Earlier this month we were contacted by Quest TV to let us know that acclaimed toy dealer, Jordan Hembrough, was going to be in London this week, and wondered if we would like the opportunity to meet him. We jumped at the chance! Jordan, if you don’t recognise the name, hosts the TV Series – Toy Hunter. Jordan, during the Toy Hunter show, is on the hunt to find the holy grail of toys and collectibles for celebs such as Hulk Hogan, Gary Busey, Stan Lee and Daryl “DMC” Daniels (Run-DMC).
So, we had Jordan the Toy Hunter available to speak to, but now we needed to find someone to interview him! It was an obvious choice really. Who in the UK could go toe-to-toe with Jordan and discuss their love of toys & collectible. Dan ‘Jazzy’ Perry of fugi.me fame. Of course! A match made in toy heaven.
Dan sat down with Jordan in a Central London location on Monday and talked all good things about Toys & Collectibles. Please enjoy….
Dan: Nice to meet you! Enjoying London?
Jordan: I am. I love it.
Dan: First question. What was your first big find. The one that led you to become the ultimate toy dealer?
Jordan: That was, had to be when I was a kid. Probably 16 and I found a shoebox in a garage sale filled with vintage Hot Wheels and the woman who I was buying them from wanted $1-2 for the entire shoebox. There were some really rare toys there and I think the whole lot went for around probably $800 (£528). So not a bad turn around, I said “Ummm, there is something to this toy dealing. I think I may have to do more of this” So that was really the big find that got me hooked.
Dan: So you were a big toy fan before that?
Jordan: I was. I actually starting selling toys in the 2nd grade on the school playground. When I realised I could sell one or two of my action figures to maybe get myself some extra money for an ice-cream sandwich during lunch. That’s really how I was, a little junior toy dealer at 8 years old.
Dan: What keeps you doing what you do? Is there a holy grail that you’re still trying to find for your personal collection or for others?
Jordan: Yes there are. What keeps me going is the passion for what I do and that I truly love. Folk keeping coming out of the woodwork asking me to find things. You know I’m always looking for new stuff. Right now, I’m looking for a Lost in Space Roto Jet Gun from the 1960’s TV show. I’m looking for a Batman Playset from the 1960 for another customer. It’s constantly knocking on doors and going to all these garage sales/boot sales and trying to find all this cool, rare stuff. You’ve got to keep going until you find it.
Dan: You’ve got a collection personally too, Is there something you’re looking for too?
Jordan: You know I’d like to fill some holes in to my Star Wars collection. I collect Mego dolls. So I’m trying fill some little holes. Really when it comes down to it, I’m pretty ok with my toy collection.
Dan: How do you hunt for your celebratory customers or do they hunt for you?
Jordan: It is a little bit of both. With hunting for the celebs, I treat them like everyone else. I make my phone calls. I call dealer friends of mine, I go to the local fairs and I hunt them down like a normal customer. Every now & again, I mention I’m buying for a celeb – it can help pry it from their hands – so I can get it. I may have to give them an autograph in addition to money or something like that. What has recently been happening is, I’ll go to the celebs that I know and I’ll try grab toys from them as well as they have collections too, which is great. In Season Three of Toy Hunter I do that with Hulk Hogan, wrestling superstar, and I go pick through his collection and I buy for another superstar collector – Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas.
Dan: I heard that Star Wars toys are by far your favourite. What makes you connect with Star Wars toys more than any other?
Jordan: They are. I saw Star Wars when I was a kid in 1976 in the movie theatre. I was like every other kids, I connected with the heroes, the villains, going to a galaxy far far away. There was nothing like it at the time. It came in and changed the playing field for every other movie. I’ve just been hooked ever since.
Dan: There is something about that franchise that seems to connect than any other franchise.
Jordan: They have a saying at Lucas Film that ‘Star Wars is Forever’. Now that it is in the hands of Disney, it’ll last for another 50-60 years.
Dan: Do you have high hopes for the new film?
Jordan: I do. I actually do. I think J.J Abrams is going to do wonderful things with the new movie. At the hands of Disney it’s going to get better & better & better.
Dan: Is everything for sale or do you have anything in your collection that you wouldn’t part with?
Jordan: I do. I have got my personal toys that I had when I was a child. Those will never be for sale. They’re mine. They’re not worth a lot of money. They were the ones that I took to bed with me, or took a bath with, or put in my pocket when I went on a long road trip. So they’re mine. I have all those memories that are connected to that stuff and that’s not for sale.
Dan: Sentimental stuff?
Jordan: Sentimental stuff, it’s my childhood.
Dan: How do you think current licensed toys compare to their vintage counterparts. So say the 70’s Star Wars figures compared to their modern versions.
