Consumer Products

The Road to Rochester: Hess toy trucks

Throughout October, Kidscreen will take a peek at each of this year's 12 nominees for the Toy Hall of Fame. Could this toy truck sold at US gas stations find a route into the National Toy Hall of Fame?
October 17, 2014

Throughout October, Kidscreen will take a peek at each of this year’s 12 nominees for the Toy Hall of Fame, located within the Strong Museum in Rochester, NY. Among its inductees are the Duncan Yo-Yo, chess and G.I. Joe. Today, we look at one more toy that could join the list: Hess toy trucks.

Hess toy trucks have been a driving force for sales in the US between Thanksgiving and Christmas since 1964. Promoted widely as something only available to purchase during the holiday season at Hess gas stations, the Hess toy trucks were not only a play item, but also a collectible.

“They were early amongst the transportation toys in having noise, lights and other kinds of features,” says Christopher Bensch, chief curator of the Strong Museum. “One of the joys for parents was they always came with the batteries included. I rarely read that on products today.”

Every year, there was a new model to collect such as the patrol car, transport truck, race car, oil tanker and fire truck. The toys became so popular amongst collectors that supply could not keep up with demand. Sometimes, the latest Hess toy truck had to be bought on Thanksgiving, unless one was willing to venture to a flea market and pay a premium for the collectible.

This fall, the company is taking its entire toy truck collection on a seven-week mobile museum tour along the US east coast. Fifty years since the toys first came to gas stations, however, an end to the holiday tradition may soon be in sight. Hess’s retail operations were purchased by Marathon Petroleum earlier this year and all Hess gas stations will undergo a rebranding to Speedway within the next three years.

“The [toy] trucks will live on—they are going be available on the Internet—but it won’t be quite the same,” Bensch says. “This year, it will be a celebration of 50 years of a great play thing, but also a fond goodbye of a tradition.”

The three main criteria for induction into the hall of fame are (1) longevity, (2) recognition or icon status, and (3) encourage learning, creativity and discovery. This year’s other 11 nominees are: American Girl dolls, bubbles, Fisher-Price Little People, Little Green Army Men, My Little Pony, Operation, paper airplane, pots and pans, Rubik’s Cube, Slip ‘N Slide and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The two inductees for 2014 will be announced on November 6.

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