Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Hess Toy Trucks Roll On
QUESTION: What is the best way to sell a 1966 Hess Voyager Tank Ship? And how do I figure the asking price? The tanker is in the box which is slightly faded and has some damage to two of its corners, plus one of the stickers on the side of the tanker is torn.
ANSWER: It’s Thanksgiving time once again and along with Black Friday comes an equally long-standing tradition—the sale of Hess toy trucks. But the poor economy has most everyone watching their pocketbooks, so even Hess Toy Truck sales, both of previous models and the newest one are suffering. T.V. ads touting the features of Hess’s new truck toy prompt many owners to perhaps dust off older models in preparation for selling them.
Leon Hess knew a good thing when he saw it, and soon the company produced more trucks to meet the demand, including a series of minitrucks. 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, then last year, the company started selling their trucks a week ahead. This year, sales began on November 11, two full weeks ahead. But popularity killed their potential and resale prices fell.
Because Hess toy trucks didn’t gain mass popularity until the 1980s, those few collectors savvy enough to pack one away in its box without touching it are the only ones who can cash in on the higher values of Hess toy trucks from 1964, when they first came out, through the 1970s.
Probably the best place to try to sell the tanker in question is on eBay. This saves a lot of searching for markets—let the collectors search for the models they want. However, most Hess trucks sell on eBay for about $20, around the price of a new truck since 2000 or so.
In one case, four of them, listed for a starting bid of $9.99 on one auction with $21 shipping—twice the cost of the trucks themselves—didn’t even sell. Unless a Hess truck is an early model and new in a pristine box, it has little value.
Hess trucks were one of the first toy trucks to have working lights and sound operated by batteries. The first one came in three different versions. The rarest of these was a Bills 18-wheel tanker with a white top and the Hess logo with a yellow border placed over the Bills logo. The side decals on this model display only the word "Gasoline", its battery card has printing on both sides, and the bottom of its box is black. The most common version features a green cab with yellow fenders. A similar version of this tanker truck appeared in the late 1960's, 1970's and 1980's, but the tank is green, with a white strip, displaying the Hess name, down the center. The tanker then returned in 1990 with a white tank, with the Green "HESS" name on the side. Hess introduced another version of this white tanker truck in 1998 as the first in the Hess mini series.
Leon Hess, founder of Amerada-Hess Oil, originally had these toy trucks made as thank-you gifts to his customers. Some, produced as gifts for stockholders and staff, never went on sale. These are the most highly prized by collectors since only a few of these special trucks were made.
Throughout the years, Hess has offered non-truck vehicles as part of its toy truck collection, including a tanker ship, based on the Hess Voyager, in 1966, a patrol car in 1993, a helicopter in 2001, an SUV in 2004, and a race car in 1988, 1997, 2009, and this year, 2011. In recent years, boxes have contained one larger vehicle transporting smaller friction-motor vehicles, such as motorcycles, race cars, or cruisers.
The Hess Toy Truck is one of the longest-running toy brands on the market. As in past years, the truck will be sold exclusively at Hess retail stores in 16 East Coast states from Massachusetts to Florida, while supplies last. However, the price has gone up considerably from that first truck selling for $1.29 in 1964 to $26.99 for this year’s truck and race car.