Collectors share lifelong fascination with farm toys

Fred Manhart of Stewardson shows off his $2,500 toy tractor (box included). He and other collectors gathered at the Effingham Knights of Columbus Building Sunday to sell their items. Stan Polanski photo

EFFINGHAM — Fred Manhart's orange Allis-Chalmers miniature tractor may just be a toy. But it's worth $2,500.

Collectors brought their prized farm toys to the Effingham Knights of Columbus Building for a farm toy show Sunday. Though vendors agreed they displayed their collections Sunday to make money, they also said the toys are more than a business venture for them.

Jim Vieweg has been collecting since he was a teenager. At 42 years old, he's just as passionate about farm toys.

"It's about the thrill of the hunt," he said. "You might look for one for years before finally finding it."

Every second Sunday in July and December many of the same collectors file back into the Effingham Knights of Columbus Building to sell their items. Vieweg said that a bond has formed between the vendors with the routine appearances.

"Most of these people I know," Vieweg said. "There's a camaraderie. It's a toy collecting family. We've all probably bought or traded from one another."

For the past 27 years, Glenn Alwardt has helped put together the vendor shows. He's an avid collector himself. And like many of the other vendors, he grew up on a farm and has been fascinated with the toys since his youth. But instead of playing with the farm toys, he kept them on a shelf.

"To me, they were too good to play with," Alwardt said. "I just admired them."

People walked up and down the isles of toys Sunday. They stopped to talk with vendors about certain ones. As Alwardt has displayed his collections over the past 27 years, he's witnessed the joy toys can bring to people.

"It creates a lot of smiles on people's faces," he said. "Little kids come in here and say it's better than Christmas. Some people come in and are in awe of what they see."

Stan Polanski can be reached at or 217-347-7151 ext. 131.

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