Hess Toy Truck collectors go to any
length to find just the right truck. Not just any truck, but that
special truckĖperfect paint, perfect tires, and, most importantly, a
perfect box. Thatís right, a perfect box. To them, itís a quest.
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 first tanker truck originally sold
for $1.39 in 1964 and today sells for nearly $2,500.
Hess Toy Trucks are typically released a
few weeks before Thanksgiving at over 700 Hess gas stations throughout
the East Coast. Large posters, hung in the Hess Station windows,
announce the on-sale date and feature a drawing of the truck.
On the first day of the sale, collectors,
as well as friends and relatives of collectors begin pushing, bribing
and shoving in a line that begins to form early awaiting the Noon start
of the sale. Each year Hess makes a different truck. They are so
collectible that if collectors arenít fast enough, the trucks can be
sold out within a few days. This year, the trucks, selling for $19.95,
went on sale on November 16, with a limit of two per customer.
As the story goes. Leon Hess, owner of
the company, turned to talk to a man sitting behind him at a New York
Jets football gameĖHess also owned the Jets. He told the man about a
tanker truck that he wanted to sell through his stations as a reward to
his customers and, of course, as a nice piece of product advertising.
Hess was the first company to manufacture
trucks that have working lights and sound. Originally, Louis Marx and
Company manufactured the trucks in Hong Kong, at least until they
stopped making them in 1970. Since then, the trucks have been made by an
unknown company first in Hong Kong, and, since 1987, in China. It takes
three years for the product, from its original conception, to reach the
gas station shelves.
Hess insisted that the trucks be correct
in every detail, including the paint colors. Originally, they came in
dark green and yellow with white trim. But when the Hess Oil and
Chemical Company merged with Amerada to become the Amerada Hess
Corporation, the livery changed to white with green trim. Nonetheless,
the trucks are of excellent quality. The later trucks also came
wonderfully equipped, offering lots of interactions for the children who
received them as Christmas presents.
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 itís considered to be "MIB" or
Mint-in-Box. This means the box must have no tears, no marks, and no
dented corners. Inside the box is a long piece of white cardboard that
holds the truck in place. This cardboard piece has to be in mint
condition, also. There were also instructions printed on a small card
found neatly tucked alongside the truck or on the bottom of the box.
The first truck in the Hess Toy Truck
line, modeled after a Mack B-61 tanker, came in dark green, yellow and
white plastic. This truck has a very unique feature not found in any of
the other Hess trucks. It came with a funnel to fill the truck with
water so a child could spray water out of the attached delivery hose.
This model is smaller than the other semi-tanker trucks in the series,
measuring just over 12 inches from bumper to bumper. The truck has head
and tail lights which a child can operate by a switch at the rear of the
cab. The two-piece box, colored green, white and yellow, features
refinery and service station scenes. The bottom half of the box is solid
green. The package also includes a detailed instruction card. This truck
has become a very rare, sought-after collectible. A mint condition truck
and box today can be worth up to $2,500. Hess issued the identical truck
One of the most unique Hess Toy Trucks is
actually a replica of an the actual Hess Oil tanker ship Voyager. As the
only ship in the Hess toy line, this 1966 model has become very popular
with serious collectors. It has a white bow and stern light, and red and
green port and starboard lights. This is the longest of all the Hess
toys measuring 18 inches. One problem with this toy is it has many
little pieces--anchors, flags, radar, masts, propellers--which can
easily be broken. This makes a truly "Mint" Voyager Ship a
very rare and extremely valuable piece. It came with one of the more
colorful boxes, featuring a multitude of pictures including refinery,
service station, and home delivery scenes. However, the box sports a
misleading statement--"Made in USA"-- but the toy was actually
made in Hong Kong. It comes with an instruction card which is colored in
the same blue as the box bottom. Not until 1995 did Hess add another
item that wasn't a truck. When it was new, the Voyager sold for $1.89
and now 32 years later a mint ship can bring up to $2,400.
