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February 16, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
On their honeymoon 25 years ago, Sam and Denise Lasley stopped by an Iowa flea market and spent the last $90 from their wedding on a John Deere toy tractor.
“The rest of the family was not too happy with us,” Denise, 49, says. “They were like, ‘Are you serious? That’s what you spent your wedding money on?’”
Where: Knights of Columbus Hall
When: Sat. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: $2, children under 12 free
“I wanted that tractor,” Sam, 49, says. “My dad chewed my butt all the way home.”
The tractor has been a part of their farm toy collection ever since. When the opportunity to plan the Mid-Missouri Farm Toy Show arose eight years ago, the Lasleys took on the task. At the show on Feb. 18, 300 Missouri collectors and out-of-state visitors will meet, share, haggle and trade with one another.
The Lasleys will display a portion of their collection at the show. They have a couple hundred items that range from worn miniature tractors to Hot Wheels cars to pristine toy trucks still in their boxes. John Deere green clashes with Case IH red along the shelves of their home display. Toys vary in price from $20 to hundreds of dollars. Medallions, tapestries and other homey trinkets complete the Lasley’s one-of-a-kind collection, but the respective stories make each piece, like the tractor, particularly special.
Sam’s favorite toy is a detailed 930 Case IH tractor that has been meticulously cleaned and painted. It looks fresh from the box with no chipping, nicks or fading colors. He fixed this tractor, his first toy restoration, about 20 years ago. He couldn’t afford to buy a nice toy, so he found a rough one to restore.
Sam grew up playing with farm toys, but he didn’t start collecting until he was 25. Denise started after meeting Sam. They expanded their collection each time they stopped at small-town flea markets while on vacation.
Sam and Denise’s 24-year-old son, Logan, remembers these trips well. “We’d always give my dad a hard time every time we’d stop,” Logan says. “We ended up with a pretty big load on the way home.” Boxes of toys would fill up the trunk, meaning luggage was piled up around the kids.
Eight years ago, the Mid-Missouri Farm Toy Show was made up of only 25 farm toy vendors from across the U.S.
“It’s fun to listen to their stories, especially the old-timers who come through and say, ‘I had a tractor just like that,’” Sam says.
Sam and Denise have built a tightknit community that often travels, sells and trades together at various farm toy shows across the state. Bob Moore, 70, a collector for more than 40 years, started the Mid-Missouri Farm Toy Show with five friends and often travels with the Lasleys to events.
“We’re a funny bunch,” Moore says. “We try not to compare one collection to another. We don’t care about that. It’s about what’s new and interesting there to add to it.”
“Half the fun is haggling back and forth with the sellers,” Sam says. “I’m not getting out of it anytime soon. I enjoy it too much, have too much fun and have made too many good friends.”