Return of the Toy Hunter
When is THIS toy coming out?
A year ago, I didn't know who Jordan Hembrough was. And really, though I like toys, I hadn't been aware of his presence in the toy collector scene. But the show sounded interesting so I said, yes, I'd like to talk to this guy. If nothing else, I figured, we'd geek out over Megos for a minute or two, and that would fun.
Boy... if only I had known how big that interview would be. What I did know after talking to him was he was an energetic, friendly voice on the phone. Watching the show, I see the same guy I talked to. And this year, when The Travel Channel emailed me saying Jordan would be at Comic-Con and asking if I wanted to meet him, I jumped at it.
Yes! Yes! Even today as I write this, my year old interview with Jordan is the fifth most popular article on the site. So let's freshen that up.
Ric edited this into our podcast a few weeks ago, but some people might not have the time to listen through everything for that, so here is a transcript of this year's conversation, up in the "hospitality suite" of Mattel's booth at Comic-Con.
It was Saturday -- already two full days into the Con, and we had an appointment for 9:30 in the morning. We both could have been dragging, but Jordan came over with every bit of energy and enthusiasm he has on the show. Fans were lined up to buy toys at the Mattel booth, and several asked him to stop for pictures, which he happily obliged.
Finally we made it up to the Mattel tower, sat down and got to business.
Derek McCaw: Since we first talked, things have certainly changed for you, blown up. When people asked me what the high point of the Con would be for me, I said, "well, I get to meet the Toy Hunter face to face," and they'd say "that thing's huge!" Did you expect that success? Do you feel like you are a huge thing for the Travel Channel now?
Jordan Hembrough: The thing is, it's funny, I'm very, very fortunate. I keep working all the time, I'm on the road and we're working and then I go home and I'm in my own little world with my family. They keep me very very humble.
Face to face with the Hunter...
I haven't been out and exposed to what the show has done with the fans. I know it's really really popular. I'm very lucky. I don't think I'm the biggest thing on Travel right now; I think there are a lot of fantastic great shows on there that I truly love. I'm honored to be sharing the network with all these great and incredible hosts.
I'm happy with the show we're doing. I'm excited about what's coming up, and I think we just keep getting better and better and better.
Derek McCaw: HERE you're probably the biggest thing on Travel Channel, at Comic-Con.
Jordan Hembrough: At Comic-Con, I'll give you that. (laughs) I'm very very fortunate. I'm lucky. Thank you.
Derek McCaw: You've shot the third season?
Jordan Hembrough: No, we haven't. We're doing pre-production on the third season right now. We're going to be shooting. Probably within the next two months, we're going to start the third season.
Derek McCaw: You've gone through two seasons since we first talked. Has it gotten more difficult or easier? Have people's attitudes towards you changed as you go out and try to do your work?
Jordan Hembrough: It has. It's a double-edged sword, because, like I said, I'm really honored to be on the network and I'm very fortunate. When you go out, you get noticed a lot more. People want to share stories and everything, which is fantastic!
We have a lot of toy collections coming in, which we didn't have before the show. People are reaching out to us. We get about 500 emails a day from people with toy collections.
The double-edged sword is people thinking that because you're on Travel Channel, you're making millions of dollars (not really), and they want to sell you these toys which are way way over-priced sometimes, and I've got to sort through and explain to them I really can't pay this much for them. Even though it's a great toy, it might not garner this (what people expect) in the market. It's a tricky slope. I'm still learning how to walk it a little bit.
Looking down on the toy section of Comic-Con...
Derek McCaw: Is that reflected in the show, and do you anticipate a problem in the third season, having to tell people they have inflated expectations?
Jordan Hembrough: I think it's something that's happening in life in general. Since the show started, I've had colleagues come up to me and say, "you know, I used to be able to buy Hot Wheels for five bucks or six bucks each. Now everybody's seen Toy Hunter and trying to get twenty or thirty."
I think really education is very very important on the show, and you've got to try to explain to people why something is worth what it is, and why it will not sell for what they think it might sell. And that's really the tricky slope.
The real difference between Season 1 and Season 2 is, Season 2 started looking for really more rare toys and interesting collectibles we hadn't gone to before.
Derek McCaw: Have you found anything that's really rare?
Jordan Hembrough: We have! You've got to watch Season 2!
Derek McCaw: Well, I did see the Gene Simmons episode...
Jordan Hembrough: Which was fantastic. That KISS van is a tough one to find, too.
Derek McCaw: How much of that was just Gene setting up for publicity, and how much was real? I mean, Gene Simmons is really marketing savvy...
Jordan Hembrough: Gene is extremely marketing savvy and Gene reached out to us, and was looking for a toy. And he sort of put the notion in our head that maybe we could build an episode around this.
And we ran with it, because he is a smart businessman, and he is a great character for the show! We really thought it would be a great show.
KISS is a toyline that we hadn't done. KISS is pop culture, I mean you can't really deny it. So we thought it was a good mix for The Toy Hunter. We ran with it; we embraced it. I want to hav e him on the show again.
With one flick of his tongue, Gene disarmed Jordan.
Derek McCaw: It was a great episode. I was afraid it was going to have a sad ending...
Jordan Hembrough: No, it worked out really good.
Derek McCaw: As a result, are you finding out that there are other celebrity toy hunters?
