By DOUG GRAVES
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jeff Moore of Dresden, Ohio, not only collects and sells miniature farm toys, he’s taken his hobby to a higher level – he designs and manufactures them.
“The making of a farm toy manufacturer started in 1957, when I was born to a farm equipment dealer,” said Moore, now 55. “My dad had a dealership from which we sold Allis-Chalmers, Massey Ferguson, Deutz and Kubota.
“In 1974, when my first child was born, I started collecting farm toys, not knowing what it would lead to in the future.”
Moore attended his first toy show in 1981 in Lafayette, Ind. He’s been hooked ever since.
“I started by customizing tractors and combines to make them more realistic,” he said. “It was at this time I started to sell them at local toy shows. I knew then there was no turning back; the bug had bitten.”
His first custom toy was a Massey Ferguson 760 combine.
“I soon learned the demand was much greater than I had ever anticipated,” Moore said. “I also learned scratch-building was a lot of work and very time-consuming. It was at this time I decided the pieces could be made in larger volume if I had a spin casting machine, so in 1994 with a spin casting machine in hand, I set up shop in my dad’s barn.
“I started making patterns and molds to cast a header wagon, followed by the tandem rake hitch. One thing led to another. By 1995 the demand was so great for these toys that I needed to hire my first full-time employee. Six months later I hired the second full-time and two part-time employees. Things were going very well.”
Despite a fire in 1998 that destroyed the barn and its contents, Moore moved to his present location and, four months later, he and his staff cast their first items there and were in business once again.
The following year they purchased plastic injection-molding equipment from Hurley Barn Yard Toys of Wynette, Ill., giving them a line of plastic toys and accessories.
Business steadily grew and today Moore’s website at www.mooresfarm toys.com features more than 1,000 model implements, models, kits and parts. His toys and parts are sold in retail stores in Dresden and at many national farm toy shows.
Last month, Moore sold many of his tiny replicas from a booth at the annual Ohio Expo Farm Toy and NASCAR Collectibles Show in Columbus. While he still sells some Kawasaki Mules, the company now focuses on farm toy detailing.
“We make parts and details for Ertl (Toys) and other companies, to make their tractors and combines look more authentic,” he says. “I guess you could say we’re a smaller version of Ertl Toys. We do ship our toys all over the world.”
As with any business in this rugged economy, Moore is feeling the pinch. “We’re holding our own the past few years, but the market has been a bit tight of late,” he added.
“The biggest drawback to this hobby is the costs for metal. We use pewter for a lot of our master models and pewter costs $20 per pound. It fluctuates daily with the gold market.”
Moore’s Farm Toys is located at 3695 Raiders Rd., Dresden, OH 43821. Jeff Moore can be reached at 740-754-6248.