By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
When Norrie Haffner makes a suggestion, her husband, Roger, takes it to heart -- and then some.
"I told him 15 years ago he needed a hobby," the Macomb woman said.
He settled on toys, particularly farm toys and related items, and "we had to build a new building for all of his stuff," she said, but "I kind of enjoy collecting too. We're just big toy collectors."
Not long after arriving at the Mark Twain Toy Show, which kicked off Friday night at the Town and Country Inn and Suites, the couple was busy picking up more pieces for their collection, including a toy tractor and a bank.
"He also collects belt buckles," she said. "He has 400. Now it's 403."
Haffner picked up two John Deere buckles and one Oliver model from vendor Herb Minnix before continuing to look around the show.
"We're having fun," Norrie Haffner said, and the couple planned to go out to eat after the show "if we have any money left."
Eight-year-old Elliott Ruff was sure his grandpa, Doug Sill, would be spending some money at the toy show.
"I always talk him into it," Elliott said.
"That's the reason I got invited," said Sill, who lives in Mendon.
Elliott preferred the farm animal toys to the tractors, and he had his eye on a toy set with animals, a barn and people.
Others kept an eye out for just the right tractor to add to a collection.
"People love to collect toys," show organizer Jaime Gard said. "We get a lot of farmers that had history with one of these tractors and may want replicas of them. They need to have that if they don't have the real tractor."
Vendors set up displays in the banquet room and in their own rooms, leaving the doors open to draw in shoppers.
Many, like Minnix who lives in St. Louis, arrived a day earlier than usual to avoid the snowstorm. Gard said the weather forced seven vendors to cancel plans to come to Quincy, but otherwise hasn't hurt the show, which draws 1,200 shoppers on average.
"People talk about the economy slowing down, but it doesn't seem to be affecting toy dealers as much," Gard said. "People seem to collect even when money's tight. They still want to buy those things they've been looking for and couldn't get their hands on."
Even the vendors take a look at the wares.
"I've got a pretty extensive International collection. There's not too much I don't have," said vendor Jim Johnson of Kirkwood, southwest of Monmouth. "It doesn't happen too often that I stumble on anything anymore, but there's always that chance. It's all in the hunt."
Johnson and his wife, Sandy, who makes scarves to sell, have been selling toys for some 35 years.
"It all started with my son," he said. "We were kind of bribing him to get better grades. We'd give him a tractor when he would do better. It got to adding up, and I got to kind of liking it. I started collecting tractors we farmed with."
Dave Clark of Carthage bought a Dot Foods semi, something on his "secondary" shopping list.
A longtime collector, Clark turns out every year for the show.
"There's a lot more models available," he said. "You've got to be careful how you spend your money, make some choices you didn't have to make,"
Rick Kempe and his son, Ricky, prefer original toys to newer reproductions, but they need to know what they're getting.
"It's kind of the thrill of the hunt," the Quincy man said. "He's my guide. He picks them out. I pay for them."
Both father and son held a bag with plenty more vendors to visit.
"You can't come to one of these and go home empty," the elder Kempe said.
GO & DO
The 28th annual Mark Twain Toy Show continues through Sunday at the Town and Country Inn and Suites, 110 N. 54th.
Show hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $3 for an adult each day and free for children 12 and under.