Real Trucks are His Business, Toy Trucks are His Hobby
When Tom Oakley, President of Atlas Transfer & Storage was just a boy, he received his first toy truck, modeled after the trucks he saw every day around the family moving and storage company. Back then, he was just an excited kid with a new toy – he didn't realize he'd just launched what would become a lifelong passion.
More than fifty-five years later, Oakley is running the family business, Atlas Transfer & Storage, an agent for Allied Van Lines, and his San Diego offices are a monument to his collection, which now totals more than 1,000 trucks.
"I just never lost the fun or the pleasure of collecting these trucks," he says. "Over time, it has almost taken on a life of its own."
The first truck you notice when entering the headquarters office in Poway is not officially part of the collection. In fact, it's not a toy at all. Purchased in 1957, the truck is a fully-functional 1925 Model T Stake-bed truck that greets customers in the lobby and is a testament to the longevity of the company – it was built the same year the company was founded. It's a reminder to customers and employees alike of the tradition, history and commitment to service that has kept Atlas Transfer & Storage in business for more than 90 years.
However, a quick glance around the office of the moving company in San Diego reveals the extent of Oakley's collection. The toy trucks, ranging in size from 10 inches to three feet in length, are proudly displayed in glass wall cases, perched above cubicles, atop filing cabinets and on just about every flat surface throughout the office. Approximately ninety percent of the trucks represent moving and storage companies such as United Van Lines, Mayflower, and Allied Van Lines, the company under which Atlas Transfer & Storage is franchised. The other ten percent represent freight companies.
"People always have a reaction when they see the trucks," says Linda, Tom's wife and Vice President of Atlas Transfer & Storage. "Most are in awe of the extent of it. They ask how many trucks there are, why they're here, that kind of thing. It inspires a lot of curiosity. Everyone appreciates it on some level."
Perhaps the most meaningful part of the collection is the set of (number) trucks hanging in a glass case next to Tom's desk. Each of the trucks in the case bears the logo of a moving and storage or freight company that has gone out of business over the years. Tom states the trucks help him "keep things in perspective." His own company has been in his family since the 1940's and you will notice the Atlas Transfer & Storage name emblazoned on several trucks in his collection.
According to Tom, there are only four or five "serious" collectors around the United States, many of whom he knows personally. The trucks can range in cost between $12.00 and $1,500 each, depending on their rarity, manufacturer and other factors. When a company goes out of business, the trucks bearing its logo immediately become more collectible.
He built his collection largely by buying from toy stores, antique stores, private collectors, manufacturers and online auction sites like eBay. He has also received many of the trucks as gifts.
"The larger your collection gets, the more you build a reputation among collectors," says Tom. "Some of the biggest boosts to my collection have come from other collectors who wanted to pass their collections on to someone who'd get as much enjoyment out of it as they have."
And the collection? " I'm still building it," he says. "But the pace has slowed a bit. I think I've exhausted the supply." So which is he more proud of, his toy truck collection, or his San Diego moving and storage company, Atlas Transfer & Storage?
"Good question," laughs Tom. "Both have brought me a lot of joy and a tremendous amount of pride over the years," he says.