Tradition of the Christmas toy catalog is alive and prospering

Video christmas toy catalogs by mail 2017

There’s a special place in Lititz, Lancaster County, where the tradition of the Christmas toy catalog is alive and prospering.

Toy enthusiasts – young and old – await the arrival of the annual Outback Toys Christmas catalog so they can circle what they would love to find under the Christmas tree.

“We’re a shop that still believes in the power of print,” said Tim Hoover, sales specialist. “Every year we send out a Christmas catalog, in October.”

Billed as “the best source for farm toys,” Outback Toys has grown over the past decade to be more than a place to pick up a die-cast International Harvester scale replica tractor. The shop offers an array of gifts, from brand clothing and plush toys to rare, vintage collectibles.

“If you can imagine it, there’s a chance that it is here,” Hoover said. “When you look in that catalog, it is overwhelming.”

Sturdy toy lines

Outback Toys takes pride in carrying sturdy toy lines not found in most other stores. An entire aisle is dedicated to the Bruder brand. The German company is known to produce high-quality products, most with working parts, such as a cement mixer able to combine water and dirt to make a fun, muddy building material.

“Twenty-five years ago, everybody hated plastic toys because they cracked and broke and you threw them away,” Hoover said. “The plastics have gotten so much better. They bend and bounce right back.”

Near the center of the store stands a huge display of Tractor Mac books and toys.

“They’re all based on a tractor with eyes,” said Hoover. “He’s a popular dude.”

The series by writer and illustrator Billy Steers is meant for girls and boys and aims to depict real life on the farm through the eyes of a tractor. There are more than a dozen Tractor Mac books, including “Tractor Mac Saves Christmas.”

Beyond toys

“We have tractors, and we have toy trucks,” said Hoover, picking up a bottle opener with the Case IH logo. “But, now there is stuff here I never knew existed. It’s gone beyond toys.”

The store sells branded license plates, clothing and a massive selection of baseball hats. Enthusiasts can even outfit a child’s room in Case IH bedding.

The shop’s home decor offering can even be found online under the title “Around the House.” This section offers tractor and farm-themed fabric, pet toys and artwork. For those celebrating a birthday, themed items from John Deere, Johnny Tractor and Red Farm can make a party unique.

Cooks who love the farm life can don a plaid apron with antique Farmall tractors. Case IH rocks glasses will hold a holiday beverage fresh from a 3.2-cubic-foot New Holland Spirit refrigerator. For those on the go, there are cooler, cozies and insulated mugs.

Outback Toys, a certified Case IH Dealer, also stocks a supply of toys, memorabilia and furnishings from many manufacturers, including Massey Ferguson, Oliver, New Holland and John Deere.

“If it’s out there, we can get it,” Hoover said.

Some of what Outback Toys sells is geared toward the collector. Items such as the Case 65 HP steam engine tractor are sought by people all over the U.S. Visitors to the store come from the eastern U.S., Canada and as far west as Iowa.

Case 175th

Case International, celebrating its 175th anniversary, produced a line of limited-edition products to mark the occasion.

The creme de la creme is the aforementioned 1/16 scale Case 65 HP steam engine tractor, which has a black chrome-plated body. This collectible also comes in a gold plated “chase” unit.

“In a case of six, the manufacturers randomly insert gold units,” Hoover said. “So, if you buy a case and you open them up, you might find a gold unit. It’s all about the chase to find one. It’s random. You won’t even know you have one until you open the box.”

A glass cordoned case near the entrance to Outback Toys holds a selection of these chase units. The gold Case 175th anniversary model holds a price tag of $1,450.

Also new for 2017 and in celebration of the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show is a 1/16-scale 1939 IH Farmall “M” tractor. Setting this tractor apart from the others is its pink color.

The first of its kind, the collectable made by die cast toymaker Ertl is meant to raise awareness for breast cancer and has a limited production of 764. The farm show commemorative pieces are placed predominantly near the register.

For the active little ones on the Christmas list, 2018 Farm Show commemorative gifts include a set of pedal cars, rideable and ready to roll.

Demand for toys

Outback Toys is a subsidiary of Binkley & Hurst, a regional agricultural equipment dealership headquartered in Warwick Township, with locations in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The Lititz location saw an increasing demand for toys, which often only occupies a shelf or two in a dealership’s parts department. Eventually, at Binkley & Hurst dealership, an entire room was dedicated to toys.

“People would come in and ask: where are the toys?” Hoover said. “Well, they’re out back.”

And Outback Toys was born. Located in the former Badorf Shoe factory in Lititz, the store is almost a secret even among locals.

“We hear it all the time, people saying they never knew we are here,” said Hoover.

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