QUESTION: I was a Hess dealer from 1969 to 1982, station Numbers 30293 and 30298 in Maple Shade and Millville, New Jersey. I clamped the Hess Toy Truck gasoline tanker display to the top of the oil rack on the gas island. Hess Oil issued one of these for each island oil rack. Have you ever seen one of these? The Hess Training Vans came packaged six trucks to a box and four boxes to a master carton. Only one of these have been out of the box to take photos. Notice the sharp corners on the boxes that are still green and not white and end flaps are still flat and not rolled. I’d like to sell these items but don’t know how or where. Can you help me?
ANSWER: People ask about selling Hess Toy Trucks all the time. Unfortunately, the market for them is flat, so sales are sort of in the dumps at present. However, there are other ways to unload your antiques and collectibles. Have you ever considered crossover sales?
Most people associate the word “crossover” with SUVs. But in fact many antiques and collectibles can also be crossovers—they have collector appeal in more than one field or category. For example, an early 20th-century calendar showing bicyclists attracts not only ephemera collectors, but also antique bicycle enthusiasts.
This person has some really unique pieces which although they may not appeal to the typical collector of Hess Toy Trucks—except for the trucks, themselves—they may appeal to a wider market of both advertising and gasoline memorabilia collectors, especially since Hess Oil sold off its gas stations last year. The display cases are particularly interesting. Also, anything bearing the company logo will sell.
Second, you have to plan to sell to a targeted audience. Let’s look at some of the right and wrong possibilities.
The first marketing level, the yard or garage sale, depends on people who impulse buy. The regulars make the rounds each Saturday, hoping to find some items that interest them. Sure, there may be some collectors in the group, but the chances of a collector of a particular type of antique or collectible finding an item they collect is a million to one shot.
The second marketing level, the flea market, depends on a similar group of people. However, this group includes more collectors, who browse flea markets looking for items to add to their collection. It’s always hit or miss. A collector never knows what he or she will find on a given day.
The third marketing level is the antiques or collectibles dealer. Most people don’t realize that when selling to a dealer, they’ll only get half or less of what their items are worth. Here, the number of collectors is higher than previously, but the monetary returns are low.
Computer technology and the Internet have dramatically changed how people sell things. For the most part, the audience is made up of mostly collectors—people who are searching for specific items to add to their collections. It’s so much easier to sit at a computer and search for a specific item than it is to go out hunting for it. Plus it saves on gas.
When eBay began, it was the only game in town. And in this case, “game” was the right word. People went on eBay to play the “bidding” game before sophisticated video games began to take up their time. They would bid on items for which they had only a marginal interest, bidding them up to see if they could “win” the item in the last second. This caused the prices of antiques and collectibles to rise substantially beyond their actual value.
But now eBay is just one of many online sales venues. In fact, bidding plays only a small part in eBay sales as more and more buyers prefer the “Buy It Now” option.
To successfully sell online, divide up what you have and sell individual pieces. This applies especially to items like Hess Toy Trucks. Some people have been collecting them for years and want to sell their entire collection to one person. Although that’s the easy way out, they’ll make a lot more money selling everything a la carte.
Before attempting to sell any antique or collectible online, see what others like it are selling for, then either match or offer a slightly lower price. Offer the item in several categories, maximizing its crossover potential. It’s all about competition—and there’s loads of it online today. Lastly, be patient. It may take a while for the right buyer to come along.