SC Johnson Family Economics Blog
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vintage Toy Truck Displays | Family Economics

By Cathe

I have adored vintage metal toy trucks since the first time I laid eyes on one used as a store display many years ago. It was a large, old rusty toy stake truck doubling as a plant holder with ivy flowing over the edge of the truck bed and down the shelf it was placed atop. During my days buying and selling antiques in a little collective town, vintage toy trucks sold like hot cakes and they were my favorite item to buy and sell. I’ve never been willing to pay much money for vintage trucks or desire them in mint condition. After all, I think for decorating, they are more charming when appearing well played with. So, unlike the condition qualities serious toy collectors look for - and with the exception of missing wheels or tires, I don't mind rust, nicks, breaks or missing paint, windshields, headlights or grills, as those don’t necessarily detract from the truck's cool factor or function. And by function, I mean that they make the most practical displays!

Vintage toy dump trucks have the largest hauling capacity, but most 13 inch or larger pick-up trucks have beds that can hold and haul most anything from potpourri and candles, to snacks at a potluck, to stacks of family photos or fireplace kindling. Smaller trucks are great for holding desktop office supplies or playing cards and dice. This little truck houses my kids’ little homemade game of concentration.
concentration truck

Vintage toy trucks also make the best candy dishes for individually wrapped pieces. Whether they are set out on display all the time or brought out just for the holidays, to fill with Easter eggs or Christmas ornaments, they are always great conversation pieces. Even the less-child-like/more-mature-style rooms of your home appear more friendly and welcoming with the addition of whimsy in the shape of a vintage toy.

the whimsy of a vintage toy
When my white stake-bed truck isn’t hauling glitter trees for the holidays, it holds my juicy collection of

hauling pincushions

tomato pincushions in my sewing nook.

Vintage trucks also hold a supply of twine in my studio.

holding supplies in my studio
My favorite projects to create are unique pincushions out of little vintage toy trucks and trailers.

unique pincushions1

unique pincushions2

Shopping for vintage trucks is pretty easy. But first set your dollar limit. I won’t spend more than $25 for a large 12 – 20 inch truck or more than $10 on a truck for a pincushion. If you’re willing to clean them up yourself and don’t mind a bit of wear and damage, you can usually find them through online auctions or vintage online shopping. With lower condition standards, you won’t be competing with high-spending collectors. But the best places for finding vintage toy trucks are flea markets. Most I find are on the ground under tables and out of view of most shoppers, so keep a look out!

Once you bring your grungy little find home, give it a good washing, allow to dry well, in the sun if possible, and then if it still has a dry and lifeless look to it, spray it with a good coat of glossy clear acrylic. This will bring out the vibrant color of the paint giving it a much friendlier look as if it were just waxed. Don’t skip over the tires, clear spray acrylic makes the rubber appear almost new. Here is a vintage Tonka truck I picked up very cheap the other day.

a clear coat shines it up

Look how much better it looks with it’s shiny clear coat! This little guy will be perfect for hauling our audio/video remote controls on the coffee table of the family room.

4 Comments so far

Post a comment

On Wednesday, September 8, 2010, Carla in Texas wrote

Very good idea. I have an old metal truck that belonged to my nephew, then my sons. It's going to look good with apples in the bed, and then something for Christmas. Thanks.

On Saturday, August 14, 2010, John From Collingswood NJ wrote

You are brilliant! Thank you for sharing this...

On Thursday, May 6, 2010, Colleen from Utah wrote

I love these! Great "green" use of great old trucks :-)

On Thursday, May 6, 2010, A fan wrote

Cathe, this is so incredibly cool. I'm not really a good craft person - I just don't have the eye for things and I have no hands-on expertise. But your posts are so inspiring I just might head to a flea market soon! You have a wonderful knack for turning regular objects into something remarkable.


Please enter your comment.

Example: "Todd from Chicago" or "The Silva's from Texas." To protect your privacy, you may want to use only a first name or nickname
Please read our Terms of Use in the link below.
  • Keep in mind that by submitting stories/comments/pictures/videos, you're confirming that you own them and they're only about you and other family members who have agreed that the content/images may appear on SC Johnson's web site indefinitely and anywhere in the world, without compensating you/them or obtaining any further permission from anyone. You understand that we may include your first name and state as the person making the submission.
  • In addition, as a family company, we support your family's right to privacy. Remember that if you post stories/comments/pictures/videos that include or mention family members - especially those under 18 - you're acknowledging that the items will be online and accessible to anyone on the Internet.
By submitting this form, I'm agreeing to the Terms of Use.
To help prevent spam, please enter the words you see in the box below.

Looking for more great ideas? Visit our Green Choices blog for eco-friendly tips and activities to try with your family.

Visit Green Choices

Every year, millions of plastic trigger bottles end up in landfills. Concentrated refills use less packaging, decrease shipping impacts and reduce waste. Small green choices can make a big difference.

Learn More
© 2018 S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. All Rights reserved Home Privacy Terms of Use Search Site Map