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Published November 05, 2012, 10:31 AM

Farm toy museum in Iowa is worth a stop

Farmers and others on snowbird treks this year should consider swinging through picturesque eastern Iowa, and stopping at an agricultural and hobby mecca — the National Farm Toy Museum.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

DYERSVILLE, Iowa. — Farmers and others on snowbird treks this year should consider swinging through picturesque eastern Iowa, and stopping at an agricultural and hobby mecca — the National Farm Toy Museum.

The Dyersville museum was built in 1986. It holds some 30,000 pieces, with brands such as John Deere, Allis-Chalmers, Oliver and Farmall. Amanda Schwartz, museum manager, says the attraction brings in some 25,000 visitors in a typical year.

The museum includes two floors of toys and exhibits. The first floor includes a 45-seat movie theater and exhibit spaces including a farm porch and special exhibits on a rotating basis. The second floor exhibits depict the advances in crop practices. A set of iconic sculptures of a young boy holding and contemplating a toy tractor stands as a central display.

When Agweek stopped in recently, the museum featured a rotating display room called “AGCO: The Evolution of a Company” featuring AGCO’s heritage of many brands, including Massey Ferguson and White. The rotating exhibit changes every three years.

The museum’s website, www.nationalfarmtoymuseum.com, offers potential visitors a preview of the happenings, as well as a virtual tour. The museum is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, but is closed on Christmas Day, Easter and Thanksgiving. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for kids ages 6 to 17, and free for children younger than 6.

The museum itself feels a bit like home to someone from eastern North Dakota because well-known North Dakotans — Claire and Cathy Scheibe of LaMoure, N.D. — are among the internationally known in the hobby.

ND feel

Among other things, the museum tells how Claire Scheibe, the founder and past president of Toy Farmer Ltd., which publishes Toy Farmer Magazine, met with officials of Dyersville Industries Inc. and Ertl Co., the largest farm toy manufacturer in the world, to open the museum. Museum lore tells how organizers started selling collector tractors to help finance the establishment. The North Dakotans are dually honored with a plaque and other luminaries in a National Farm Toy Hall of Fame.

The museum’s board chairman is an old friend of the Scheibes’ — Dave Bell, who first was with the Ertl and later CEO of his own company, SpecCast. Other hall of famers include Joseph Ertl, who founded Scale Models in 1978, a maker of smaller production runs. Ertl itself has changed hands in recent years and currently is a brand of the Tomy toy company in Japan.

The national attraction was created partly to go with the Annual Farm Toy Show, sponsored by Toy Farmer. The 35th Annual National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa, was held Nov. 2 through 4.

More than 10,000 visitors were expected, according to Lori Aberle, show manager. Aberle says motels fill up in a town of 4,000, so attendees often spill over into nearby Dubuque, Manchester and Guttenberg. “President (Barack) Obama and Mitt Romney were trying to get rooms in Dubuque, and they couldn’t,” Aberle says. “It’s a good feeling.”

Cathy Scheibe, still the CEO of Toy Farmer Ltd., says the show is still affectionately known in the hobby circle as the “granddaddy of them all.”

Steiger Tiger IV

This year’s event had a Red River Valley focus, as the commemorative tractor was the Steiger Tiger IV. The toy versions are available for $60 for 1:32 scale, and $20 for 1:64 scale — plus shipping. “There are different models of Steiger that haven’t been done, but this has been the most wanted by the collector,” Scheibe says. Details or information on how to order the Steiger Tiger IV is at www.toyfarmer.com.

The show itself is headquartered in the Beckman High School built next to the museum. Other events for the show are held at the nearby museum and Commercial Club Park in Dyersville. The event always includes the sanctioned Micro-Mini Pull, a farm toy auction. The Scheibes started Toy Farmer magazine in 1978 with 25,000 total subscribers worldwide. Claire died in 2000.

Toy Farmer maintains a private Toy Farmer Museum a farmstead headquarters east of LaMoure. The company annually hosts the North Dakota Toy Farm Show on Father’s Day weekend in LaMoure.

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