Dec 2, 2011

Collecting Tonka Toys

I have a special place in my heart for Tonka toys. They were originally manufactured in my hometown. My grandfather, after taking a leave of absence from his position with the state of Minnesota, wanted to return to work, but there were no openings. In the mean time he took a job putting tires on toy trucks at the Mound Metalcraft factory. My mom tells me that he loved it. He worked mostly with women and enjoyed hearing them talk to each other all day. My grandmother regales me with tale of my dad and my uncles as little boys, driving their "Built To Last" Tonka Trucks off the docks into Lake Minnetonka. Needless to say, Tonka toys have were part of my life, even before I was alive!

Mound Metalcraft was founded in 1946. Their first products were metal tie racks and gardening equipment. Eventually they formed a union with Streater Industries, another local company, and they began producing metal toys. In 1947 they issued the #100 Tonka Steam Shovel and the #150 Crane and Clam. After that they were off! In 1955 they changed their name to "Tonka Toys," taking Tonka, a Souix word meaning "Big" and adding waves to their logo, some believe, to honor near by Lake Minnetonka.


Over time Tonka created new models and lines including Mighty Tonka, Tiny Tonka and Mini-Tonka. Millions of trucks were sold. They became a house hold name. In 1991 Hasbro acquired Tonka Toys and they are still manufactured today. (Though now in China). In 2001 Tonka Trucks were inducted into the "National Toy Hall Of Fame."

Tonka Toys were "Built Tough" and "Made To Last" which is a true statement. They are often found at yard sales, thrift stores and even hidden in the back of old barns. Pre 1970's pieces are the most desirable. If you are interested in collecting vintage Tonka Trucks the book "Collectors Guide To Tonka Trucks, 1947-1963" would be a helpful resource. As well as "How To Restore Classic Trucks, Tractors, and Airplanes."  If you are looking for information on suppliers, manufactures and parts, here is a great list of links.

If you are looking to bare witness to the worlds largest Tonka collection, two locations claim the title. The Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum in Bay City, Michigan reports that viewing their Tonka truck collection is a "once in a lifetime experience." And the Tonka truck collection at  Winifred Museum in Winifred, Montana is said to be a "delight to children of all ages."

All of the great (post 70's) Tonka Toys you see here are available for purchase at Etsy. Thank you Etsy sellers for the use of your stellar photographs!

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