Learn About Tonka, the Popular Manufacturer of Toy Trucks

The toy truck is arguably one of the best-selling toys on the market, as it is a relatively simple toy that can make kids feel that they are moving an actual truck and are doing industrial-related jobs like delivering building supplies and more. There have been numerous toy truck brands that have become prominent in the toy industry over the years, but none is as popular as Tonka. To know more about this particular company, here is a company profile for Tonka, the popular manufacturer of toy trucks.

The Origins of Tonka

Before Tonka was making toy trucks, the company was first called Mound Metalcraft and was a manufacturer of gardening tools. The company was founded on June 22, 1946, in Mound, Minnesota by Lynn Everett Baker, Alvin F. Tesch, and Avery F. Crounse. [1] Mound Metalcraft had its first headquarters in an old schoolhouse, which was previously occupied by the Streater Company, a manufacturer of toy trucks and other kinds of toys. 

Inspired by the creations of the previous company that occupied their headquarters, Mound Metalcraft later produced toys that were made from unused metal pieces from their gardening tools business. Later on, Mound Metalcraft would have metal toys as their main business.

From Mound Metalcraft to Tonka

In November 1955, the founders of Mound Metalcraft decided to change the company’s name to Tonka Toys Incorporated. Along with the name change, Tonka Toys also used a new logo that is oval-shaped and features blue ocean waves below a flock of seagulls, which are supposed to honor Lake Minnetonka, a body of water located near the company’s headquarters. The new name of the company is also inspired by the said lake. 

They would use the ocean waves logo until 1958 when they decided to use a simpler logo without the ocean waves and seagulls and featured the colors white, gray, and red. This particular logo would be used throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Then, in 1978, the oval that surrounds the Tonka name was removed, so the logo became much simpler.

Tonka Acquisition

In 1964, the Mell Manufacturing Company was acquired by Tonka. The acquisition allowed Tonka to produce barbecue grills under the “Tonka Firebowl” label. While Tonka has expanded to other types of products, they never abandoned their toy line in the 1980s, as the company also purchased Kenner Parker (more known as Kenner Products), a business known for making the classic Star Wars action figures from the late 70s and early 80s. 

The purchase of Kenner Parker in 1987 cost Tonka $555 million, although most of the money was borrowed extensively. Unfortunately, the company wasn’t able to pay off the loan, so the owners of the company also had to find a buyer for Tonka that can pay for the loan. 

Hasbro, one of the biggest toy companies in the world, then acquired Tonka in 1991. Hasbro would continue to manufacture and sell Tonka Toy trucks. [2] In 1998, another toy company called Funrise Toys formed a deal with Hasbro to manufacture and sell Tonka toy trucks. 

Funrise Toys introduced the electronic version of Tonka toy trucks that are built with lights and sounds. These toy trucks made by Funrise were incredibly popular, so much so that the company was able to hold on to the Tonka license from 1998 to 2020. The deal between the two companies ended in 2020, and the Tonka license was given to Basic Fun!, a subsidiary of Hasbro.

Take a look at these five Tonka toy trucks if you are planning to buy one as a gift or to buy many for a toy collection:

Other Products Sold by Tonka

Besides toy trucks, Tonka has also manufactured and sold other kinds of toys over the years. Here are some of the popular toy lines that have been produced by Tonka Toys.

Pound Puppies

Pound Puppies is a line of stuffed toys that was introduced by Tonka in 1984. Pound Puppies, as their name suggests, are stuffed toys that came from a fictional pound and can be adopted. Once you buy a Pound Puppy, you will also receive an “adoption” certificate. These Pound Puppies dolls were fairly popular in the 1980s, and there were even two animated TV series and one feature film that was produced for the toy line. Although Pound Puppies was discontinued in 2002, it was soon revived by Hasbro and Funrise and is now one of the most popular toys on the market.

Here are three Pound Puppies products that you can check out:

Tonka Video Games

Tonka also had a video game division aptly called Tonka Video Games, although this particular division was short-lived. Tonka Video Games took over the rights to market and distribute Sega’s Master System Console in the late 1980s, as Sega gave up on the video game market in the US due to the overwhelming popularity of the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES that was released in 1985. Because of Tonka’s inexperience in the video game market, the sales and popularity of the Master System declined.


GoBots is a brand and line of transforming robot toys that were first released by Tonka in 1983. GoBots is similar to the Transformers toy line by Hasbro, as both of them have transforming robots. However, it is important to note that GoBots was released one year before Transformers. GoBots became one of the most popular toy lines of the 1980s, and alongside Transformers, they created the “robot craze” in the said period. 

Unfortunately, the Transformers toy line overtook the popularity of GoBots, and this led to the latter being discontinued in 1987. When Hasbro acquired Tonka in 1991, they incorporated the GoBots toy line into the Transformers line. However, Hasbro only released a few GoBots toys, as they are just focusing on making toys for the Transformers characters. 

So, these are all the things you need to know about Tonka. Despite not existing as a company anymore, Hasbro is still using the Tonka brand name for its line of toy trucks. These Tonka toy trucks are still quite popular today because of their quality and durability.


[1] Hennepin History Museum. (2021, April 15). Tonka: The Toy Truck from Mound. Hennepin History Museum. Retrieved July 25, 2023, from https://hennepinhistory.org/digging-into-history-the-tonka-truck/ 

[2] Hasbro Newsroom. (2007, February 6). Hasbro’s TONKA Brand Celebrates 60 Years of Boyhood. Hasbro Newsroom. Retrieved July 25, 2023, from https://newsroom.hasbro.com/news-releases/news-release-details/hasbros-tonka-brand-celebrates-60-years-boyhood