In between his cross country road trips searching for the next big toy find we caught up with the Jedi Master of Toys, Jordan Hembrough from the hit TV series, Toy Hunter. The show has brought Jordan well-deserved recognition and success. Working in the Toy industry for many years has made him the go-to man for many toy collectors, including celebrities such as Stan Lee, Vanilla Ice and Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas. We chatted toys, the show and what’s next for the Toy Hunter.
Why Toys? How did it all start?
I have had my love for toys since I was a boy. I collected vintage Star Wars toys and had my room FILLED WITH THEM. I remember saving all the boxes for the ship and play sets and calling them “home” to my toys. When I was done for the day, I would stick them all back in their “homes” for safekeeping. LOL
I would imagine as the Toy Hunter you would have a pretty rad collection? Tell us about yours? What’s your favourite and the most random piece?
Actually, I don’t have that much. I have my original figures from when I was a child (Steve and Julia framed them for me and gave them as a gift. It was documented in our Christmas special). I have some movie props and models from Star Wars and Harry Potter that have been given to me as gifts… those are very nice.
I think my favourite piece would be an X-wing fighter model from ILM. After the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, Ebay had something called “Auctions for America.” The premise was that auctions would be held, and all proceeds would go the victim’s families. ILM donated some models that had been built by their model group… specifically for the auctions. I own the x-Wing fighter that was from the auction. It’s really special to me.
What was the best decade for toys? (Mine was the 80s)
For me personally, I think the 70′s and 80′s were really a sweet spot in the toy market. There was a real trend in taking chances, and branching out in new formats. Everything from Kenner’s 3 3/4 inch Star Wars line to the groundbreaking “Masters of the Universe.” Toy companies took chances… they made toys simply because they “were really cool.”
Now, everything in the industry is number crunching and board meetings. Nobody takes chances anymore, and everything runs through committees and focus groups before it even hits production.
I miss the innovation.
What is the best movie, video game or TV series that has been adapted from toys?
Well, if you’re talking about franchises that started as toys… I would have to go with Transformers. Hasbro has done such a great job transitioning the brand to film, TV and even a theme park. It’s a great example of just how far you can take a good idea. I’m actually waiting for “Transformers; The Musical” to hit somewhere in the next 5 years. (joke)
Greatest moment on the show?
Actually, I know it sounds cheesy.. but the very first day of filming season one. We had just been greenlit for 13 episodes.. and the entire cast and crew were full of hope, and dreams. We wanted to do so much… and cover everything! I remember all of us sitting up until all hours of the morning.. just brainstorming.
This was before Season 2 or 3 or even the holiday specials. We were just all happy to be working on a project we loved.
Who have you met toy hunting, at conventions or in the industry that left you fanboying?
Without a doubt, Stan Lee. He is a legend. I wasn’t nervous about meeting him… but very wary and cognizant about who he was.. and his legacy. I remember thinking “okay Jordan, don’t screw this up.”
Stan made me feel very much at home, and we have become good friends and still speak on the phone.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had one of the greatest toy lines starting in the 1980s, which Ninja Turtle would you be?
Michelangelo… because I already have a kick-ass statue named after me.
Favourite Star Wars character from the original 12 Kenner series?
Luke Skywalker. Not just because he was the hero.. but because I identified with him when I was younger. Skywalker was a dreamer, frustrated by his home life… yearning for more to do. I was like that when I was kid. I was always looking for something to do…
I remember for the longest time telling my parents I wanted to be on TV. LOL
Most random toy find?
I think of the most random things we found weren’t even toy related. I was in Tennessee looking through Star Wars toys in some guys shed, when I came across his collection of WWII memorabilia. He had actually inherited much of it from his Grandfather, who was on the grounds on D-Day in Normandy. The collection was incredible; personal notes, photos, and even some very unique German artifacts. I eat this stuff up… since I’m also a huge WWII history buff as well.
Greatest toy find?
Going through a barn in Kentucky and finding a 1963 Corvette hidden under a tarp in the corner. The woman’s husband has stored it there since the 1970′s. I bought that too….
If I wasn’t toy hunting I’d be……..
I’d actually like to start producing some projects for television. I have been around the business since I was young, and grew up with toys and TV. I am working on other projects right now where I am taking a more “behind the camera” role… so stay tuned!
Advice for people who want to start toy collecting?
I always say.. collect what you love!! Don’t worry about how much you think it might be worth in the future.. or what other people say about it. Just have fun. This is a social hobby.. so tell your friends and share your finds with others!
You can see episodes from the first 3 seasons of Toy Hunter on A&E on Foxtel and Go on Free to Air in Australia and stay tuned for more from the Toy Hunter in the future.
Let’s hope this Toy Hunter finds his way to Australia soon!