By Larry LeMasters Note: This feature is in the Feb. TT&C 2014 issue.
Alfaro holding the nice Buddy L turquoise dump truck that reminds him of his childhood. On the top shelf are mostly Buddy L trucks with three Marx trucks on the right end. The other shelves hold Structo, Courtland and Hubley trucks.
An odds and ends display rack with top shelf—Wyandotte, Structo, Metal Masters, Bandai and Hubley trucks on the top shelf. The bottom shelf has plastic and tin trucks while the pressed steel trailers on the table in front of the shelf are Tootsie, Hubley and Slik manufactured.
Nearly the first thing Rueben Alfaro admitted was, “All of my collection is for sale. I do not collect anything for me to actually keep, but I do enjoy displaying at the shows. People see what a large variety of antique toys I have and comment, ‘Oh, what a nice collection.’ What they don’t realize is—it’s all for sale. Everything I buy, I put it all into inventory.” Alfaro took an unusual route to collecting and selling vintage model toys. “I grew up in the small Midwestern town of Galesburg, Ill., one of 11 children. Father worked in a factory and my mother worked as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home.” Growing up poor and with so many mouths to feed, Alfaro quickly learned that toys were nonessential things that sometimes appeared at Christmas or on birthdays and “sometimes not even then.” Alfaro said, “We were poor and didn’t have lots of extras. I played with neighbor boys’ toys. They seemed to have plenty of toys. I remember those toys, but since they were not my toys, I do not have any model toys from childhood. However a while back, I purchased a really nice Buddy L turquoise dump truck with the shovel that had been restored. It has not sold yet and I don’t mind. I remember my neighbor friend had a truck like this when we were kids, so it reminds me of my childhood.” As an adult, Alfaro more or less fell into buying and selling toys. “I first collected coins for quite a few years. I started toy collecting in the fall of 1994. I had gone to Kmart family shopping night and picked out two 1994 Holiday Barbie dolls as Christmas presents for our granddaughters. About this time I was introduced to online auctions and started looking at eBay out of curiosity. I noticed the same Barbie dolls that I had just purchased were also selling on eBay for more money than I had paid for them in Kmart. This shocked me. I couldn’t understand why people were paying more for the same doll when it was still available at local stores at the manufacturer’s issue price. That’s the day I discovered the secondary toy market!”
Want to read the rest of the story? It's available in the February TT&C 2014 magazine! Download here: FEBRUARY TT&C 2014