Twin Forks Moving & Storage owner Christopher Denon is mad for Hess Toy Trucks. The Bridgehampton businessman has spent more than two decades collecting the annual Christmas toy—buying each year’s release and poring over eBay in search of older models—until finally achieving a complete set going back to 1964.
“I had them as a kid, and when my kids were born in 1995, I started buying them,” Denon says of the collection at his Bridgehampton office. “It was always at the office,” he adds, noting that the Hess trucks were originally displayed on a series of shelves, but it became untenable as their number grew. Eventually, Denon installed a custom perimeter shelf to accommodate his treasures.
Surrounding his front office, and currently lined with Christmas lights and garland, the shelf is a timeline chronicling the history and evolution of the iconic Hess Toy Truck. A second tier shows off 23 Hess Miniature Trucks, or “Minis”—tiny scale replicas of their larger counterparts—released in late spring to keep up collector interest between 1998 and 2018.
The main shelf begins with the original, 1964–65 green and white tank trailer and winds through more than five decades of changing trends, from realistic 18-wheelers, old fashioned classics and fire trucks to more fanciful designs featuring removable jet planes, race cars, motorcycles and even a space shuttle. Most have working lights or some other action feature, like pullback motors, opening doors or extending ladders.
“They’ve got helicopters, they’ve got planes—they’ve got everything in the back of a Hess truck,” Denon says, lighting up as he talks about his obsession. “This year they went back to the motorcycle and the dune buggy,” he adds, describing the 2018 Hess RV, which holds two smaller vehicles and boasts 73 lights—the most ever on a Hess Toy Truck.
The new release is already sold out online at hesstoytruck.com, and Denon says it’s very difficult to find them for sale anywhere else since Hess was acquired by Speedway and closed their stations in 2015.
“There are a few Hess stations that are still around; mom and pops that couldn’t be purchased by Speedway,” Denon says. “Other than that, you’ve got to buy them online.”
Of course buying online is de rigueur for serious collectors. Without eBay, Denon’s collection would have required much more legwork to complete. While he fondly remembers Hess Toy Trucks from his childhood, they were long gone by the time he started collecting as an adult. “I bought them all back on eBay,” he says, “in reverse,” from 1994 back to the beginning. Each truck cost Denon between $75 and $150—the price often going up as the years go down—in its beautifully illustrated original box.
“In 1964 I was five years old,” he points out, explaining that the first Hess Toy Truck came with a red funnel kids could use to fill the gas trailer with water. That original model, dated 1964–65, and The Hess Voyager—a red, black and white tanker ship released the following year—were the last, Holy Grail pieces in Denon’s collection. He finally pulled the trigger and acquired each for the low price of $800.
Though he paid a hefty sum, Denon says it was actually a rare bargain. “The boat that sold for $1.69 [in 1966]—they’re selling for twenty eight hundred bucks on eBay,” he says. Besides, he had every other Hess Toy Truck in the line. How could he not complete the set? “That’s the thing that made me go forward with it,” Denon continues.
“They were great toys, man,” he says, adding later, “But I’m running out of shelf space.”