Vintage Tonka Toys
Vintage Tonka toys are collectible Tonka toys sought after because of their age and rarity.
Brief history and description
Tonka is an American toy company most popular for its signature trucks. Originally named Mound Metalcraft, Tonka Toys was established in 1946 in Michigan, USA with metal garden tools and two metal toy trucks as their initial products. During their first year of operations, they found out that their trucks were more popular than their gardening tools. This realization compelled them to realign their vision and thrust, and in 1947 they decided to focus on just making and marketing toys.
Tonka Toys is responsible for several toy lines, such as the Pound Puppies that were very popular in the mid 1980s. Coming in different versions, each “PP” was sold with an adoption certificate and a carrying case. The company even launched a TV animation series to go with its marketing. The line was so popular that it eventually expanded to include different animals, such as cats and ponies.
The company though is most renowned for its Tonka Trucks line. The “Mighty Dump,” originally entirely made of metal, was introduced in 1964 and marketed as “Tonka Tough” and “Guaranteed for Life” for being virtually indestructible.
Over the years, the steel trucks were replaced with plastic ones, although the overall design remained relatively similar with yellow chassis and thick black tires.
Up until 1991, the company continued to release products under the “Mighty Tonka” line. Some of these are the Mighty Dozer, the Mighty Construction Set, the Might Mobile Crane, the Mighty Bulldozer and the Mighty Loader.
Guide for collectors
In the case of collecting vintage Tonka toys, there are several indicators that can help you identify their authenticity. One, a real vintage Tonka Truck is made of steel.
When looking for a Military Jeep Universal #251, Military Giant Dozer #536, Jeep Commander #304 or a 1964 Troop Transport #380, check if it has the alphanumeric military serial number GR2-2431. In reality, this is the phone line of the Tonka plant in Mound, Minnesota.
For reference, you may use the Tonka Toy Look Book and the Condition guide. For key features and to help you identify the differences of each Tonka Truck manufactured in each specific year, you can refer to the Tonka ID Guide. This guide for one, tells how fenders and light designs have changed over time.
There are notable websites that also provide useful information for collectors such as TonkaToys.com and NeatOldToys.com.
Also note that a vintage Tonka toy in true mint condition means that it has all its accessories and instruction manual intact, received no repair, and comes in its original box.
Notable auction sales
And a slightly worn vintage Tonka Fire Hydrant was purchased for $15 in Rose Galleries, Minnesota on November 8, 2008.
A Tonka Toys Red No 5 Red Fire Engine Truck that was in very good condition was sold for $70 in Premier Auction Center, an Idaho-based auction house on January 1, 2008.
Victorian Casino Antiques, a company that is based in Las Vegas USA, was able to sell a Tonka Turbo Diesel Dump Truck and T-9 Mighty Bulldozer for $90 on January 15, 2011.
Rose Galleries, which operated out of Minnesota, USA sold a slightly worn vintage Tonka Fire Hydrant for $15 on November 8, 2008.
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