On Saturday afternoon I attended the Toy Hunter panel which featured Jordan Hembrough, of Hollywood Heroes, and two of the show runners from the Travel Channel, including producer Stone Roberts. If you have not yet seen the Toy Hunter, it’s a half hour show that follows Jordan around the country as he sources rare and collectible toys that he will later sell in his online store or at events such as New York Comic Con.
The panel started off with Jordan explaining the concept of the show and a little history about himself. He started Hollywood Heroes in 1995 but has been buying and selling toys at toy shows and events since he was a teenager. Hollywood Heroes really got its start when, after Starlog magazine closed their chain of stores, Jordan, who had been a buyer for the company, was able to purchase the clearance stock from the Starlog stores.
Toy Hunter, which aired it’s original pilot on January 15, 2012, enjoyed enough success that a 13 episode season 1 was ordered by the Travel Channel. After a successful run, the series has now been picked up for a second season of 13 episodes.
A good portion of the panel involved questions from the audience. When asked how Jordan finds his leads he said that many come from write-ins, he receives over 500 emails a day. According to Jordan and the Travel Channel reps, they start out by asking what the potential sellers may have and whether or not they are willing to sell. They also look for multiple contacts in an area so that they can make one trip with multiple stops to help make it worth the cost of travel.
Jordan was asked what his most exciting find was and it was the Jurassic Park prototypes he discovered during the Prehistoric Pennsylvania episode. The prototypes were sourced from a Kenner employee and the find included two unproduced toys.
One audience member asked Jordan if he’d ever opened any high end collectibles and he has, he’s opened some carded Mego figures to display on his desk.
When asked what the most bizarre find was, Jordan brought up his stop in Ashland, NC during the Rise of Ashland episode. He visited with twins who owned a trailer that they had added multiple rooms to. Each room was filled with toys from all different lines and eras but the bizarre part came when he found toys stored in a clothes dryer that wasn’t in service.
Lego is a very popular toy line and hasn’t been covered in the show yet, when asked if that was a possibility, both Jordan and Stone said that we would see bricks in a future episode.
An interesting topic came up with the question of how someone would obtain a prototype for a toy. Jordan had been a buyer for Starlog and in the 90’s salesmen still took samples with them to help sell their items. Quite often they were prototypes that the salesmen ended up keeping. Sculptors and designers from companies also quite often kept the protos for toys they were working on. Networking with these people has helped Jordan and others to uncover these protos over the years.
A popular question for collectors is the “burning house” situation; if your house were burning, what one item from your collection would you grab on your way out. Assuming the family and pets were all safe, Jordan would grab his childhood toys.
Jordan was asked if there were any toy lines that were undervalued and he thought Strawberry Shortcake and 1980’s Barbie were undervalued because there wasn’t a collector base for them.
One of the interesting questions that came up was why did Travel Channel pick up Toy Hunter? Part of it was that there is travel involved, Jordan will even be taking the show international in the future, but it’s also focused on people and their stories which is part of the Travel Channel’s new focus for the future of their brand.
Another fun question that was asked was if there were any toys that Jordan didn’t want or had a bad “vibe” from. His response was Kenner’s Hugo Man of a Thousand Faces and Teddy Ruxpin.
There were a few other questions about the types of toys that were favorites of the panelists (Star Wars and Mego were mentioned), whether video games will be covered in future episodes (they will) and if NASCAR collectibles were considered “toys” (yes, Winner’s Circle was mentioned).
Overall, the panel was fun and some of the stories that Jordan had to share about filming the show were enjoyable. Much of the panel was made up of question and answer but there were a couple of clips from the show that were shown near the beginning. It’s easy to tell that Jordan has a passion for toys and I can’t wait to see the rest of the first season and what they have in store for the second.