Tonka Toys have been around since the 1950’s here we will detail some of the history of this American Toy Producer brands beginnings.
The company was primarily known for making steel toy models of construction trucks and plant machinery. Maisto International who made diecast vehicles brought the tights to use the Tonka name in a truck line of scale toy models 1:64 scale.
How Tonka was formed
In 1946 a company called Mound Metalcraft from Mound in Minnesota there target was to make garden tools and equipment. The former occupant had patented several toy ideas and toys were not exciting enough for them so they approached Mound Metalcraft to see if they could form a side business.
Some talking, drinking and modifications after time later, and of course logos the work Tanka, or Tonka which means “great” or “big” was formed. They began selling metal toys and this grew and grew to become there main business. In 1955 Mound Metalcraft changed their name to Tonka Toys and they continued to produce countless versions of the metal toys and trucks.
The logo at this time was an oval with Tonka showing in red above waves. In 1964 Tonka took over Mell Manufacturing in Chicago and this allowed them to produce Barbeque grills in another side business.
In 1987 Tonka bought Kenner Parker which also included Palitoy a UK toy giant for a reported $555 million, they borrowed heavily to complete that purchase and the cost of servicing the debt meant Tonka had to raise the for sale sign, and was brought by Hasbro in 1991.
In 1998 Hasbro began licensing deals to make and distribute Tonka trucks complete with lights, sounds and big wheels which are still popular today through Funrise.
In 2001 Tonka trucks entered the National Toy Hall of fame in New York.
Tonka didn’t just make trucks, they made a variety of toys over the years, including dolls including (Star Fairies, Bathing Beauties, Maple Town, and Hollywoods) and other toys aimed at girls like Keypers and for boys aimed Gobots, Rock Lords, Spiral Zone, and Steel Monsters. It was the original manufacturer of the Pound Puppies toy line, and in the late 1980s licensed products inspired by Maple Town.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s video games were starting to move from the arcade and small watch/handheld games into the home. Tonka of course also licensed there brand and featured on some games on the Sega system.
When Sega stopped fighting the booming Nintendo their share dropped and without the large backing and funds future titles on booming platforms were not possible.