Jim Swenson stocks 100,000 truck parts, but not one of them will put your vehicle back on the road.

Jim and his father, Lyle, a retired farmer, own Toy Parts Peddler in Hancock. They sell replacement parts for toy trucks made between 1940 and 1965. The Swensons are among a handful of Midwest distributors serving farm toy collectors. They are also one of the few Midwest distributors of operator's manuals for antique tractors and other collectible farm implements.

Jim, 45, got into the business in 1985, after attending his first farm toy show in Fergus Falls. "I overheard one guy trying to sell another guy his farm toy parts business. I thought it looked like something fun to do. One week later, I bought his inventory."

Jim started out selling replacement parts for toy tractors and trucks. A few years later he added manuals for real tractors. In 1995, Jim sold his toy tractor parts inventory and began specializing in parts for toy trucks made by Tonka, Buddy L, Structo, Nybant, Ertl, Doepke and Smith-Miller. Jim also sells farm implement manuals for nine manufacturers: John Deere, Case, Allis-Chalmers, International Harvester, Farmall, Oliver, White, Massey and Minneapolis Moline.

Inventory control is in his head

The Toy Parts Peddler warehouse is located on the Main Street of Hancock, population 717. Inside, rows of shelves rise to the ceiling, packed with hand-labeled bins overflowing with tiny tires, fenders, ladders, axles, windshields, grilles and dozens of other toy parts. In another part of the warehouse, manuals crowd the long, dimly-lit bookshelves, like dusty stacks in a library.

This warehouse is low-tech - no computer, not even a paper inventory list. It's all in Jim's head, says his wife, Andrea, who is the Hancock City Clerk and also helps in the business: "He knows it all."

Jim's toy parts' inventory comes mainly from private enthusiasts who manufacture replacement components for themselves and other collectors. Jim himself owns the molds for half a dozen toy truck tires, which are big sellers. Among the most valuable items he handles are Smith-Miller trucks. "They were rich-boy toys made in the 1950s," he said. At a time when Tonka trucks sold for $1.50, "Smith-Miller trucks were $25."

Jim finds his stock of farm implement manuals at auctions and from dealerships that are cleaning house or going out of business. Some of his manuals date back to the horse-drawn era; one of the rarest was for a 1912 kerosene Farmall Titan tractor.

Jim has an encyclopedic recall of toy truck models, parts and farm implements, Andrea said. But fixing machinery isn't his bag. "People always ask me for advice on repairing farm tractors," he said, "and I tell them I don't have the foggiest idea."

Fun at shows

Jim built his business by going to toy fairs and threshing bees from Oklahoma to Montana to Illinois. For almost two decades, he traveled the Midwest 48 weekends a year, often accompanied by his dad.

Jim also publishes a catalog, which he sends to about 1,000 collectors each year. Mail order sales now account for most of his volume. His mom, Shirley, fills phone orders and handles the shipping.

Jim - a burly, soft-spoken, teddy-bear kind of guy - worked for a local concrete manufacturing company for 20 years. He's crazy about Hancock, his hometown: he served on the city council for 12 years and was mayor for four years. He collects old Hancock memorabilia, too - custard glass, turn-of-the-century postcards, knickknacks and such. However, "I don't collect toy trucks!"

Recently, Jim returned to college, where he's now studying to become a high school vocational-agriculture teacher. Because of school commitments, he's had to cut back on the number of toy shows and bees he attends. But that's still his favorite part of the business, he said. "I like talking to the people at the shows. We've made a lot of good friends all over the country."

Andrea feels the same way. "I like the traveling and going to shows." She and Jim even spent part of their honeymoon at a threshing bee in Madison, S.D.

Toy Parts Peddler is profitable, Jim said, but it remains a sideline. "It's a business, but it's also a huge hobby," Andrea said.

"An out-of-control hobby," added Jim.

To contact Toy Parts Peddler, call (320) 392-5375, or write to P.O. Box 324, Hancock, MN 56244.