The Tonka Toy Company began manufacturing toys in the late 1940's in Mound, Minnesota and was first known as Mound Metalcraft, changing the name to Tonka Toys in 1955. Toys manufactured before this date are rare and more valuable than the later Tonka brand models. Their trucks and construction equipment quickly gained a reputation for high quality toys that were able to stand up to the rough playing that kids demanded. Today, Hasbro owns Tonka Toys, and more plastic has replaced the tough steel in many of the toys manufactured.
The first models of Tonka toys are the #100, a red and black steam shovel, and the yellow and black crane and clam, #150. These were modified slightly in the decade that followed, but were often handed down from parents to kids who handed them down to their progeny. The company was up and running, adding the dump trucks, semi trucks, vans, and wreckers to their line of toys to stay competitive with other toymakers in the early 1950's.
When you decide to start your collection, it pays to do some research either online or otherwise. Tonka toys are a great item to collect, but collectors and dealers are very knowledgeable as to the value of the toys and spend great amounts of time defining the qualities that determine the worth of each Tonka toy.
The factors that determine value are condition and rarity. The most valuable Tonka toy vehicles are those manufactured between 1947 and 1963, with some values reaching into the hundreds of dollars for specific models in excellent condition. Collectors consider the different features of the vehicles, such as details of the Air Force jeep versus the Army jeep, in determining value. If you are investing in these wonderful Tonka toys, think and research before you jump into collecting; that way you will have more money to invest and be able to decide exactly why you like to collect these toys.
Tonka toys are often displayed in protected cases that reduce the humidity and handling, this contributes to their value to other collectors. Old toys can be found in antique shops, estate sales and on the internet. There are several unique places to see vintage Tonka toy vehicles; one is in New York at the National Toy Hall of Fame. The Winifred Museum in Montana claims to have the largest collection of Tonka toys, over three thousand to date.