South Dakota collector a key player in farm toy world

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By J.T. Fey

Dakota Media Group

WATERTOWN, S.D. — A chance discussion with a fellow employee almost 30 years ago turned Larry Redlin’s hobby into a home business that he says he has no intent of discontinuing.

Redlin, age 76, operates Redlin Farm Toys & Dolls in Watertown, a business that has sent items to buyers in 30 or 40 states and as far away as Stockholm, Sweden.

Naturally, Redlin’s interest in farm toys began as a boy. His father operated John Deere equipment and he had two uncles who used International Harvester. The arrangement allowed Redlin to collect many gifts of red and green that stayed with him beyond his childhood.

Redlin left farming when he was 26 and began selling cars. In 1989, he struck up a conversation about farm toys with a fellow employee. That employee eventually showed Redlin an issue of a toy magazine, and Redlin has been buying and selling ever since.

That same year he married his wife, Colette, and, eventually, the Redlins added dolls to their enterprise.

Colette’s death in 2014 made Redlin realize how much she had helped him with the business, and perhaps it was time for him to slow down a bit. He still attends a few shows a year and continues to sell toys from his home-based business as well as doing repairs when requested.

When asked about how many toys he has, Redlin said he wouldn’t know without checking his inventory book, but he did offer one story.

“I had some relatives come to my house for a reunion several years ago and one of them asked how many toys I had in my personal collection,” Redlin recalled. “I told him about six or seven hundred. I went upstairs and he came back a little later and said I had over a thousand.”

As far as favorite sellers, Redlin said he couldn’t really name any. Buyers are sometimes looking for a toy to complete a collection and are sometimes purchasing a gift. And he sells all the farm brands and their known colors — red, green, blue, orange — to name a few.

The internet has changed the business, and not for the better, Redlin said. He said he tried selling on eBay but “that didn’t work out for me.” He does have a Facebook account that does help.

His farm toys just don’t go to farmers. He said many of his buyers live in towns and cities.

He did say the strength of the farm economy — or lack there of — does affect his business.

“The price of grain has to do with all of us, not just the farmers,” he explained. “If they’ve got money they’re going to spend it. If they don’t, they’re not going to spend and that affects all of us.”

Redlin says he has no plans of retiring. He had a blunt response when asked about quitting the hobby he’s enjoyed for so long.

“I tell everybody I’ll quit when I die,” he said.

Will Redlin Farm Toys continue on once he’s gone from the scene?

“I have a grandson who has a nice collection of farm toys. I’m not sure he’s ready to take over the business.”

Redlin Farm Toys & Dolls

2231 Kahnke Drive, Watertown, SD 57201


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Larry Redlin, the owner of Redlin Farm Toys & Dolls in Watertown, has collected more than a thousand farm toys since he was a child. He displays his personal collection in the basement of his house. Dakota Media Group Photo by Grace Ramey
Farm toys of all shapes, sizes and colors line the shelves of Larry Redlin’s home business, Redlin’s Farm Toys. The shop sells to customers across the country and as far away as Stockholm, Sweden. Dakota Media Group Photo by Grace Ramey