International Harvester Toy Collection

Toy man collects, restores and builds International Harvester toys

| March 2000

Growing up, Calvin Elder was taught the benefit of taking care of what you have. That early lesson resurfaced in Calvin's adult years, when he decided to collect farm toys. Because he didn't want to pay high prices for restored toys, Calvin decided to try his hand at fixing up rough ones that could be bought for a song (back then). He learned the ropes of restoration from a friend. 

"I have been collecting toys for about 15 years," he said. "When I started, I only bought junk. When I restored what I could afford, I had a variety."

Calvin's first toy was a John Deere 630 he received as a kid.

"Santa brought me this, but I don't know why," he said. "We never had a lick of John Deere on the farm. I collect mostly IH: 'Better red then dead!'"

Through the years, Calvin held onto the 630 and other toys from his childhood, adding to his collection as the years went by.

Today, that collection has taken over one room of the two-story farmhouse in Mt. Auburn, Ill., where he, his wife and daughter live. Display cases – so full they would sag if any more toys were added – were made by a friend, Jim Smith. Two sides of the floor-to-ceiling museum are packed almost exclusively with International Harvester toys. The other section is a combination of Deere, Allis and construction toys. Trucks and signs and other display items also add to the farm toy exhibit.