Jordan Hembrough: Yeah. There's a lot of celebs that have reached out to us. I can tell you without divulging too much that Season 3 will be packed with celebrities. We're finding out that a lot of big, high-profile celebrities love what we do. They love toys, they love pop culture. They're reaching out to us.
You know, if they're going to be on the show, it's not just an opportunity to market themselves. It's more like an opportunity to show everyone that this really is a universal love. Everyone loves toys, no matter what job you have or how much money you're making.
Derek McCaw: What do you think it is -- I mean, sure, your show is making it cooler to love toys -- but what is it about it, why are so many people collecting toys?
Jordan Hembrough: I think we're becoming more forgiving right now of the whole stigma... the nerd and the geek stigma is kind of cool now.
And you know what? There's so much stuff going on in the world today and there's so much frustration and stress and everything. Toys just bring back a happier life, a happier memory. Some people tell me it's a stress reliever. They just love to hang out with a toy and remember when they were kids and everything. I think more people are becoming receptive to that.
I think they're realizing that it's kind of cool. Toys are fun.
Derek McCaw: So now what toy have you found in doing this series that excited you the most?
NOT the rare Micronauts, just common Time Traveler Micronauts,
but they look like they know something, don't they?
Jordan Hembrough: I found some really rare Micronauts that I hadn't seen before. I was very, very excited. I love Micronauts. I love the Mego Corporation. I love anything Mego, I mean, come on.
And I'm finding stuff that I'd never seen before. Last season I found some Battlestar Galactica toys that I'd been looking for my entire life. And I begged the gentleman to sell them to me, and he wouldn't. I think I even offered him as much as $6,000 for one toy, and he said "no, I'm not going to sell it."
Then I realized, hey, this guy loves it as much as I do, and I'm not going to keep throwing money at the guy. It was just good to see stuff. Because I hadn't seen it in so long, and I love sharing it with people.
Derek McCaw: With Mego, which is my favorite and which thanks to a fire there IS no complete record, have you found anything that you did not know existed? I mean, if anybody could write the book...
Jordan Hembrough: I haven't yet. Looking forward to it, though. I'm always looking forward to finding new stuff. But I haven't.
The closest I've come is to finding some old Mattel Major Matt Mason toys that were never produced, only photographed in a catalog.
Derek McCaw: That's pretty cool...
Jordan Hembrough: And I only found that from some guy coming up to me in Anaheim at Wonder-Con -- he's a producer, actually on a TV show. And he said, look, I'm a producer in L.A. I'm a huge Major Matt Mason fan, I'm a collector, and I found this. Tell me what it is.
We found out that it was actually a prototype. It had been photographed, never produced. So that was GREAT.
That stuff's cool to me. That stuff excites me.
Derek McCaw: I believe you. It's not a line. A lot of people don't know about Major Matt Mason today. I know that Tom Hanks had been attached to a CG film....
Jordan Hembrough: Is that still happening? It would have been COOL!
Derek McCaw: But to younger people it's kind of... blink, blink, blink. And nobody's revived it, which is surprising. Because Mattel (and others) do 8-inch lines like Mego...
Jordan Hembrough: I don't know. It's funny. Matt Mason might be one of those franchises that came and went and maybe the time was done with it.
It's like with The Lone Ranger. It wasn't a very good film, but you've also got to look back at the brand and you had to ask yourself, is the Lone Ranger brand still viable today? Is the whole thing about the man on the horse with the Indian sidekick still relatable to a lot of people?
And I think that's where you might be going with the Matt Mason concept today. You'd have to update it a lot.
'Til next year with Megos?
Derek McCaw: And yet those old Johnny Marx figures are pretty cool... and I'd love to find an old Gabriel Lone Ranger figure, too!
Jordan Hembrough: Yeah! I haven't seen them in a long time, either. Even the 3 3/4" ones are cool, too.
Derek McCaw: Do toy companies ever ask you to consult with them?
Jordan Hembrough: I do. I do consult with Mattel, I consult with Gentle Giant, I do some work with Comic Images, which is a plush company and they do fantastic work. So I do some work in the real world as well.
I hope to bring some of that onto Toy Hunter so people can see what I do, which would be neat.
Derek McCaw: I know you must get swamped with requests, but is there a place that people can contact you? Since our first interview I've had a few people contact me asking about toys that I have, hoping I could pass the information on to you...
Jordan Hembrough: Yeah! People can contact me at sales at hollywoodheroes.com.
Derek McCaw: And you'll get it?
Jordan Hembrough: I'll get it.
Derek McCaw: What's the think YOU look forward to the most at Comic-Con?
Jordan Hembrough: I want to get over to the Super 7 booth and pick up my Alien early bird kit. I called Frank a couple of weeks ago and asked him to save me a couple. I'm going to go over there and pay for them, and that's what I'm excited about. I love the Kenner Alien line, and it never came out.
Super 7 is reintroducing it as part of their "Re-Action" line. And I'm super-excited.
And I love being here with Mattel. They've been so wonderful to us, and the entire show, all season. I'm really happy.
Derek McCaw: And I got all the Mattel toys I wanted from this Con, so I'm happy, too. Thank you, and I hope we can do this again sometime.
Jordan Hembrough: Thank you!