Toy Hunter on the Travel Channel

Along with SyFy’s Collection Intervention there is another show this fall that may appeal to toy collectors, Toy Hunter. While Collection Intervention (my look at the first episode here) changes the collections from show to show, Toy Hunter is about one and only one thing – toys.

The show is on the Travel Channel and highlights trips to parts of the US with Jordan Hembrough while he looks for toys to sell in his business. He is a large toy dealer and runs Hollywood Heroes, based in New Jersey. If you wondered how he gets his leads, you can find it on their website where you can contact him to buy your collection. He uses these trips to find things he can sell for a profit. Each show is a half hour and he usually sees 2 or 3 people per show and each show has a bunch of smaller deals and one big deal.

Although it is on the Travel Channel, you won’t really get a flavor of each area from this show. It takes place inside people’s houses, garages and attics, and generally they all look the same on the inside regardless of the region he is. The collections he sees don’t really vary from region to region either, so there isn’t a bias towards one line or another in any given area.

So far there has been a 1 hour pilot and 4 regular shows, with a new episode on September 10, 2012. If you need a simple mash-up to describe the show it would be ‘Storage Wars’ meets ‘American Pickers’. The common theme here is that it is told from the dealer’s perspective, so it can rub collectors the wrong way. Dealers are in business to buy low and sell high and their attachment to items on the show is financial more than emotional.

Host Jordan Hembrough can come across as annoying at times. He has an enthusiasm that sometimes seems manufactured when he finds a gem in his hunt, like he is trying too hard to be entertaining. He really suffers in comparison to Elyse Luray on Collection Intervention because even though she is less enthusiastic and more mercenary, she is more attractive. Jordan has a better specific knowledge of his goods than she does, and actually has a personal interest in many of the lines he buys and sells. It doesn’t interfere with him buying at a low price, but you can tell there are some lines he actually cares about.

For a collector this is a show that you probably will have some issues with. Aside from the financial motivation, Jordan knows a little about a lot of things but doesn’t have a detailed knowledge of everything he sells. Yes, he did mispronounce Darkseid but the point wasn’t that he knows (or even cares) who Darkseid is, he knows that the item could be valuable. That is what he needs to know as a dealer.

When Jordan goes into exposition mode to explain some information about a toy or line it can be a bit dry if you already know it (or know more than he does). This is for the non-collector audience and not for the hard-core and knowledgeable collectors. It reminds me of when comics would add in a page to set up events and characters prior to a story – long time readers hated it because they knew everything but the casual or new fans liked it because it helped keep things straight. The nice thing that can come out of this is that you might just get a new collector who gets interested after hearing that.

Jordan buys the stuff with the goal of flipping them for a profit, generally about doubling his investment. Collectors don’t really like this and it seems the people he is dealing with could easily sell the items themselves and make the profit on their own. Of course, if they did that there wouldn’t be a show and they couldn’t be on TV. While eBay might love a show about people going through their attics and selling things online, I don’t know if the Travel Channel would.

Jordan also has written a short piece about turning your hobby into a profitable business. I found it to be full of good advice if you want to make a profit and shows why you need to judge him as a dealer, and not a collector. He isn’t a collector in this role and he shouldn’t be expected to be or act like one. Collectors may not like this, but he is the guy you buy stuff from and he is an important part of collecting.

He also had a short article/interview for Men’s Health. It echoes a lot of the other article and a warning – while the article is safe for work some of the links on the Men’s Health site are not safe for work and are for a mature audience.

He actually does follow his own advice as well. He tends to make a bunch of small sales and rarely commits to a high dollar amount out of his pocket. For the big ticket items he will usually work on commission, thus reducing his risk. It is smart business where he may lose some sales but never puts himself at financial risk.

Probably the best part of the show for collectors (aside from the smugness of knowing how to say Darkseid) is the collections Jordan finds. There is a voyeuristic aspect to seeing other people’s collections and how they display them. Sometimes it is to see things we wish we had or to just get some ideas of how to show off what we do have. And yes, in an episode when he goes into the garage of a collector to see his superhero toys my first reaction was to say ‘he has a bunch of IKEA Detolf cabinets’.

The other part that I found very cool was when he brought in (or went to) some of his ‘experts’. Then you get someone with a very high level of knowledge and detail. This is a treat to see, especially when they focus on a few item or even a single one.

The show really stays on target with the premise. Jordan goes, he sees and he buys. We usually only get his expected return rather than an actual sale, but there are exceptions. One episode ends with an auction and the sale of the Star Wars pedal speeder bike in another episode, but I am more interested in seeing what he actually got rather than an estimate. Generally the actual sales we see only cover the big ticket item of the episode.

Overall the show is not bad. It shows the dealer side of things and you will get to see a few interesting things and people. It is only a half hour and if you record it you are looking at 20 minutes or so unless you feel the need to fast forward. It is worth recording and watching, but I wouldn’t plan my week around it. That is what the NFL is for!