One of the hardest to find in mint
condition is the 1967 truck This truck is the only one in the Hess
series of holiday toys that came with a display base. Collectors refer
to this truck as the "Red Velvet" because of its attractive
red velvet base. A split-window tractor with a fuel oil tanker, it comes
with a removable hose but cannot be filled with water like the 1964/5
edition. A sign on the passenger side reads "FUEL OILS," and
one on the driverís side reads "GASOLINE." The Hess Company
logo is on the back and rear sides of the trailer, as well as on the cab
doors. Colored mostly dark green, with white, red, and yellow accents,
it has working head and tail lights operated by a switch on the
underside of the tanker. It came with a card which states, "The
battery is already installed for you convenience." However, the box
isnít as colorful as the 1964/5 or the 1966 editions and has pictures
of the truck and Hess service stations.
The above truck is also harder to find in
mint condition due to the boxís red velvet bottom. Collectors find
this to be a really desirable piece since it was a complete new design
for the truck, now featuring a split window. Itís also one of the
rarest in the line. When it was new, it sold for $1.99 and now commands
a price tag of about $1,500.
The 1970 Pumper, the first fire truck in
the line, came with a detachable two-piece ladder that hung on the truckís
side and two rubber hoses. Bright red with lots of chrome, it was a
replica of an actual fire truck used at the Hess refinery in Port
Reading, New Jersey. Unlike the other trucks in the series, this fire
truck had only one light--a red emergency light that rotated on the top
of the cab. A small battery-operated electric motor rotated the light.
With the exception of the helicopter on the 1995 truck, this is the only
Hess truck to have used such a motor. A swiveling water cannon sits atop
the truck. And unlike the 1986 and1989 fire trucks, this one wasnít a
bank. The box featured pictures of the truck and comes with an
This is one of the last toys to be
produced by Louis Marx and Company. There was also a 1970 USA pumper.
The 1971 Pumper was the same as the 1970, but a "CAUTION"
sticker was put on the top of the box. Another variation of this truck
occurred when the manufacturing company ran out of the traditional silk
screened boxes and shipped the truck in a plain white box with
"SEASONíS GREETINGS" on it. When it was new it sold for
$1.69 and now can bring up to $700, and with the 1971 "CAUTIONí
sticker, about $800. However, the "SEASONíS GREETINGS" truck
can bring up to $3500.
The year 1975 brought with it another
newly designed truck and box. This box-type tractor trailer featured
sliding doors on its sides which opened to reveal three Hess fuel
barrels. As the first box type truck in the Hess series, its cab was
similar to the previous trucks but had a one-piece windshield instead of
the split one found on earlier models. Sliding the door at the front of
the trailer reveals the battery compartment disguised inside a crate.
The sliding side door at the rear of the trailer reveals the oil drums.
These drums didnít come with Hess labels like the 1976 and 1987
models. The pair of doors on the rear of the trailer also open. The
truck has working head and tail lights operated by a switch on the
bottom of the trailer. The box sides display the corresponding front,
rear, and side views of the truck. The top of the box has a picture of a
Hess gas station. The box top lifts up to reveal the truck. It comes
with a battery installation instruction card and a top and bottom
cardboard insert to protect the truck.
The most common 1975 truck was made in Hong Kong, but thereís a
variation of this truck that was made in the USA, but only 20-40 of
these trucks have ever been accounted for. That makes the USA-made
barrel truck extremely rare. The truck sold new for $1.99. Now the
common truck brings around $400 while the USA-made truck brings up to
The 1980 truck was an escape from the
traditional truck. Modeled after an actual van that Hess used to conduct
training seminars at Hess service stations, itís a 12-inch, white GMC
RV with green accents. The side door actually opens and the TV antenna
on top pops up. It has chrome bumpers, side mirrors, hubcaps, and
wipers. It has working head and tail lights operated by a switch on the
bottom. The Hess logos on each side also light up. It also has marker
lights on the top, but they donít light up. One thing about this truck
that confuses people is that itíis dated 1978 on the bottom, but this
truck was definitely only issued in 1980. The box is the first one piece
box in the Hess series, meaning that the truck slides out the side end
flap opening, instead of being lifted out. The box is mostly green with
an image of the truck on each of its four sides. The top of the box
features the Hess logo and "TRAINING VAN" in big, bright
yellow and white lettering. When new this sold for $3.29 and now brings
In 1984, the Amerada Hess Corporation
began producing tanker truck banks. While they are similar to the 1977
and 1978 models, they feature a coin slot at the top rear section of the
tanker. Another big difference was there were no longer decals on the
truck, so collectors didnít have to worry about them peeling off. The
words "HESS", "GASOLINE", and "FUEL OILS"
were now molded into the plastic. The box is now the one piece variety
where the truck slides out the end flaps. On the (2) end flaps it has
the front & rear view of the truck. On one side it has a picture of
the truck setting among some city buildings, on the other it just shows
the truck with a hand placing a coin in the coin slot. The top as the
Hess logo and "Toy Truck Bank". The bottom contains
instructions for battery installation and bank compartment instructions
In 1987, Hess issued a totally new truck
from the design to the colors. The company replaced the traditional
white, green and yellow with white and green, matching the color scheme
of their service stations. This box truck features three green Hess
barrels inside. In addition the operating head and tail lights, this
truck has operating running lights on the front and rear of the trailer
and marker lights on the top of the cab. The truck is also a bank,
featuring a coin slot on the top rear of the trailer and a door on the
back which opens up with the turn of a red knob to retrieve the coins.
