1/16 Scale Farm Toy Builder
(Page 3 of 4)
"I have many requests to build one copy of a favorite toy," he says. "I say I have to charge them for all the prototype time, instead of spreading that out over 35 or 50 of them. Same with the spincaster; all his mold cost goes for making just one toy. So one toy will probably cost $4,000."
Farm toy collectors are looking for something different now, Jim says, which leads to his success. "There's not much enjoyment in showing a mass-produced piece to somebody, and hearing them say, 'Oh, yeah, I bought one of them a couple of weeks ago, too'. But they'll take one of my pieces, or somebody else's scratch-built piece, and put it on the coffee table, and when friends and neighbors come over, they've got something to show them."
Prices run from $255 to $500 each, which is probably why not everybody is interested in his toys.
"Most people at toy shows walk by and say, 'Yeah, I had one like that when I was a kid,' not understanding what I've done," he says "But then there are those people who get down on their knees at the table, and have their eyes six inches from the model. They just really appreciate what it is. The people I really feel sorry for are the guys who really appreciate a piece, but can't afford it. He'd give up groceries for a year – if it wasn't for his wife – just to have one."
For Jim, the real joy is in making each prototype.
"I love the prototype work," he says. "I love going out to find the piece; that's a real challenge because this stuff is getting close to 40 years old. It's a challenge, taking all the pictures, scaling the size down, getting everything ready for the spincaster. So the prototypes are what I really want to do."
And when the pieces are shipped from the spincaster a few months later, he can't wait to put the first one together. After that, it isn't as much fun.
"I hate assembly," he says, "which is why I made 50 of my first toys, 35 of my later ones, and 10 and 12 of some others."
The frames on the disks and chisel plows are now made of brass.
"I cut them all to length and drill holes in them, so the toy is a good sturdy piece," he says. "Brass is nicer, with no parting lines or anything in them. Everything is so nice and uniform."
Nevertheless, he figures he's going to reduce prices to about $250 each again, because Ertl's Precision Classics cost $100-125 each. That means assembling 50 copies of each piece again.