You never know where an idea will lead.
In response to his farmer-customers' complaints about the inadequacies of their iron implements, Illinois blacksmith John Deere fashioned a "self-polishing" plow made of steel that could more easily till the sticky Midwest soil. That was in 1837.
Today, John Deere is a global leader in the manufacture of agricultural, construction, turf, and forestry products. And whether due to marketing genius - who doesn't recognize the distinctive John Deere green with yellow trim? - or licensing acumen, there are a plethora of items available for legions of collectors.
From postcards, signs, and ornaments to baseball-style caps, catalogs, and company service pins, there's something to satisfy just about anyone's interests. Tractors, of course, garner the most serious attention.
There are three categories of John Deere tractors. The first is the full-size machine, antique and vintage examples of which are sought after by more than a few collectors. Two-cylinder models manufactured from 1914 to 1960 are particularly popular. These can run into the thousands of dollars.
Then there is the scaled-down "pedal car" toy group. Depending upon condition, examples of these can sell for a couple of hundred to $1000 or more.
Finally, for the vast majority of us who don't have the space or the means, there is the scale-model toy group. Most of these are 1/16, 1/32, and 1/64-scale die cast specimens that can be displayed on a shelf and that generally sell for $5 to $50, unless relatively rare.
Interested in some of the other items bearing the company logo? Many can be found at yard and estate sales, and while most are modestly worthwhile, some don't necessarily have to be old to be valuable: the official 1996 pewter Christmas ornament - the first in the series - is quite rare and has been selling at online auctions for up to $1000!
Trying to date your "find"? The company name and trademark/logo have changed several times over John Deere's 175-year history, and a check of the permutations listed on their website (see below) may help narrow your search to a particular period.
Would you like to learn more about this popular collectible? Check out the resources listed below, and
The Bigger Book of John Deere Tractors: The Complete Model-by-Model Encyclopedia ... Plus Classic Toys, Brochures, and Collectibles, 2nd Edition (The Big Book Series)
John Deere Collectibles
or for an autographed copy, BleedingGreen.com
The John Deere Two-Cylinder Tractor Encyclopedia: The Complete Model-by-Model History
Standard Catalog of Farm Toys: Identification and Price Guide
Warman's John Deere Collectibles: Identification and Price Guide (Identification & Price Guide)
The Gathering of the Green - link to website - A biannual convention/conference (the next one March 2012) "for John Deere collectors, restorers & enthusiasts." Visit the site just to listen to the music!
Green Collectors - link to website - History, Discussion, and the Tractor pages, listing different models and their serial numbers from 1924 to 1960, are especially helpful.
Green Magazine - link to website - Monthly magazine, but lots available online: articles, links, "Ask Mr. Thinker," more.
John Deere Worldwide - link to website - Company site offers detailed timeline, biographical information, pictorial history of trademarks/logos. And don't forget to check out their current toy catalogs.
National Farm Toy Museum - link to website - Hosts events, issues exclusive die cast tractor models, maintains extensive links page.
Toy Farmer - link to website - Toy Farmer Magazine and Toy Farmer Museum; hosts annual National Farm Toy Show (first full weekend in November) in Dyersville, Iowa.