Jordan: I don’t think there is any comparison. I think the vintage are the better. You know, the funny thing is, somebody asked me about the new Hasbro Star Wars figures, and they said how do you like them compared to the old ones? You know everything nowadays, especially in the toy market, is dictated by cost. How much is it going to cost before it gets done. A lot of people don’t know how a toy is made today and what happens is that a designer will design it out and bring it to a costing engineer. The costing engineer will say ‘that is a great toy, that’s awesome. I’ll come back to you’. He comes back and says ‘It costs too much’. Everything is like that these days. That’s why all the brand new figures are smaller. If you look at them they’re tiny. They’re very, very tiny and it all has to do with the plastic costs and the painting and the shipping costs from china and everything like that. Back in the 70’s while cost was an issue they were more in-tuned to getting around it. Trying to make the toy a little less expensive and try get a good product out. That is what the big difference is. The toys in the 70’s and 80’s in my opinion are far superior.
Dan: There was more passion, rather than people trying to drive up value.
Jordan: There was more passion involved and there was more playability involved as kids played with toys back then. A lot of the toys these days are not being geared up to children, unless they are Fisher Price or Playschool for pre-school kids. A lot of the toys on the market are geared towards the collector. So they are made to be posed in to action poses. If you get them out in to the real world, and start to play with them, they break a lot. Which is really unfortunate for the kid.
Dan: If you were going to buy a current toy, something on sale now, as a future investment what would it be?
Jordan: Hot Toys. Out of Hong Kong. The Hot Toys 1/6th Scale are far and away the best in the market. They are made for the collector market, they’re limited edition. The craftsmanship is next to nothing and I think down the road you’ll see a good return on your investment.
Dan: I hear you have an episode of Toy Hunter on Mexican bootlegs toys. How do you feel about bootleg toys in general?
Jordan: I do! I think there is a market for them. I think a lot of bootleg toys and a lot of people making the bootlegs are going the designer route. They’re making them in wild colours. Much to the way the vinyl market is. I think there is a place for them. I think there is enough room in this market for everyone to make what they want and express themselves and a lot of people do that through bootlegs.
Dan: Where do you see toys going in the future? Do you think the advent of new technologies such as 3D printing will affect the way people collect and buy toys.
Jordan: I think it will to an extent. I think that you will see a lot more customising and a lot more people making their own creations using 3D printers. I think you can get one for as little as $3000 (£2000) so I think you’ll see a lot of that. I think the market will always be there. Toys will be commonly traded as a commodity. Right now, you know, I did an interview a while ago and I was with a group of people and they compared toys to bitcoin. The bitcoin currency. It’s not something you always think about but it’s always there. I think in the future a lot of people will be holding on to toys as investments like that as well.
Dan: Most of our readers come from the Designer Toy scene. Is this something you take an interest in or collect yourself?
Jordan: I do. I don’t collect a lot of designer toys but we sell a lot of them in our Hollywood Heroes gallery in New Jersey. A lot of the Vinyl, Sofubi, the Hikari from Japan, a lot of stuff from Medicom. I think they’re really artistic, new and innovative. There is a place for them. I know people that only collect designer toys. They’re great.
Dan: How does the vintage toy scene compare to the designer toy scene?
Jordan: I think that the vintage toy scene is alot older, an older demographic. Designer is a younger market. It’s a young, emerging hipster culture type of people who are really passionate. Creating new stuff and expressing themselves in different ways. Which is fantastic. The two actually go well together as I’m seeing a lot of vintage toys kinda coming back as designer vinyl pieces. Which are really neat.
Dan: Like the stuff Super7 did with Funko.
Jordan: Super7 is fantastic. Did you see what they did with the shogun warrior? The Storm Trooper. They wanted to do Boba Fett too. They didn’t do it! I don’t think they’re doing Boba Fett. Have you seen what Medicom is now doing with the vinyl super heroes. Batman. Superman. Bizarro. They’re incredible.
Dan: Can we expect a future episode of Toy Hunter dedicated to Designer Toys?
Jordan: I would love to do a future episode of Designer Toys. I would love to do as many episodes of Toy Hunter as I can and vinyl toys are part of the scene. Vinyl toys are becoming part of our culture. All I can tell you is stay tuned to Quest. Keep watching Quest.
Dan: What do you think would be a good strategy for current toy designers interested in making their toys unique and collectible?
Jordan: You know the interesting thing – the easiest thing to do is different paint deco. I mean repainting the toy is something you can do all the time. Are you familiar with boil & pop? The boil & pop method is just as it sounds like. You boil the toy in hot water to soften the plastic and pop off the arms & legs. You can re-arrange them on different toys and things like that. so that is something that is really easy customisable method that everyone can do right now.
