A Real Toy Story

Lost since childhood, a model tractor is dug up during construction, and so begins what is now a 500-piece collection.

By Owen Roberts | Photos By Jessica Deeks

Ontario dairy farmer Wayne Conboy doesn’t remember all the toys he got for Christmas in his youth. But one that does stand out—a gift from his mother, Eleanor, on December 25, 1951—was a brand-new model of a Massey-Harris 44 tractor.

He remembers it vividly—not only because he pretty well wore it out, but also because it was unearthed, literally, some five decades later on the family farm near Perth. “We were excavating a foundation for an addition to our house, and all of a sudden, there it was in some dirt that was dug up,” says Conboy. “I guess it had got covered over at some point. I was sure surprised to see it.”

Understandably, after 50 or so years in the ground, that toy MH44 was in rough shape. But to Conboy, it was a gem. Making the toy all the more valuable to Conboy, the family had been loyal Massey customers since 1948, when his father, Elwood, brought home a Ferguson TE20. The Massey name is indeed a part of the farm’s history and culture.

So rather than chuck the old MH44, Conboy decided to restore his long-lost toy. And with that, he’d caught the Massey farm-toy bug.

Fast forward to 2017, and Conboy now counts 500 items in his farm-toy collection (about 350 are Massey Ferguson®). His most valuable piece is a model of a Ferguson TO30 two-disc plow, worth about CDN $1,200. He also has 10 toy farm sets, as well as a nearly complete set of Massey Ferguson Farm Profit and FarmLife magazines.

And the collection is still growing. It consumes two 12 x 12 rooms in the family’s house, floor to ceiling, as well as several display cases and a shelf along the ceiling near the entrance to their home. There, 40 toy tractors greet visitors. 

Meanwhile, the farm-toy-collecting bug has spread throughout the family. Both sons, Doug and Dennis, collect toys, and to Wayne’s delight, grandson Sawyer, 10, is likewise carrying on the collecting tradition. So these days, when Wayne goes to a farm-toy show, it’s not unusual to see him walk away with four purchases … one for every collector in his family.