The two sides of the box feature the
truck parked in a winter wonderland next to a frozen pond with ice
skaters and a lighted Christmas tree. The end flaps contain front and
rear views of the truck and the bottom contains battery installation and
bank compartment instructions. Amerada Hess had approximately one
million of these trucks made, compared to the 150,000 run of the 1964
truck.. About 90 percent were made in Hong Kong while the remaining 10
percent were made in China, which makes the China version worth more.
The two versions are identical except for the "made in..."
designations on the battery door and box flap. There were also a small
number of "smooth coat" trucks where the chrome door step is
smooth rather than the diamond pattern. These are also worth more than
the regular version. The serious Hess truck collectors like to have all
three versions of this truck.
The first race car carrier appeared in
1988, giving children two toys for the price of one. The cab design on
this truck changed, replacing the spoiler on top with an air conditioner
compressor. The trailer carries a Formula style friction powered race
car which also includes the date on it's license plate. The car does not
have any working lights, but the truck has a switch on the bottom that
operates working head and tail lights as well as running lights on the
trailer and marker lights on the top of the cab. The truck is about
12" long and the car is about 5" long. The box features the
truck parked next to a Hess gas station with Christmas trees and
mountains in the background. The bottom contains battery installation
instructions and race car operation instructions. Hess did something
this year that they should have done from the beginning. They added the
year to the license plate of their trucks. When new this truck sold for
$6.95 and now sells for about $70. Thereís also a Chinese version of
this truck which sells for $60.
With the exception of the 1966 Hess
Voyager Tanker ship, the 1993 Hess Patrol Car represents the only other
time that a Hess toy wasnít a truck. This patrol car has two switches
on the bottom. One turns on all of the lights. The other is a
four-position switch. The first position starts the lights flashing. The
second activates the first siren. And the third position activates the
second siren. Although not as detailed as other Hess toys, the flashing
lights and sirens make it a great toy for children. The box contains
pictures of the patrol car parked next to a Hess gas station and
includes instructions on the bottom. Over the years the company has also
manufactured short run "special vehicles" to commemorate
special events or products, giving them as gifts to employees and
station owners. These have become extremely valuable and are rarely
offered for sale.
The Split-Window Amerada Hess Tanker,
issued in 1969, is one of those trucks. As one of the rarest trucks in
the Hess collection, Hess gave it to their employees to announce the new
company name. In 1969 the Hess Oil and Chemical Corporation merged with
Amerada Petroleum Corporation. The new name became the Amerada Hess
Corporation with the Hess Oil and Chemical Company becoming a division.
This truck is identical to the 1968/9 version with the exception of the
decals on the side of the trailer. "FUEL OILS" and
"GASOLINE" moved from the front to the rear side of the tank,
and "AMERADA HESS" is on the front side of the tank. Also, the
Hess logos on the cab doors were removed. The pictures on the box
changed to reflect the new truck.
The 1993 model, a limited edition truck
given as a gift to bulk Premium Diesel customers and friends of Leon
Hess, also wasnít available to the general public. Itís the same
truck as the 1990 Hess semi-tanker with the graphics changed. For the
lucky few that received one of these, it came in a green gift wrapped
box with a separate gift card. Hess produced only about 10,000 of these,
making them very valuable. The box contains a picture of the truck with
a Hess refinery in the background.
more articles by Bob Brooke, please visit
his Web site.
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