Monday, November 21, 2016

Hess Toy Trucks Still Rolling Along After Over 50 Years

NOTE: This week marks the seventh anniversary of this blog. It also marks a milestone in readership with over 125,000 views. To commemorate both events, I'm presenting an update of my very first post on Hess Toy Trucks.

QUESTION: I want to buy a Hess toy truck for my son for Christmas. I saw an ad for the newest one on T.V. which said I could buy them online. Aren’t they being sold at local Hess gas stations anymore? I remember my first Hess truck. I played with it until it literally fell apart.

ANSWER: A lot has happened since you first received your first Hess truck for Christmas. In fact, a lot has happened to the company in the last three years. The Hess Oil Company has undergone some major changes, the biggest being the selling off of all of their gas stations to Marathon Petroleum. These are set to become Speedway stations by the end of 2017. So naturally, Hess trucks won’t be sold there anymore. Instead, Hess Oil has set up a special Web site to sell its latest truck.

Hess sold its toy trucks online for the first time in 2012, hoping to reach out-of-town customers who didn’t reside near one of Hess’s East Coast gas stations. Last year, it sold them online and at select malls. This year marks the first time that Hess will sell the trucks exclusively online.

Starting in 1964, the Hess Oil 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.

The Hess toy trucks, helicopters, police cars, airplanes, space shuttles and rescue vehicles have been popular Christmas gift traditions for over 50 years. In fact, it’s one of the longest running toy brands on the market.

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 20 years, the value of some of the older Hess trucks has doubled.

Hess periodically has a rare truck such as the 1995 chrome truck with helicopter and the 2002 chrome Mini, which the company gave away at a stockholder meeting. In  2006, it gave a special truck to New York Stock Exchange employees to commemorate its name change from Amerada Hess Corporation to Hess Corporation.

However, 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, one collector 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 true value of a truck is whatever anyone is willing to pay for it.

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, based on the Hess Voyager, a patrol car in 1993, a helicopter in 2001, an SUV in 2004, and a race car in 1988, 1997, 2009, 2011, and this year, 2016. but it wasn’t until 1993 that the company offered a police car and in other years sold a helicopter carrier and monster truck. In recent years, boxes have contained one larger vehicle transporting smaller friction-motor vehicles, such as motorcycles, race cars, or cruisers.

The 2016 Hess Toy Truck and Dragster is a powerful, race-ready duo with sleek styling, drag-racing inspired sounds, over 50 brilliant lights, and an innovative design for wheelie-popping action. The truck is a mighty motorsport flatbed designed to transport the dragster to any racing event. Styled with a solid green lower body and green-accented white upper body, it’s loaded with chrome detailing including a front grill, sunshield, side panels, and exhaust pipes. The cab houses four top-mounted buttons that activate three realistic sounds—horn, ignition, and a race launch countdown, as well as the headlights, tail and running lights. A hidden ramp with slide-activated hydraulic sound ensures this duo can quickly get to the next dragstrip.

The oversized dragster is the largest accompanying race car in the fleet’s history. Its innovative pull-back motor and tilt-activated weight transfer design allows the speedster to launch in either a flat or wheelie position. The racer features super bright LED headlights, a stylish spoiler, and chrome detailed hood-mounted air intake, side exhaust pipes and rear parachute box.

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.

The Hess Toy Truck is one of the longest-running toy brands on the market. However, the price has gone up considerably from that first truck selling for $1.29 in 1964 to $31.99 for this year’s truck and dragster.

Remember, unless a Hess truck is an early model and still new in a pristine box, it has little value. Unfortunately, the market for Hess trucks has been flat for several years, so selling all but the oldest trucks will be a challenge.

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