Friday, November 27, 2009

Hess Toy Trucks--Everyone's Favorite Holiday Collectible

QUESTION: I have a complete collection from 1988 through 2008 including every truck (2 1996), most packs of batteries with Hess logo and several Hess truck bags. I have recently gotten married and have no room for them with my other collections. How can I sell them and where can I sell them without giving them away?

ANSWER:  It’s Thanksgiving time once again and that means Black Friday and, for the last 45 years, Hess toy trucks. And you don’t even have to get up at 2 AM to beat the crowds because the Hess Corporation has pushed back the start date to a week before Thanksgiving. For many years, people lined up at Hess Stations on Black Friday morning to get their hands on the coveted toy “truck” of that year.

Starting in 1964, the Hess Company wanted to thank their loyal customers by making small replicas of their trucks as a token of appreciation for their business throughout the year. The company was the first one to manufacture toy trucks that had working lights and sound. Hess gas stations along the East Coast sold the "B Model Mack  Tanker" in 1964 and has continued that tradition each year since. Because the company produced these trucks in limited quantities, they limited each customer to two of them. That first truck sold for $1.29, and today can sell for over $2,500. Over the last 15 years, the value of some of the older Hess trucks has doubled. But there is a catch.

More than half the value of each truck depends on the condition of its box. If the truck, itself, is also in perfect condition, then it’s considered to be “MIB” or Mint-in-Box.  Most people have trucks they bought to give to their kids for Christmas. Unfortunately, their children played with the trucks and now they’re worth a fraction of the mint ones.

Plus values of these toys tend to fluctuate, depending on who’s buying them. While dealers pay the lowest amount and then double it to sell them, some collectors will pay just about anything to get the truck they want. In fact, I heard of one guy who drove four miles to meet a woman in a rest area on an Interstate highway just to look at a truck she had for sale.But before you get dollar signs in your eyes, understand that the true value of your collection is whatever anyone is willing to pay for it or individual pieces.

Of course, values can be different, depending on which price guides or Web sites you consult. A truck listed for $300 on one site might be listed at $400 in a current guide. And since Hess Stations operate on the East coast, collectors in the West will usually pay more.

While the first trucks were tankers, succeeding ones ran the gamut from transports to fire trucks and car carriers.  In 1966, Hess deviated from its line of trucks by producing an ocean-going tanker, but it wasn’t until 1993 that the company offered a police car and in other years sold a helicopter carrier, monster truck, and this year, a race car. However, the price has gone up from that first truck selling for $1.29 to $24.99 for this year’s model race car.
To find the retail value of your Hess Truck, check

Welcome to My Antiques Blog

Welcome to my blog about antiques and collectibles. I’ve been collecting them for nearly 30 years and writing about them for the last 16. In that time, I’ve covered the gamut from Chippendale to cookie jars, Renaissance Revival to ruby glass. Visitors to my antiques Web site,The Antiques Almanac, send me questions about all sorts of items–some they’ve inherited, some they’ve had for years, and some they’re considering purchasing. All these questions have two things in common: What are they, and how much are they worth?

In this blog, I hope to answer the first question about a variety of antiques and collectibles. In this modern age of multiple-use objects, we take for granted all the different little things our forefathers used in everyday life. I hope to shed some light on these.

The second question is a bit harder to answer. Generally, I don’t give valuations. I leave that up to professional antiques appraisers. The Antiques Roadshow has made everyone aware of the value of everything around them. But as I’ll show in this blog, just because something is old doesn’t make it valuable.

If you have a question about a particular item, please send it to me by E-mail.  Who knows, you may just see the answer in this blog one of these days.