The 'Toy Hunter' Takes On Comic-Con
By DAVID WEINER
July 24, 2013
Toy Hunter star Jordan Hembrough is gearing up for a third season of surprises next year on Travel Channel, and the overgrown child from Jersey was like a kid in a candy store at this year's Comic-Con in San Diego as he shot footage for a future episode and pounced on some of the coolest collectibles to hoard for himself. As ETonline's own resident overgrown child, I couldn't miss an opportunity to talk toys with Jordan -- and how "these kids these days" just don't understand…
David Weiner: I’m a huge fan of your show on Travel Channel, which you just finished your second season. I am your demographic … I’ve had some of the things that you drooled over, namely the Godzilla Shogun Warrior, I still have that; the Kenner Alien 18-inch action figure, that kind of stuff, so I just get very excited when you get excited over these things.
Jordan Hembrough: And I do a lot -- get excited.
DW: You are at the nerd prom. You are at the mecca of toy Elysium. When was the first Comic-Con you attended?
JH: Oh my gosh. Not San Diego. The first Comic-Con -- back then they weren't even calling them Comic-Cons back then. I've been doing this 25 years. So they were like conventions, toy shows, something like that. But I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old, professionally.
DW: How does San Diego Comic-Con compare to New York Comic-Con?
JH: It's like Mama Bear and Baby Bear. San Diego is the mother of all Comic-Cons, so it's huge. It's not just a toy show anymore – it's a giant multi-media event, which is fantastic. … In my opinion, San Diego Comic-Con is the biggest in the world right now, rivaled only by maybe Hong Kong and Paris.
DW: When you come here, do you have a wish list, and what is on your wish list?
JH: I do. I want to look at a lot of the exclusives that are done from the vendors like Mattel and Gentle Giant and stuff like that. … I want to get the Monster High dolls for my daughter, they're incredible. I want to look at some of the Battlestar Galactica Hot Wheels they have this year. Gentle Giant has some great Star Wars figures that I’m excited about -- all that stuff, I love it. I'm a big geek.
DW: What were some of your favorite toys when you were a kid, and do you still have them?
JH: Star Wars. Still have my original Star Wars action figures from when I was a child. They mean the world to me. They’re not worth anything, probably worth 50 bucks total, but to me they’re priceless. I was a big Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers fan; I love the whole sci-fi and space stuff. Superheroes, Mego dolls -- everybody had Megos growing up in the '70s. It was a fun time to be a kid.
DW: Did you have a privileged enough childhood that you could get your hands on a lot of things, or did you have to save your pennies or wait until the holidays or a birthday?
JH: I was very lucky. My mom and dad understood how much they meant to me. I think they really appreciated how much I enjoyed them, so I was very lucky as a child with the toys. I had a lot of great grandmothers and grandfathers and aunts and uncles that really spoiled my brother and me, and I saved the toys too.
DW: Now, the toys that are available today compared to when you were a kid, is it a level playing field?
JH: No, I don’t think it is. I think the toys today are a lot more advanced, digitally and with the Internet and things like that, but I don’t think they spark as much imagination and creativity as we had when we were children. I mean, we had nothing. We had maybe a toy and maybe you’d go outside and that was a whole new world, or you’d grab your pillows in bed and make mountains and you’d drive your Hot Wheels up them. There was so much more creativity and imagination when we were children, and now I think a lot of that, with the Internet, is being spoon-fed to you, because you’ll download an application and you’ll have a game, but it will already be in a world; it’ll already be on a different planet in a digital realm. When we were children we had to create all that with our minds.
DW: What are you going to chase after at Comic-Con? You’ve got your cameras, you’ve got your crew, you’re in Elysium as I’ve said.
JH: I think I’m going to be going after some of the Gentle Giant exclusives -- the giant 12-inch Yak Face, the Alien figure; I’ll probably be going over to the Super7 booth and picking up some of the vintage Alien ReAction figures, which I was smart enough to call two weeks ago and actually tell the president of the company that I wanted a few. I'll be paying for them. … They’re fantastic – they're already sold out.
DW: And how do you feel about their Early Bird special?
JH: That was the highlight of the show for me. I think it was the highlight of the show for everybody, because nobody saw that coming. That giant throwback to Star Wars and the Early Bird kit from Star Wars -- from what I heard in the collecting community, from what I was reading in the boards and talking to other collectors, it just blew everyone away. Very, very smart, very shrewd marketing move on the part of Super 7.
DW: Have you ever been interested in manufacturing your own toys?
JH: It's something I’ve dealt with. I don’t know if I’m actually going to go after it full time. It’s a lot of money, it's a lot of risk, it's not exactly something I think I want to open myself up to right now. I might consult on a line I’m actively involved in, but I don’t know if I’m ready for the financial responsibility right now to shoulder that burden.
DW: What would you be interested in doing?
JH: Oh, I would do a Toy Hunter figure -- I would do a Jordan figure. That’s really what I would like to do right now, just sort of put out toys based on the brand, promoting the show, promoting Travel Channel, that type of stuff.
DW: And you have kids?
JH: I do. I’ve got two. I’ve got two teenagers who are more interested not really in toys, but downloadable applications and what they can get off a smartphone.
DW: Did you try and push your toys on them, and your era’s toys on them? And how did that go over?
JH: It went over not so good. I mean, they were excited -- they didn’t get as excited as I did because it’s a different era.
DW: So it's dad’s old toys that don’t articulate well.
JH: Yep. Exactly
DW: "I never saw Planet of the Apes, so I don’t know why he’s handing me this Mego doll."
JH: Exactly. "What’s a Mego doll? What’s Planet of the Apes?" You've got it.
DW: Who are some of the biggest celebrity collectors that you’ve dealt with in previous seasons, and who would you like to work with in the future?
JH: Gene Simmons was fantastic to work with. Danny Bonaduce was great. Danny was real, he was a true fan and he really loved the stuff. He was looking to buy toys for his daughter. … There are a lot of collectors out there who are celebrities that I’d love to work with: Quentin Tarantino is a giant collector; Seth MacFarlane I would absolutely love to get on the show because I love everything he does; Rob Zombie is a great horror collector -- we’d love to get him on the show. Basically anyone who wants to reach out. I’d love to work with everybody, because they share that passion.
DW: Well, good luck with this upcoming third season.
JH: Thank you. We expect to have more celebrities, and we're teasing the audience right now about going international, which we plan on doing, and we’ll be back in 2014, so just hang in there.
DW: And the difference between men and boys?
JH: The price of the toys! (laughs)