Dan: What makes a toy collectible? Great packaging? Playability? Particular franchise?
Jordan: Everything. All of the above. I mean it’s great packaging. Collecabilty factor. I think more than all of that, I think it’s the relationship and the way it resonates with the customer. ok. I think the toy is collectible if the people have a connection to it. Like Star Wars. Like Batman. Like the way you feel about vinyl toys. You really love it and if enough people love it then it will become worth money and it will keep the market going. The thing about collectible toys is that it is so personable. There is no right or wrong answer as it’s your way of expressing yourself and how you feel about something. Everyone has a different view when they all collect something unique. That is what’s so wonderful in this market. Whether you collect toys or cars or anything else. I collect vintage cars, that no ones knows about that.
Dan: With the increasing popularity of high-end collectible licensed toys, which is specifically aimed at adult collectors such as Hot Toys, threezero, Sideshow Collectibles. Do you think these will be the go-to collectible in 20 years time or do you think they’ll prefer hunting down the more readily available kids toys?
Jordan: I think it is a little bit of both. I think that Sideshow & Hot Toys will be a solid investments but I think what will drive collectors to what makes it fun for everyone – is the hunt. So there will always be the hunting at the car boot sales, or the yard sales or the giant toy shows. Because people like the hunt. That is what drives them.
Dan: That is definitely something that I can relate to. What drives the market price of vintage toys? Where does the price come from? Do you always refer to a retail price or a market price?
Jordan: It’s all supply & demand. It sounds so cliche and a cop out me saying that. The truth of the matter is, if the stuff is not out there and people still want it that price is going to go up. Just can’t find them.
Dan: Is there regular toy auctions that these very rare vintage collectibles are found? Are people using eBay?
Jordan: eBay is a great gauge to use. Again, I hate throwing stuff to eBay all the time, but it is truly the worlds market place. So even as dealers, we want to find out what something is going for we’d go on eBay and look at completed auctions to find out what everyone else is doing on this stuff. There is auctions in the US going on all the time. There is a huge auction house in the UK called Vectis. They’re huge. Vectis Auction House. Fantastic. They do all the high end vintage toys and all kinds of pop culture and everything. It’s great. It really is a world wide thing. Toys are collected throughout the world.
Dan: Last question. My parents always joke that I collect toys now in the same way that I did as a child. I would never play with them. I’d buy them and put them on a shelf. I’d look after them. I’d display them. If there was an image on the back, which displayed them all, I’d always try and find them all. They say that has never changed and I’m creeping up to 40 and I do the same. Is that something you can relate to?
Jordan: Absolutely. That is what collecting is all about. You want to collect them all.
Dan: Like Pokemon. Haha.
Jordan: Yeah like Pokemon. You want to preserve what is special to you. Whether you collect the toys, or the cars. I know someone who collects matchstick covers. You want to take care of the collection. You want it to go on display. You want to get enjoyment out of it. I have a gentleman in mind and he is a multi-millionaire and in the past 10 year and he has been buying more and more toys. He’s not buying stocks or bonds. He’s buying toys that he’s putting on his walls and on his shelves in his house. Because he says he wants to get joy out of that. He can’t do that in a bank account. He can take look at his bank account and see how much money he has, but that’s only 1’s & 0’s. He wants to walk in to his rooms and get enjoyment out of that. That’s what its all about. Display it any way you want.
Dan: Later this year, we have ToyConUK. Is that something you’d like to come by and check out?
Jordan: I would love to come ToyConUK. It’s all a matter of the promoters getting in touch with me. I am currently booked in to Antwerp Comic Con in March. And in April I’m doing one in Netherlands. I’d go speak for half an hour and then do a signing session. If the promoters want me there, I’m there. I’ll show up.
Dan: Thanks very much Jordan. It has been a pleasure.
The Toy Chronicle would like to send our thanks to Dan Perry from fugi.me for helping us out and interviewing Jordan. It’s a great interview, we are sure you will agree! Many thanks to Jordan Hembrough for spending time with Dan this week. Also thanks to Quest for hosting this. Very much appreciated.
If you want to catch the new season of Toy Hunter, you can on Quest from Wednesday 28th January at 10pm. Find Toy Hunter on Freeview 37, Sky 167, Virgin Media 172. Well worth a watch! In each of the thirteen half-hour episodes, Hembrough travels the globe armed with his encyclopedic knowledge of toy history and savvy skills of negotiation to track down the rarest pieces for his clients. Whether it’s the Dr. Kromedome doll from “The Six Million Dollar Man” worth $4,000 purchased in Birmingham, United Kingdom or the pristine set of “Star Wars” action figures found in Scottsdale, Arizona – Hembrough and his team are always on the lookout for that special toy.