C magazine

Pedal tractor power

A man and his grandson pose in front of a wall of pedal tractors in a barn.

Dave Nigg's shop doubles as a display space for his impressive set of pedal tractors and a play area for his grandson, Camden.

Sep 24, 2021

Dave Nigg’s fascination with model tractors started small — literally. What first caught his fancy were 1/64 scale toy tractors, less than 2 inches high, but just as detailed as the full-size originals. Then he graduated to 1/16 scale 6-inch replicas before pursuing his true passion: pedal tractors, the dream toy for any farm kid. 

“I never had a pedal tractor as a kid,” Nigg says. “I started with one as an adult, then it got a bit out of hand. Now I have 240.” 

The retired Browns Valley, Minn., grain farmer began tracking down collectible pedal tractors in the 1980s. Nigg scouts them on eBay, at farm auctions and at the annual National Farm Toy Show, the mecca for pedal tractors, in Dyersville, Iowa.  

There’s nothing small about the prices some models attract. In 1949, Eska made a John Deere Model A pedal tractor. It wasn’t very detailed, especially the engine, which looked like a solid block. Only eight were built before the project was scrapped. At a recent auction, a 1949 “block” John Deere Model A surfaced. “It was in pretty rough condition,” Nigg says, but the hammer still came down at $70,000. 

That doesn’t mean unexpected finds can’t be uncovered. At a farm auction just 13 miles from home, Nigg spotted a pedal tractor on the sale bill. “I knew it was very rare, the fourth hardest to find,” he says. Despite bad wheels, a bad steering wheel and other issues, Nigg nabbed it and is now restoring it in his shop. 

With parts from specialty suppliers and guidelines from pedal tractor collectors books and YouTube videos, Nigg brings his purchases back to their original glory, complete with the right decals and colors. 

Since he has acquired about all the pedal tractors he wants, Nigg now makes them from scratch, adding them to a collection that covers three walls of his shop. 

Nigg rarely sells his prized collections, leading his wife, Mary, to tease him, saying, “Funeral at 10:00, pedal tractor auction at 2:00.” 

“I think she’s joking,” Nigg says. 

 


Check out the full Summer 2021 issue of C magazine with this article and more.