Lauren James of rural Montezuma is shown in this toy room at his home west of Montezuma. James has been collecting antique tractors since buying his first, a 1929 GP John Deere, with his dad, Warren, in 1967. He currently owns 19 tractors and more than 1,200 toy tractors and John Deere memorabilia. He enjoys showcasing his collection and talking with other collectors and participating in various tractor club events, parades and activities.
By J.O. Parker
Lauren James has quite a collection of antique John Deere tractors dating from 1929 – 1959. He also has a room at his modest home outside of Montezuma filled with toy tractors and all sorts of John Deere memorabilia. His collection numbers more than 1,200 pieces.
Among his large collection is the first toy tractor he got as a kid. The 1952 John Deere 60 toy tractor includes an array of implements, all of which he added one at a time through the years.
“I got them (the implements) over time at Christmas and for birthdays,” recalled James, who turns 74 this month.
James, who has called Union Township west of Montezuma home all of his life, first got interested in collecting tractors in 1967 when he and his dad, Warren, bought a 1929 GP John Deere, which he still owns to this day. In fact, his antique tractor collection, which he shares with his son, Kenneth, includes 20 tractors, all John Deere but one, a 1947 Allis Chalmers WC.
In addition to the 1929 GP, James owns a 1929 B, 1934 D, 1936 B, 1937 D, 1938 A, 1940 L, 1940 BR, 1941 LI, 1946 B, 1946 H, 1948 D, 1951 D, 1954 70, 1954 50, 1956 50, 1958 720, 1959 730 and the 1947 Allis Chalmers WC.
James enjoys showing his collection at various tractors events and in parades in Montezuma and around the state. It’s not uncommon to see James’ son, Kenneth, and his granddaughter, Emily, driving a tractor in the Montezuma Let Freedom Ring Parade on the Fourth of July and showcasing them at Summer Nights on the town square and at other events.
James has been a member of the John Deere Two Cylinder Club since 1982 and most years has shown tractors in the annual Two Cylinder Club show in Waterloo. This year marks the last for the popular show.
James is also a 33-year member of the All Color Antique Tractor Club in Ottumwa where participates in fall harvest days and various tractor shows and club events. And he is a 48-year member of the Pella-based Red Rock Threshers where he enjoys participating in tractor rides and club activities.
His interest in tractors downsized a bit when he started collecting toy tractors 40-years ago. One shelf of his large collection features 35 tractors he received for participating in the annual John Deere Two Cylinder Show in July. He also has 22 John Deere toy tractor banks that he purchased through fundraisers as a member of the All Color Antique Tractor Club.
James enjoys showcasing his toy tractors and talking about his collection each year during Pella Tulip Time.
“I enjoy collecting and restoring tractors and meeting fellow collectors,” he said.
He recalled one year a fellow stopping at this table, which is 16-foot long, to check out his collection. The man asked several questions and the two visited for a while.
“He came back a little later with his wife,” recalled James. “The man said to his wife, ‘See, I don’t have too many tractors.’”
Other John Deere memorabilia in his collection includes key chains, thermometers, yardsticks, ink pens, advertisements, signs, paintings, an assortment of hand tools, belt buckles, hat patches, clocks, a John Deere coffee pot and various antique tractor parts. He also has a number of Auburn toy tractors in his collection.
He also has a small collection of coffee mugs and other memorabilia from the Farmhand Company that once operated in Grinnell and that he worked for at one time. The company manufactured manure spreaders, bale accumulators and processors for grinding large hay bales.
When asked why John Deere, James said that was the tractors his dad used in the family farming operation. It’s always been green in the James household. In fact, he has a bumper sticker in his collection that kindly says, “Trucks are Red – Tractors are Green.”
“There are things in my collection that bring back a lot of memories,” he said. “This is 55-years this year.”
A small portion of John Deere toy tractors and other memorabilia in Lauren James' collection.
Lauren James' John Deere collection is filled with any and everything John Deere.
More John Deere items in the Lauren James toy and memorabilia collection.