What began as Ron Sturgeon's love for everything Mercedes became DFW Elite Toy Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Antique and rare toy cars and much more await.
When it comes to collecting toys, Ron Sturgeon isn’t playing around. In fact, the Texas businessman turned his passion for toys into a fascinating museum packed full of rarities you won’t find anywhere else.
“I bought my first toy car in London in 1988,” Sturgeon says. “It was completely spontaneous. I saw a sign that said Sotheby’s was having a toy auction, so I went. I ended up buying a toy Märklin German truck with a trailer for $400.” Three decades later, that truck is one of about 3,000 toys that Sturgeon owns.
As his hobby grew, so did his need for storage. The collection he once housed in his home in a two-story library with custom-built shelves eventually expanded to fill his office. “Then the house got full, and my office was full,” he recalls. In 2014, he opened the DFW Elite Toy Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. “I thought it might be a good idea to put them on display some place where other people could come enjoy them.”
All Things Mercedes
The collection is diverse, but Sturgeon has a preference for older cars – and one make in particular. “I have most of the ones made by Mercedes,” he says. He also has several early-model Mercedes toys made by Tippco and Schuco, two companies known for high-quality, detailed toys. “It started by growing my collection of Mercedes toy cars, but then it just kept going from there.”
His Mercedes collection includes a trio of Mercedes pedal cars that are large enough for a child to cruise around the house in style. The centerpiece of the trio is a custom-made, one-of-a-kind 1928 Mercedes-Benz SSK pedal car that weighs nearly 90 pounds and has working headlights. Equally impressive, the hand-built, 1930s-era Mercedes Gran Prix Racer is larger than the pedal cars and is equipped with a working Honda motor.
In the 1990s, he expanded his collection to include large-scale model cars, handmade German models, and even driving school models. In Europe, drivers once had to learn about the different parts of a car before getting their drivers’ licenses, and they used scaled-down models as learning tools. Thanks to computer technology and online resources, the models are now obsolete, and the DFW Elite Toy Museum is one of the few places to see them.
Over the years, he added other types of cars as long as they met his criteria of being unique, vintage, and interesting. Some of the more whimsical cars in his collection include extremely rare Toy Nomura Dream Cars, which were made by Tippco in the 1950s and reflect the era’s fascination with science fiction and astronauts. “I also like racecars and have several scale models built by [former racecar driver] Don Edmunds.”
Going to the Dogs
Sturgeon’s love of toy cars eventually led to the discovery of cars featuring dogs, and the museum is now home to an entire fleet of toy cars that cater to four-legged friends (and feel free to bring your own pooch along to this dog-friendly museum). This part of the collection includes wind-up and friction-powered cars with dogs behind the wheel or running alongside the car.
The fascination with dog-related toy cars sparked an interest in antique dog toys and accessories that go beyond the car theme. Some of the more unusual displays include antique, battery-operated, stuffed dog toys and European stuffed dogs equipped with small bellows that allow the dogs to “bark.” One of the most popular dog-themed toys, Snappy the Miracle Dog, is a vintage tin toy from the early 1930s that features a dog inside his doghouse, and when you call Snappy’s name, he comes out to visit.
“Anything that was really unusual would catch my eye,” Sturgeon says. “I figured if I enjoyed it, other people would too.”
Getting Ship Shape
Sturgeon recently added a new gallery to the museum that features nine elaborate model ships, all several feet long with impressive amounts of detail. The oldest model in the collection, a Marklin Columbia gunboat, was built in 1907 and is often mistaken by visitors for a pirate ship because of its unique design. The largest ship in the collection — and the focal point of this exhibit — is a 137-inch replica of a British passenger liner. The handcrafted ship includes a dozen individually named lifeboats, working hinged wooden doors, and custom-cut glass panes in the cabin windows.
Regardless of your age or individual interests, a trip to the museum tends to bring out the kid in everyone. “There’s a lot of different things for people to see when they come in, and we have things for a lot of different interests,” Sturgeon says. “It’s definitely not something you’re going to see someplace else.”
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