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Toy tractor treasures: a trove to behold

Fred Hendricks
The Shoemakers posed in their display room. From back to front: Andy Shoemaker, Don Shoemaker and Don's grandson, Travis Snyder.

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The father-son team of Don and Andy Shomaker has been collecting farm toy tractors and implements for nearly two decades. Following high school graduation, Don left the family farm near Keysville, Md., to pursue other opportunities. But his affinity for the farm and its equipment never waned. He collected toy farm tractors and complimentary implements as a youngster and continued the passion as an adult. The Shoemaker’s trove of scale model farm toys exceeds 3,000 pieces, including numerous scratch-built treasures.

Don and Joyce Shoemaker now reside in historic village of Taneytown, Md.

Taneytown was the staging ground for the Confederate Army in preparation for the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. This quiet community rests in the gently rolling hills of north central Maryland, a short distance from Gettysburg, Pa.

Don and Joyce bought a farm toy for their son, Andy, each year at the Frederick, Md., fair. And, while Andy played regularly with these toys, they were never exposed to the outdoor elements.

“When I realized how interested and particular Andy was with his toys, I started taking him with me to toy shows when he was 7 years old. That’s when Andy and I got serious about collecting,” stated Don.

The Shoemaker duo collected like most beginners. They amassed toys routinely available at shows. However, their interest gravitated toward quality 1/16-scale shelf models.

“When precision or high detail toys came on the scene we shifted our interest as they looked so real,” indicated Andy.

Through exposure to more farm toy shows and learning about other toy opportunities, the scratch-built toys captivated their interest.

“We were taken in by the attention to detail and the craftsmanship found in these toy models. We soon shifted our collecting emphasis to scratch-built toys,” shared Don.

In addition to farm toys, the Shoemakers also collect antique tractors. Quite by chance, they learned about a 1917 antique International Titan. Through Don’s trailer business, a manufacturer’s representative apprised them of a Titan tractor on the International dealer’s lot in Breezewood, Pa.

“Andy and I traveled to Breezewood and checked it out. In 1950, the dealer had taken the International Titan model 10-20 in on a trade for a Ford model 8N. It had been used exclusively at a saw mill so the clutch, drive chains as well as the transmission were in excellent condition. A tree had fallen on the tractor so the dealer restored the old relic inside and out. The Model 10-20 represents 10 horsepower at the draw-bar with 20 horsepower at the belt. After seeing the tractor, we couldn’t resist so we brought it home for our collection,” recounted Don.

The Titan became a favorite among their antique tractors. And now, they relished a toy version of the same tractor. They sought a scale model IHC Titan model 10-20 in high detail. After extensive research, their efforts proved futile as none could be found.

The Shoemakers had a number of scratch-built toys in their collection crafted by Terry Rouch of Royal Center, Ind.

“We came to appreciate Terry’s work through his pieces in our collection. I had visited his home to learn more about his handiwork. After we acquired the old Titan, we called Terry to see if he would build a 1/16-scale model of our tractor. Terry agreed to the task, providing we haul the tractor to Indiana so he could take exact measurements. We made a deal and we went to Indiana. The job has been completed and now we have a high detail, one-of-a-kind, scale model International Titan 10-20,” related Andy.

Display space is a never-ending challenge for the avid collector. The Shoemakers soon found their cache bursting at the seams.

“With so many shelf model releases available, we had to limit our collection. We felt there would be more lasting value in the scratch-built toys. And, we liked them much better,” said Don.

The Shoemaker display room is now filled with rare treasures by the most accomplished craftsmen.

“Our primary emphasis is scratch-built toys as opposed to custom pieces. We like these because they tend to be more unique and have greater detail. The builders take great pride in their work. They are truly one-of-a-kind,” expressed Andy.

While there are many usual gems in the Shoemaker collection, their favorites include: Waterloo Boy by Charles Cox, John Deere model 5A combine by Everett Weber, Minneapolis Molin Harvester Jr. combine by Wesley Wright, and the International Titan by Terry Rouch. Space does not allow for all of their special pieces to be listed here.

The Professional craftsmen who customize or build farm toys from scratch are a rare breed. Through time and experience they perfect their skills while taking pride in their craft. Consequently, the toys are more expensive.

“We are not gifted with their skills, but we really like the quality. Because of this, we are willing to pay more for the unique toy with extra detail. There are very few quality builders so we hope new ones will be inspired to develop the craft,” commented Andy.

Collectors of limited custom or scratch-built farm toys can demonstrate added value; a value that will exceed the commercially built toy. When these craftsmen began adding greater detail to their toys, the major toy manufacturers followed suit and started producing higher quality. And now, this facet of farm toy collecting has expanded greatly.

“We collected the high detail toys produced commercially at one time, but we prefer the rare and limited edition scratch-built toys. We enjoy them and they’ll always have a better value. We would not recommend these for the beginner because of their cost,” related Don.

Farm toy shows have been regular activities for the Shoemakers. “Shows get into your blood, so we displayed at a few local ones. We like to set up at Steam Shows, but we don’t do them much anymore. Andy displayed a 1/16-scale diorama at the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa, in 1996 where he placed second in the youth division,” indicated Don.

With their large and impressive collection, the Shoemakers are more comfortable sharing their toys with others at their home. Their cheerful welcome mat is always out when you stop for a tour.

“We enjoy having people come to see our toys. There are so many interesting people in this hobby. It never fails; we learn something from each other and every visitor. Our grandson, Travis Snyder, who is 6, is just as exited when folks stop in. He has taken a keen interest in collecting, as well,” recounted Don.

When traveling Maryland county, plan a visit with the Shoemakers at Taneytown.

You will marvel at their treasures trove of rare farm toys.


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