Sometimes bigger is better, and there's nothing that's better when it's bigger than automotive toys. Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were definitely cool, but with a heavy hand, you'd shoot them under the refrigerator never to be seen again. Tonka Trucks were much bigger replicas of contemporary vehicles that put you in the driver's seat long before a license was in your future. Today, these mid-century modern vehicles are still pulling in a lot of money at auction. With a little bit of luck and know-how, you'll be able to pick out the most valuable Tonka trucks in no time.
Vintage Tonka Trucks Worth Pulling Out of the Toy Box
|No. 28 Stake Truck & Trailer||$2,000|
|Robin Hood Flour Private Label Box Truck||$1,700|
|Allied Van Lines Semi Truck||$425|
|Smokin' Semi Truck||$120|
The bright yellow and durable plastic Tonka Trucks that come to mind are a far cry from the company's original toy lineup. The earliest Tonka Trucks came out in the 1950s and were scaled-down versions of cars you'd see on the road. Because they took some serious beatings from the kiddos that played with them, vintage Tonkas in good condition are worth quite a bit. Here are just a handful of valuable vintage Tonkas to keep your eyes peeled for.
Tonka No. 28 Stake Truck and Trailer
One of the most expensive Tonka trucks to recently hit the auction block was a No. 28 Stake Truck from the 1950s. On top of being in great condition, the truck also came with a trailer, animal, and the original packaging intact. It's very rare that you can find any toy from the 1950s with all of its original pieces and its packaging, so this was an incredible find.
When you're looking yourself, make sure to look for original packing and parts (if they came with it) because this increases their values substantially. One collector snatched this specific truck up for just over $2,000.
Tonka Robin Hood Flour Private Label Box Truck
In 2022, one white Tonka truck sold for $1,700 on Liveauctioneers, despite having some cracks in the paint. What makes this vintage Robin Hood Flour Tonka truck so valuable is the fact that it comes from the private label line. Private label Tonka trucks are in their own special collector category.
These trucks come in multiple different styles and were commissioned by various private businesses and made in limited numbers. Because of how limited they were, these trucks that come to auction are worth a good bit. So, keep your eyes peeled for old Tonkas with real-life logos on them.
Tonka Allied Van Lines Semi-Truck
Seeing as Tonka Trucks were originally meant to be played with, and roughly at that, the earliest ones took quite a beating. Finding Tonkas from the 1950s and 1960s in a good condition is no small feat. Finding ones with the original boxes and maybe even purchase receipts is nearly impossible.
Yet, once in a while, a beautiful piece will come to auction. This 1957 bright orange semi-truck with rounded cab is in great condition for how old it is. Made out of steel, this sturdy moving van only has a few sections with the paint wearing off. Overall, it's incredibly well-preserved, and deservedly costs $425.
Tonka Smokin' Semi Truck
By the 1990s, Tonka had transformed into everyone's favorite toy. If you weren't crushing Hot Wheels and kicking up dirt with your yellow Tonkas as a kid, you weren't doing it right. Although a well-loved Tonka is the best kind, it doesn't make for the most valuable one. If you really want to make some money off of your vintage Tonka trucks, you need to have ones that haven't even been opened. This souped-up 'Smokin' Semi' from the '90s is a great example. On top of being a huge toy, it's still in its original packaging, plastic bands and all. One person bought it off of eBay for $120. Find a similarly unused one yourself, and you could be looking at a Benjamin Franklin in your future.
Tonka Ladder Truck
When you hear the name Tonka, yellow and black construction trucks probably come to mind. Not every toy truck that Tonka made in the '90s was bright yellow; in fact, one of the fan favorites was their fire truck. The ladder trucks that came out of the 1990s were great replicas that made all of us feel like we were ready to put out fires left and right. Because we put our Tonkas to good use, not many of them have survived in pristine condition, but the ones that do are worth about $50-$100. One of these bright red '90s firetrucks that still has all of those pesky stickers in place sold for about $145 on eBay.
Valuable Things to Look for in Vintage Car Toys
Of course, not every person's grandparents played with Tonka Trucks as a kid. They might've enjoyed playing with other car toys that were popular or easily available. But, there are some broad things you can look for in Tonka Trucks that also might show value in other mid-century toys. Look for these characteristics in the old toys you dig up.
- Find the original packing. If you have an auto toy (or any toy, really) that has its original packing, you're in a better position to make some money than those without. Collectors love to find the most complete sets possible, and this includes ones with all the bells and whistles.
- Look for unopened toys. Now, it's really hard to find toys that haven't been opened, especially from the 1940s or 1950s and earlier. But, occasionally you'll come across deadstock toys in an antique store, in which case, they're worth a good bit of money.
- Check for manufacturers' marks. With any toy that's made by a famous company, you should also look around the toy to see if it has the right manufacturer's marks. Often, these prove age, which is important for collecting.
Tonka Trucks Have Always Been That Fun
Whether you were born in the 1940s or the 1990s, you've enjoyed rolling your Tonka Trucks through all kinds of imaginary scenarios. The Tonkas of yesteryear are beautifully crafted and look road-ready, as opposed to the bright yellow and black heavy-duty plastic trucks we rammed into our siblings' legs any chance we got. Tonka Trucks aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and if you frequent vintage shops and thrift stores, it's a good idea to know just what things to look for in a valuable old Tonka Truck. After all, it might mean the difference between a handful of dollars and check with some zeros on it.
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