During the span of 38 years as a collector, 83-year-old Hillsboro native Jim Walker has amassed a collection of more than 1,200 replica toy tractors. They are neatly arranged in display cases in a veritable showroom in his basement.
“I know that when I was around 5 my parents would put me on the tractor in the hay field to help, and as I got older, I would drive it while they loaded hay,” said Walker. “I think that is why I started collecting tractors.”
He purchased the 190-acre New Market farm he lives on in 1961.
His first toy tractor was purchased at the Ohio State Fair in the 1950s.
“We didn’t have a lot of toys growing up, but I did have a John Deere and my sister Jean had a Ferguson 30, which she still has,” Walker said. “I don’t know what happened to mine.”
He was influenced to become a more serious collector by his cousin, Charlie Walker, as they traveled to toy shows throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
After Jim Walker started his collection he soon became friends with fellow collectors Jim Gorman, Donald Kelly (who recently passed away) and Randy Minzler. The group, along with his cousin Charlie, formed the Southwestern Farm Toy Club that currently has about 40 regular members.
“We are still active and meet once a month and have a toy show in August each year,” said Walker. “I find them at toy shows and auctions all over the country. One is coming up in Urbana in November.”
Walker and his cousin have enjoyed selling the tractors at displays at the shows they have traveled to over the years. “Of course, we always find some to buy,” Jim Walker said. “In 2019, due to our age and health reasons, we decided to quit doing so much traveling, but we still have our own collections.”
His collection includes models of Fords, John Deeres, International Harvesters, Massie Fergusons, New Hollands and Farmalls, among others. Over the years he found himself adding lawn mowers, trucks and bulldozers to the collection.
He said his favorite is a Ford Jubilee with plows on it. “I don’t know why, but there is something about it I like,” he said.
“He told me he was only going to collect Fords when he started,” joked Phyllis, his wife of 64 years. She said he has sold about one-third of his collection.
Jim Walker said he has a great appreciation for his 8N Ford, John Deere A & 60, International Harvester M-706 and Ferguson 30 because they were tractors he owned during his years of farming.
“Everything I have in the collection is rare,” he said. Some of his replicas sell for as much as $1,500.
“I feel that the younger generation may not take as much interest in collecting as my age group,” he said. He gifted toy tractors to each of his nine grandchildren and his great-grandson when they were born. “So, who knows, maybe they will be collectors in time because they sure like to go to my basement and look at my tractors,” he said.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.