November 22, 2017
The first Hess toy truck sold in 1964 for a mere $1.39.
Today, that same tanker truck can fetch more than $2,000 – in mint condition.
Hess trucks have long been viewed as collectibles. At one point, people regularly lined up outside Hess stations on Thanksgiving Day to get their hands on the toys the moment they went on sale.
Many people still collect the toys. But how much are the ones in your basement worth?
Few Hess collectors hold the expertise of Ray Patterson, a longtime collector who has been selling Hess trucks online for more than 25 years. His website, Ray's Hess Toy Trucks, includes detailed descriptions of each annual model and rare special editions.
"It's a business, but it's a lot of fun at the same time," said Patterson, of Oakhurst, New Jersey.
The most valuable trucks mostly hail from the 1960s and 1970s – when fewer trucks were produced and consumers weren't stashing them away the moment they bought them. But there a several special editions that also command a pretty penny.
According to Patterson, here are seven of the most valuable Hess trucks:
The value of this toy truck is all about the box.
Hess altered its packaging in 1967 by placing its toy trucks in a "red velvet" base that also served as the bottom of its cardboard box. But the change – a one-year aberration – proved problematic. The boxes were not sturdy.
"A lot of times that gets ruined because people would pick up the box from the top and the base would drop out from the bottom and ruin the box," Patterson said.
A "Red Velvet" truck, complete with a box in excellent condition, can be worth about $3,500.
This truck typically commands a higher price than any other Hess truck, Patterson said. And it's all because of a few words that appear on the front panel of its box.
"It's not that the truck is valuable," Patterson said. "But the box says 'Home Office: Woodbridge, (New Jersey)' on the end."
The tanker truck is similar to the model Hess released in 1968. Typical boxes read "Home Office Perth Amboy, New Jersey."
According to Patterson, the number of "Woodbridge" tankers released is unknown. But they can fetch $4,000.
This special edition toy was released solely to company executives to announce a new company name after the Hess Oil and Chemical Corp. merged with Amerada Petroleum Corp.
The truck mimicked the regular edition, but replaced the Hess name with "Amerada Hess" on the side of the tanker.
Only 10,000 trucks were produced. They command more than $3,000.
This is one of the most difficult Hess trucks to find. And again, it's mostly due to its box.
Hess released its first fire truck in 1970. It brought the same toy back one year later, but ran out of the colorful boxes that accompanied the truck midway through production.
The company packaged the remaining trucks in a plain box without any graphics. Instead, Hess station attendants were given "Season's Greetings" stickers to post atop the boxes.
"They would take the stickers, cut them and slap them on top of the box," Patterson said. "A lot of people were disappointed with that, because they didn't get the colorful box. They threw out the boxes."
Those who kept the boxes now have a valuable keepsake worth about $2,500.
Hess released a patrol car as its annual toy in 1993.
But earlier that year, Hess introduced premium diesel gasoline at all of its stations on the East Coast. Sales soared and, as a thank you, Hess sent out a special edition toy tanker truck to bulk customers.
In addition to the Hess logo, the tanker trucks each include a label proclaiming "NEW! PREMIUM DIESEL WITH SUPER DETERGENCY!" on the sides. Only 10,000 were produced.
Each box was wrapped in green gift paper and included a letter and thank you card from Hess.
The special edition sells for several hundred dollars.
This special edition truck replicates the model released to the general public, except its done in chrome.
The trucks were given to a small group of people who worked on a special project for founder Leon Hess, according to Patterson. Only 600 were produced.
There are two versions of the special edition – one that includes a green velvet base and another that used the same cardboard box as the regular edition toys.
It remains one of the few Hess toys made predominantly in chrome, because Leon Hess was not fond of chrome toys.
"He thought they were gaudy," Patterson said.
The special edition is worth more than $3,000.
Hess again changed its corporate name in 2006, dropping Amerada from its name to become known simply as the Hess Corp.
To celebrate, Hess distributed a special edition toy on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
The truck replicated the 1997 edition, which included two race cars that could be held inside the truck's trailer. But instead of having "Hess gasoline" written on the trailer's side, the new company name was printed on it instead.
"It wasn't something you could get," Patterson said. "You couldn't order it. You had to be on the trading floor and know somebody to get one."
About 3,000 trucks were manufactured. They sell for several hundred dollars.