As an amateur collector of Tonka trucks, one thing I quickly realized is the limited amount of price guides or books on Tonka history. When I did find them they would be priced in the $100s with most, if not all, being out of print. I then researched a little further and found that new copies of some of the Tonka Children’s books could command high prices as well — some in the $1000s.
Here are a few of the books:
Tonka by Dennis David, published in 2004
This is the only book I have actually physically held — it was at a local library — it gives a real good overview of Tonka’s history. It is more about the company and its plight than about the toys, per se. The book sells for $70-$140. Another hard to find and pricey book by the same author is How to Restore Classic Toy Cars, Trucks, Tractors, and Airplanes. The book is “a treasure chest of advice and ideas on restoring the most popular transportation toys of all eras and conditions,” according to a review on Amazon.
Collectors Guide to Tonka Trucks, 1947-1963 by Don and Barb DeSalle published in 1996
One of the first things listed inside this book are the various logos used by Tonka. This page is extremely helpful for determining which year your toy was manufactured since many of the toys varied only slightly year-over-year. The book is filled with colored photos of various mint condition toys throughout the years. Used copies of the book sell for about $100 while new ones can fetch up to $200. DeSalle has also written at least one additional price guide for other toy truck brands.
Tonka kid books
Now for the one that totally mystifies me — and if you know the answer please leave a comment. Some of the paperback kid books from the 90s are listed for $500-$3000. What is even more unusual, at least to me, is the library binding versions of these same books are only worth $10-$20. I won’t try to list them all, but go to a site that sells rare books (like AbeBooks) and do a search for Tonka and sort by price high to low and you will see what I mean.