The new Gold Rush – Hunting for collectibles with Jordan Hembrough ‘Toy Hunter’

Curicon recently had the opportunity to speak with Jordan Hembrough about his new series ‘Toy Hunter’. Not one to turn down a chance to discuss collectibles and valuable plastic treasures with a self-professed ‘toy hunting and collecting geek’, we happily agreed to an interview.

The basic concept of the show is following Jordan as he travels around America, exploring people’s attics and garages in search of collectibles that have, until now, been over-looked. Think ‘Storage wars’ for nerds. In other words, it’s a lot less ‘Antique furniture’, a lot more ‘Star Wars Collectibles’. Still not totally buying it? How about when I tell you the program also includes interviews with vintage toy storeowners and even former Kenner designers? Now, I have your attention!

Speaking with Jordan, it’s clear to see he knows his stuff. And why wouldn’t he? He started his multi-faceted career buying antique and collectible toys for a chain of comic book stores in his late teens. Using this experience, he continued on to open his own store, Hollywood Heroes in NYC.  Jordan has years of first hand experience with collectible toys. Having watched the pilot myself, Jordan gets truly excited when he finds something special. You’ll also find yourself getting excited about the find and it’s so easy to forget that you’re watching a pre-recorded program. His excitement is contagious and you really live in the moment with him!

Jordan opened Hollywood Heroes in 1995, specializing in selling vintage toys and collectibles. Now, Jordan specializes in what he likes to call the ‘Sweet spot’ of pop culture- the 70’s, 80’s, and a little bit of the 60’s. But he explains ‘nothing is off the table right now. “If I find a coo toy from the 1920’s and I think people would be really interested in hearing about it, I’ll definitively go after it as well.”  So it seems he has something to suit every type of pop culture collector.

Getting down to the grittier details, Jordan’s opinion on the most valuable toys. According to Jordan, toys from the 1980’s such as Masters of the Universe and Gem dolls by Hasbro are in hot demand at the moment and some of the Strawberry Shortcake Dolls can be worth up to $300 each.

Strawberry Shortcake dolls – do you have one from your childhood???? Could be worth a fortune!

When asked his opinion on the Cabbage Patch Dolls, Jordan indicated that they didn’t maintain their secondary market like everyone thought they would. This is also the case with some of the newer My Little Ponies, mainly due to the fact that they are so easily obtained. But Jordan once again shows his true appreciation of all toys when he quickly followed up by saying ‘just because a toy isn’t cool, doesn’t mean it’s not cool’.

So what other toys does Jordan rate? Well for one, he believes the Jurassic Park line was one of the last great toy lines from Kenner before Kenner toys shut down. Some of the dinosaur figurines are still as popular as ever, fetching up to $500 a piece, which is quite surprising for such a new toy (i.e. produced within the last 10-15 years). In Jordan’s opinion, this is down to the fact that they were made well and also, because you could literally play with them anywhere. He enthuses ,‘the packaging was great, it was all bright and colorful and it had great artwork on it. It was just a really cool toy line to collect’.

Kenner Toys – still as awesome as when you were 10 years old

It’s clear to see the child-like enthusiasm and love Jordan has for toys. Yes, it’s a business for him, but it’s also a passion. He is excited at the thought of Japanese company, ‘Super7’ are re-producing some of the old classics, helping us all ‘relive our childhood’.

The aim of the Toy Hunter series, according to Jordan, is to ‘bring back a lot of the memories from the 70’s and from our childhood’.

Seeing how passionate this guy is about toys and collectibles, the obvious question to ask is, how does he manage to sell them? I mean, isn’t there an urge to keep all the great collectibles he finds himself? I know I’d be tempted! “It’s called a mortgage, (I’ve) got one. It’s got to get paid every month” Jordan jokes. “I would love to collect and keep everything, you know, everything I find. But I made a decision a long time ago, this is a business”.  But it’s not all tough decisions though, as Jordan admits he does keep some of the collectibles himself. I can’t say I blame him. No matter what field of work you’re in, how difficult would it be to sell on a mint condition Vinyl Cape Jawa?

Ok, so I’ve gone totally off-track (Star Wars, you win again). Back to ‘Toy Hunter’.  Jordan compares hunting for rare toys to hunting for gold. As any collector would probably agree, finding a rare toy (in good condition) is really like striking gold. ‘Toy Hunter’ shares those moments of discovery with its viewers, making it pretty enthralling viewing. Will this lead actually prove a success? How much will The Mad Bubbler toy sell for? Jordan doesn’t claim to be the ultimate collector. He admits he’s made mistakes too, having bought toys for $300 only to find out there was a warehouse full of the same line in Brooklyn and the toys are then only worth $50, so it will be interesting to see his journey of buying and selling as well as the actual find.

In short, I definitely think ‘Toy Hunter’ is worth a watch for collectors or anyone with an interest in collectibles and toys in general. Tune in on Wednesday 15th August on the Travel Channel at 10pm to catch the first episode of ‘Toy Hunter’.

-Alice Carroll

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