The company was founded in 1826 by Matthias Hess in Nuremberg, the mark of the company was branded with an ornate Hess h. To date Hess is recognised as one of the first toy manufacturers.

This company was one of the first companies which made toys and toy trains of pressed steel, in fact, long before automobiles existed, Hess produced toy trains without rails. Eventually the automobile came and Hess produced high quality toy versions with lead flywheel motors.

In 1886, son John Leonard Hess took over management of the company that he inherited in 1906. His initials JLH can be found in marks. By 1930, production was discontinued. Toys from the early years are now rare. The decorations of the toys were always good in spite of various techniques. Perhaps most famously were the Heßautos with flywheel drive.

jhl toysBefore World War I Hess also build battleship and submarine toys, at first only as a shift models, later with mechanics.

Karl Hess, the proprietor of Matthias Hess, opted to commit suicide during the economic difficulties at the beginning of the Second World War. Following the liquidation of the company the firm of Leonhard Tauber took over the offices.

Hess value

What's it worth? Take a look at this Hess price guide: sold listings for a value indication.

Hess forum (3 comments)

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Chuck - March 3, 2013

I read with great interest your information about Hess. I collect mostly Hess tin toys of all types. I am still amazed at the variety of toys that Hess produced and find new and different ones on a somewhat regular basis. Hess made a great variety of boats, trains, Hessmobils, Dynamobils and penny toys. I am not aware of Hess making dolls, however I recently saw a Christies auction for a set of Hess doll's size gardening tools, circa 1860. Early, pre-litho toys had the "H" logo embossed into the tinplate. With the use of litho, the logo was printed onto the toy. During the transition from Matthias Hess to J.L. Hess, sometimes both the "H" logo and "JLH" logo were printed together on the piece. The last penny toy I acquired from Hess was pre-litho and only stamped with a patent number which I recognized as a Hess patent. My information has Hess making toys until about 1934, at which time they ceased to trade. I am always interested in any literature as well as toys from Hess that I may not have. hesstintoys at gmail dot com
►reply: Thanks for this great info Chuck!

Jyrki - June 16, 2012

what could a hessmobile train merkur (from 1800-century) be worth? A quite good condition. some parts missing.

Terri - December 5, 2010

Did the Hess toy company ever make collectible dolls?
►reply: I am not sure... hopefully another visitor can tell more. I don't think so though, there were more companies with the 'Hess' name.