the box. It seemed like a good decision at the time, but I wish I hadn’t sold any of them. Now, I tell people when I’m buying their toy or collection; make sure you want to do this. You’ll never replace those exact toys. It’s part of your past you are selling. We’ve since bought back a great many farm equipment models so we have a nice collection with nearly every manufacturer brand on our shelves of them.”

Collection Hobby Meanderings

You would be hard pressed to find a large collection without custom or scratch-built pieces. Harold’s trove has an assortment of both. “When you tour our museum, you’ll find many unique one-of-a-kind scratch-built items. We also have many customized replicas. I enjoy tracking down missing parts and I’ll do some repainting myself. Dick Leis who owns Looking Glass Toys of Portland, Oregon, has customized and restored numerous pieces for us. John Reeves of Fremont, Neb., created our custom-built wood models. Toys requiring striping and special lettering is the handy work of Steve Carmon of Omaha, Neb.,” Harold remarked.

As with any hobby there is an evolution. Harold commented on that evolution with his hobby interest, “Over the past 20 years the over 50 crowd seems to be interested in models of the real things – tractors, cars, trucks, airplanes and etc. Unfortunately, the newer toys are not made to last like the early ones. The younger crowd has followed the electronic age and therefore goes after radio controlled or high tech toys. Fortunately, farm toys have not gone in that direction quite as much.”

As the hobby evolves staying abreast can be challenging. Harold handles that task quite simply, “We did toy shows a lot, but not as much since we’re not reselling. Attending shows helps you know what’s out there and how things are priced. Toy Farmer, Toy Trucker & Contractor, Antique Toy World and Collector’s Journal are very helpful publications to help stay current on things, especially learning what’s new.”

The never-ending debate goes on regarding a collection appreciating in value. Harold offered up this advise, “Don’t buy for investment unless you’re a dealer. Certain pieces may appreciate in value, but that takes time. I tell people to get in the hobby for the enjoyment and not as an investment. I know we have many items in our collection that are more valuable than when we bought them. That appreciation took many years, though. If the truth were known, we probably have things that have gone down in value as well. Just stick with what you like and buy it.”

The hobby? What is the future? Where is it headed? The collector aficionado, no matter the subject of interest will share their enthusiasm. Harold is no exception when he suggested, “Some have said we have a collector illness.

Call it what you want, but we love it. It’s so enjoyable to walk through our museum and see all those special pieces, each with a unique story. It has provided great enjoyment as we share it with others who come by. And most importantly, we’ve met wonderful people and made countless friends just through our association with this wonderful hobby.”

* Note: This story was written posthumously with permission of Harold’s Family. Harold Soukup passed away January 11, 2011.

The Family will be maintaining the Soukup’s Toyland and Museum in North Bend, Neb. Visitors are welcome via appointment. Please call Leona Soukup in advance to view this fascinating collection at (402) 652-3481.