Jordan Hembrough is one of those people who's been lucky enough to make career out of what he loves.
The self-professed "toy and collecting geek" got his first job out of college as the head buyer for a chain of sci-fi and collectible stores. Then, he then started his own company, Hollywood Heroes, which finds and sells valuable and collectable toys.
Now, Jordan is bringing his expertise in finding prized playthings to the American TV viewing audience on the Travel Channel's new show, "Toy Hunter," which premieres Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 10 p.m. ET/PT and will run regularly every Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
We were recently able to chat with Jordan about his new show, our old toys, and the cut-throat world of collectible trading. ...
There's a lot of "finder shows" out there -- some are specific and others are pretty general. But, it seems like toys are of a very universal subject. Why do you think it took so long for a toy-finder show to hit primetime?
"You know, that's a very good question. First of all, I do agree with you, toys are the universal - the sort of universal denominator; everyone was a child once and everyone has this real emotional connection with the toys.
"As to, you know, why now, I think the time is right. You know, there are a lot of what I call antiques shows -- you know, whether it be the storage shows or the auctions shows or whatever, and a lot of them have to deal with, you know, the cool stuff that we all find and we all covet.
"But, every now and then a toy trickles in and people get really, really excited about it. I think the timing was just right; people understand that, you know, all these beloved toys from the '80s are coming back in vogue right now.
"And, I really think a big push on all this is a lot of the companies now - the new toy companies are reintroducing a lot of these old brands back into the market again. They're changing them up a little bit, they're reintroducing them as TV shows, a lot of them are movies now. And, I think, you know, a lot of people are embracing it. They're saying, 'Look, this is my childhood all over again.'"
Could you walk us through of how an episode of the show will work?
"Every Wednesday, you guys are going to tune into Travel Channel, and you guys are going to see me on a great journey. ... I'm going to go around the country I'm going to meet with great collectors; everybody from former Kenner designers in Ohio to flea market pickers in Asheville, N.C., and vintage toy store owners in Austin, Texas.
"I'm going to talk about the toys they grew up with, and I'm going to hunt out some of the rare and really cool toys that these guys have stashed away in their attics or basements or everything like that, even if it's something like going to a Batman Collector in Biloxi, Miss., a guy who only collects Batman. I'm going to hunt out for the really rare Batman toys. Really just sit and share a moment with these people about the childhood and why they love what they love.
"You know, people ask me all the time what this show is about and how can I sum up 'Toy Hunter'. And I just say, 'I really think 'Toy Hunter' as a really happy childhood memory.' 'Toy Hunter' is going to bring back a lot of those warm and fuzzy memories."
Are there any toys that our readers might remember -- or even still have in their basements -- that might be worth some big bucks?
"Oh yes. Have you seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lately or Jurassic Park? It's out there. I promise you the great thing about these toys is every few years the next generation starts getting more valuable.
"And if I were to talk directly to the generation of 20 and 30 year olds, I'd say keep an eye on the horizon for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really going up in value because some of the toys are worth $600 today. And look for Jurassic Park because Jurassic Park line by Kenner really has started taking off in the secondary market."
OK. We're glad about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That's good.
"Save yours, don't sell them, save them."
We heard a great story. You found these really valuable Hot Wheels at a garage sale, which an elderly woman was selling, and, you did this amazing good-karma thing where you flipped them on this collector and got a lot more money than you paid her for them. But, then you went and gave the money to the woman because she needed it. How do you, as someone who earns his living by selling collectables, make a decision like that?
"That's a great question. You know, it varies on all circumstances. Naturally I'm in this to make money, OK. It's a business for me. I pay my way through life; you know, home, family, et cetera.
"This woman was very, very unique. She did not have a lot of money. She had problems going on in her life; she had lost her husband. And I saw something in her that really struck an emotional accord with me.
"And every now and then, more often than not, you just got to do the right thing in life and this woman needed money. She didn't know what she had. And, to be honest, it really wasn't hard for me to sell them; they were very, very valuable. I was able to make the deal, you know, effortlessly and quickly.
"And, you know, so I thought to myself, 'You know, here is someone who needs the money more than me.' And I went back and gave her the money and she broke down and cried and she was very, very grateful.
"And it is; it is good toy karma. It's just people helping people. And that's what you've got to do every now and then."
Jordan, thanks for answering our questions.
"Thank you so much. I really appreciate it."
Learn more: Check out the "Toy Hunter" website!
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