Saving toys of farm life leads to 1,000-piece collection

Neighbors

February 27, 1997|By Judy Reilly | Judy Reilly,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN HE WAS a boy growing up on a dairy farm in Keysville, Don Shoemaker looked forward to his parents' return from the Great Frederick Fair with a new toy for him.

Shoemaker has saved these toys -- tractors, farm equipment and other models of farm life in the 1940s and 1950s -- and created a collection that numbers 1,000. This childhood hobby has grown into a passionate search for rare and beautiful toys.

Shoemaker and his son Andrew, 16, a student at Francis Scott Key High School, travel to a dozen toy shows a year in search of an item that might complete an aspect of their collection, or the show-stopping piece that might start something new.

Their John Deere, International Harvester, Oliver, and Massey Harris toys, designed to one-16th scale, are in their original condition or restored and fill a room the two built last year.

The room was constructed to store and display their expansive and thoughtful collection.

Many pieces are antiques, some are hand-crafted by a single toy maker, others are limited editions made by John Deere, International Harvester, or other makers of farm machinery.

Shelves line the walls with signature colors -- John Deere green and International Harvester red.

The collection includes rows of red and green steam engines, threshing machines, water wagons, grain elevators and

combines.

The Shoemakers are self-taught collectors. "I just listen to people talk and go to the shows," Andrew said.

They travel to toy shows as far away as Iowa.

The Shoemakers have been collecting long enough to give advice to beginning collectors.

"You shouldn't try to collect too many varieties," Andrew recommended.

"Try not to buy something right away -- if too many companies make the same model, avoid it," Andrew said.

His father added, "There are a lot of toy companies out there -- try to get in touch with an individual toy maker -- there's where you get into very fine details."

Shoemaker, a Taneytown volunteer firefighter, supports his hobby by selling his sweet potato fries at craft shows and fairs.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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