November 6, 2007
Colquitt Co. - A hobby that attracts younger people and baby boomers grows from literally a handful of collectors to literally tens of thousands nationwide.
You rarely heard of adults collecting toys, much less farm toys, until about 30 years ago when it started gaining in popularity.
Sometimes happiness isn't so much what you have around you, but the search for something special.
"I have a great time finding the toys," says Earl Roberson who sits almost surrounded by all type of toy tractors, in particular.
"I've been doing it since 1978," says Earl as he flips through pages of Toy Farmer magazine.
He read an article in a crop production magazine about collecting and decided to plow into a new hobby.
"I probably had two thousand, twenty-two hundred of the toy tractors," says Earl getting most of them by trading duplicates he had, for ones he didn't have.
His collection occupied so much space he barely had enough to read his toy magazines, when he decided to downsized the collection.
"I sold a lot of them and we would take them and go to shows," says Earl who often made enough money to pay for the family vacation.
He didn't liquidate the collection, but kept a lot of them.
"Probably all sizes and scales, probably between 850 and a thousand," says Earl.
The tractors and equipment all lined up on shelves from the floor to the ceiling in one room, as if standing at attention, as if on a real showroom floor, complete with equipment, as if ready to go to work.
He found some of his prize collectables at, of all places, trash dumps, now called landfills.
"Sometimes I did not even have to dig. Just look over in there and find them," says Earl who remembers the visits more than 25 years ago.
He never felt greedy.
"Usually when I found one or two I didn't look anymore because I knew I'd had all the luck I could have," says Earl.
Earl values two toys, in particular.
"First one our son got. It's a Farmall, a 560 model," says Earl who remembers the Christmas morning his son received it.
The other prized item is a delivery truck with a freezer on back. Earl worked for an International Harvester dealer and not many people know the tractor maker also made refrigerators and freezers.
Earl's thrill comes from not having so many toys, but from the time spent searching for specific ones.
"I'm hoping to find the right thing, to make a great find and one that I might tell someone else that I've found."
And, he likes to hold and to think about them.
"Enjoy being around them," says Earl.
The tractors could make a good investment considering the stock market.
"One tractor would probably cost between $1.90 to $2.25 each back then. Today, these shelf models are $40 to $45 a piece," says Earl.
If they come in their boxes.
"The box is as important as the toy," says Earl.
Along with reading and thinking and hunting for special ones he hasn't found, but he'll keep toying around.