Real McCoys among Toys

| October 2002

Toy models of the original John Deere hay loader, manufactured in 1930 by National Sewing Machine Co., of Belvidere, Ill., are worth $4,000 each, if the toy remains in excellent condition. Hypothetically, let's say that just before closing time at a toy show, you spot what looks like this toy on a vendor's table - with a price tag of $200 on it. What should you do?

If you're smart, you run in the other direction. Farm toy collectors don't like to talk about shysters, but they do exist within the hobby. Some toys have been made only to make money by defrauding unsuspecting collectors.

The 1/12- or 1/10-scale John Deere GP on steel wheels clearly is one such toy. The counterfeit is made in Taiwan and is a poor imitation of the real one, which is Bob Gray's cast-aluminum and Korloy tractor.

Occasionally a shipment of the fakes surfaces in the United States; each one sells for about $10, only a quarter of what a genuine Gray GP brings. Some of the Taiwan-made counterparts have even been rusted to make them look more real.

Dave Nolt of Gap, Pa., a long-time farm toy collector, says, 'These 'boat anchors', as we call them, are not licensed, and I know from working closely with the Deere & Company licensing department that they seized a shipment of those tractors a little while ago. Importers of those products are taking a serious risk on losing a shipment and ending up in court.'

Some reproductions are legal, though. Old, scarce toys are occasionally reissued; the 'king' of the legal reissues is the 1/16-scale Vindex John Deere D tractor, which has been reproduced four times. The original cast-iron D with the nickel-plated driver and the pulley on the tractor sells for $l,800 in excellent condition; the legal reproductions sell for from $35 to about $100. Sometimes the price difference is incentive enough for an occasion- al seller to 'forget' to tell a naive buyer that he or she is looking at a reproduction instead of the real thing.