Most Tonka trucks in good condition from the late 1940s to the early 1960s cost between $100 and $300. Because so many Tonka toys were produced, Tonka trucks may be found in a variety of places, including flea markets, garage sales, and antique stores. Because they are often part of sets, you may be able to find other toys in with your Tonka truck.
Tonka's first model, the M1917 Jeep, was introduced in 1917. It was an immediate success and remained in production for more than 20 years. Around 1936, Tonka began making their own chassis instead of using reconditioned Ford or GM vehicles as their previous models had done. In addition, they created a steering system that was designed specifically for use with their trucks. By doing this, they were able to make their trucks less expensive to produce.
After World War II, Tonka continued to produce popular models such as the Military Truck, Police Car, and Fire Engine. In 1948, they introduced the Super Duty truck which was available in four-wheel drive for use on snow-covered roads. This model was also sold alongside its two-wheel drive counterpart and was easy to tell by its larger size and weight capacity. The four-wheel drive version was called "Gran Torino" after the movie starring Clint Eastwood which was released that same year.
Tonka Toys Incorporated had taken the place of Mound Metalcraft by 1955. Tonka's very first items were made of 20-gauge automotive steel. Steel was freely accessible and cheap after WWII, and Tonka took advantage of this abundance. Their first action figure was an army tank that sold for $40.
They soon added other toys to their line, such as a racing car, rocket sled, and helicopter. By 1958, they released their first doll - a headless Barbie-like figure priced at $35. She was called "Tanka Doll".
In 1959, Tonka introduced the world's first remote-control car - RC Tanka. It was also the first radio-controlled car with a steering wheel. The idea came from a need observed by many parents at the time: how difficult is it for kids to operate vehicles without parental supervision? Remote control eliminated this problem completely. Also in 1959, Tonka released its first plastic toy - a motorcycle with a price tag of $15.
In 1960, Tonka released its first doll with hair - a little girl named Tana. She was priced at $5.50.
In 1961, Tonka released its first board game - Caravan. It included pieces representing different countries, cars, and trucks.
Tonka's headquarters remained in Minnesota, but the firm went into too much debt after buying Kenner Parker Toys and was acquired by Hasbro in 1991. Tonka's Minnesota headquarters was shortly shuttered. The last toy made at that location was a truck called "Tuffy" in 1994.
Since then, Tonka has tried to come back from bankruptcy several times, but has never succeeded. In 2001, it sold its last remaining asset, its brand name, to an affiliate of KKR for $20 million. But this sale did not provide enough money to keep the company going, and in 2003, it filed for Chapter 11 protection again.
It took another bankruptcy filing in 2004 to finally rid itself of all its debt and leave it with enough cash to start making toys again. This time, it was able to secure financing from private equity firms who agreed to give it $75 million over five years if it kept making a profit. They also hired one of the bankruptcy attorneys as president so he could try to fix what had gone wrong before.
But even with these changes, things didn't go well. In 2005, Tonka announced it was closing its doors for good this time. It couldn't come up with a way to make money without selling more debt or using resources inefficiently. Neither option worked well for a company trying to stay in business.
Tonka was founded in 1946 by Lynn Everett Baker, Avery F. Crounse, and Alvin F. Tesch, but it wasn't always Tonka, and they didn't always make toy trucks. Mound Metalcraft was the initial name of the firm, which was started in 1946, and they began by creating metal tie racks...
In 1949, they introduced their first plastic truck, which is now known as the "Roll-o-Matic." In 1951, they released their first fully molded plastic truck, which is still sold today under the Tonka brand name. In 1958, Mound changed their name to The Tonka Company, Inc.. In 1980, after being bought by General Motors, they were acquired by Kmart who in turn was purchased by Walmart in 1994. In 2005, Mattel acquired the rights to the Tonka brand and re-released many classic Tonka toys under that label. In 2009, Lego sued Mattel for copyright infringement claiming that several of these re-released Tonka toys looked too much like their own designs. The case is currently in court.
There are other companies that have used the "Tonka" name over the years but they aren't related to each other anymore.
Tonka toys are still made by Mattel today, though under another name. The original company no longer exists but some employees continued with their new employer.