American La France Toy Fire Truck

American La France Toy Fire Truck

An American Toy Icon

Once again we have acquired an iconic American toy in a very unusual fashion.  

A good friend was eager for us to see his new home prior to the closing. As friends and interior designers, we were eager to see it – every nook and cranny.  The seller had virtually moved out with the exception of a few pieces of furniture and framed posters. 

The room over the garage was entirely empty except the owners had left behind a toy fire truck, which we swooned over. When our friend asked the seller's agent if it was for sale, she quoted a ridiculously low price. But once the owner realized someone had expressed an interest in it, the price grew fourfold.

We had to laugh. All too often, people couldn't care less about something until someone else shows an interest. No worries; we still were willing to buy the truck.

We never intend to pay less than an item is worth, but we seldom have any idea what something is worth until we have a chance to do our research. On the other hand, experience has taught us that if you don't buy something when you see it, it'll be gone when you go back for it. (As buyers we hate when that happens; as retailers it gives us secret joy. Folks: if you see something you like – buy it and make yourself and a shopkeeper happy!)

We're as prone as anyone to purchase emotionally. The vintage and antique objects we buy don't really have a market value. The real estate business has a great term that describes the true measure of value: "A ready, willing and able buyer and a ready, willing and able seller.” A thing is worth only as much as someone's willing to pay for it.

This reminds me of something my friend, the late Ed  Bridgeforth, III, told me regarding the value of things and ideas.  He said he had a fantastic business giving $5,000-an-hour breakfast talks to anyone who would pay to listen. He joked that it was a brilliant business model. No overhead, just show up and talk and collect the check. The only downside was that no one wanted to pay him that much to hear what he had to say.

The point he was making is that nothing has value unless someone wants to purchase it. And good luck finding that person. So whatever journey you're on, it had better give you satisfaction because that may very well be all you get.

But I digress. This blog is about the toy fire truck.  From previous blogs you know I like toys and love trucks.

In 1950 the Charles Wm. Doepke Co. of Rossmoyne, Ohio, changed its toy line and introduced a realistic replica of the American La France aerial ladder fire engine.

And what a magnificent toy fire engine it is: 1/16th scale of the actual American La France aerial ladder truck used by fire companies to save countless lives all over the United States.

The classic toy model #2008 had:

I had never really seen anything like it before.

The truck we found was missing a few parts, but it also included hoses coiled on the platform below the extension ladder. These actually look and feel real. I couldn't find a single reference to the hoses anywhere, including on The National Fire Heritage Center web page concerning the restoration of the American La France.

Doepke produced these high quality toy fire engines until 1959, when they could no longer compete with the toys made of cheaper quality steel.

Please let me know if I have made any factual errors or you have any additional information on the American La France.

Found Objects Ltd.