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An affinity for farm toys
Marvin Rufi, shown in his Farm Toys and Antiques store just off the Square in Monroe, has been collecting his whole life and has one of the largest collections in Wisconsin. "It's become a disease," Rufi joked. (Times photos: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - After growing up on a Monroe farm for 18 years, Marvin Rufi developed an affinity for tractors.

Today, the 71-year-old retiree's affinity has only grown: Rufi is the proud owner of one of the largest collections of farm toys in Wisconsin.

Rufi estimates his collection, which primarily features toy tractors but includes other toys and antique farm equipment, features more than 2,000 items.

Much of Rufi's collection is for sale at Marv's Farm Toys & Antiques in downtown Monroe, open only on Saturdays. The collection spills over into a neighboring museum that Rufi opens to the public sporadically.

Even two buildings can't contain Rufi's love of tractors, as he also maintains a personal collection at his own residence.

Rufi said part of his passion for toy tractors stems from his childhood, when he would make his own toy tractors for himself and his siblings.

"The only toys we could play with were ones I made," Rufi said.

Rufi worked as a carpenter for nearly 50 years, during which time he quietly amassed his prodigious collection.

Rufi said new items come in on a nearly weekly basis. Collectors come from throughout the Midwest to peruse his stock, and many are eager to trade their own items for those in his collection.

"I guess with all the trade-ins, it's a lot like buying a real tractor," Rufi joked. "And they get what they want and I get what I want."

In addition, whenever Rufi takes a vacation he always returns with a van full of new items he's found.

Rufi said several items are antiques of considerable value to collectors. In particular, Rufi owns several vintage toys made by the Arcade Manufacturing Company that date back to the 1920s.

Rufi said he often grows fond of items and moves them to his personal collection so he can keep them.

"Sometimes it's okay when people don't buy things," Rufi said.

Despite the store's unconventional hours, Marv's Farm Toys & Antiques generally sees steady business. Recently, during the holiday season, "people lined up at the counter," Rufi said.

Rufi added that the store's busiest period comes during the Farm Toy Show in March, an event sponsored by the Future Farmers of America.

Although, Rufi admitted, the store doesn't quite "make sense" from a business perspective, he remains proud of his hobby.

"We're all just passing through this life," Rufi said. "So why not do something you love?"