Country Relics Little Village in Stanhope, Iowa

The Country Relics Little Village features collectibles in scale model buildings


| December 1998



Father Christmas – played by Varlen Carlson – meets visitors to the Country Relics Little Village

Father Christmas – played by Varlen Carlson – meets visitors to the Country Relics Little Village.

Varlen and Fern Carlson of rural Stanhope, Iowa, have a village in their backyard. The buildings in the tiny community, however, are built on a one-half to two-thirds scale, and are furnished with saleman's samples, toys and child-size collectibles. The Carlsons call it Country Relics Little Village, and welcome visitors.

"I've been a collector most of my life, ever since I got out of high school," said Varlen, a farmer.

He specializes in International Harvester tractors and memorabilia. The Carlsons have used IH equipment almost exclusively since Varlen's grandfather switched from horses to a 10-20 McCormick Deering tractor. Varlen is a regular on the show circuit: he has taken a mobile trailer filled with memorabilia from the companies that formed International Harvester to tractor shows throughout the country.

His collection also includes an almost-complete set of cast iron toy tractors and implements made by the Arcade Toy Company in Freeport, Ill., and given or sold to IH patrons in the 1930s and '40s. Trinkets include tape measures, games, match holders, ashtrays and yardsticks.

At home, Varlen has "a few (17) full-size tractors," the oldest of which is a 10-20 Titan made around 1916. He also has 26 pedal tractors (dating from the 1940s to the present) manufactured by the Eska and Ertl companies.

While Varlen attends gas engine and tractor shows and swap meets, Fern said she "survived" by scouring flea markets for toys and children's furnishings. Those items fascinated her, she said, because she grew up during the Depression with few toys.