• Category: Episodic Recaps
  • Written by Rick Ellis

Recap: 'Toy Hunter' - 05/15/2013

Jordan Hembrough
A show such as Travel Channel's half-hour series "Toy Hunter" doesn't receive a lot of reviews, much less episodic specific recaps. But it seemed like a fun challenge and the nature of the show makes a good fit with the recap format.

If you haven't watched the show, toy enthusiast and reseller Jordan Hembrough spends each episode traveling the country looking for toys and pop culture items he can resell for a profit. We're now in the midst of the second season and the show was tweaked a bit after season one. Several of the new episodes have featured Jordan looking for memorabilia for a specific "celebrity" (Gene Simmons, Danny Bonaduce) and most episodes now have Jordan traveling with a fellow toy reseller. Most trips also now have a stated budget for buying, though from what I've seen Jordan is willing to blow through that guideline if he finds something worthwhile. Overall, the changes seem to be an effort to add a bit of focus to the show. I didn't think season one suffered from a lack of focus, so the changes aren't necessary in my eyes. And some of the additions--such as the celebrity appearances--are just distracting.

Still, the real joy of watching the show comes from following Jordan as he uncovers cool toys and that's in full focus in this episode. This time, he travels to Missouri in search of toys from the 1980s. He admits that he has spent a lot of money in recent weeks and he's feeling a bit cash-strapped. But 80s toys are hot and they are relatively easy to resell for a profit. He plans to focus on that time period, but he does note that while a lot of people have toys from the 80s, not so many folks have valuable ones from back then.

Stop one is in Fenton, Missouri to visit the collection of toy collector Eric. Eric has his collection in the basement, with everything stored in neatly labeled boxes. So apparently Eric is that rare combination of toy hoarder and neat freak. Jordan explains that while the organization is nice, it's also problematic, because anyone this organized is probably also aware of the exact value of every item.

The first thing Jordan uncovers are five Lego collections from the 1970s. Despite his vow to stick to the 80s, he quickly and happily forks over $275. He then finds a boxed 1986 Karate Kid Attack Alley and Training Center. It's a huge building with multiple doors the action figures use. That one sells for $150. Jordan keeps looking through boxes and finds a King Ding and his Brain Robot, a very cool 1971 robot that was part of a line of unsuccessful robots called the "Ding-a-lings." It's worth about $550 retail, but since older toys tend to take longer to sell, Jordan is only willing to spend about $325. His first offer is $250, but ends up getting it for $300.

The next stop is Chesterfield, Missouri, where amateur collector Jim is looking to sell parts of his collection. Jordan is excited, because he has never shown his collection to a dealer, so he'll have first crack at it. Jim has a huge storage room filled with random boxes of toys, but while there is some cool stuff, there's not much from the 80s. Jordan spots some Evel Knievel action figures from 1972, still in the package. He admits that its not the 1980s, but Evil Knievel is still a good seller. Especially this odd Ideal-made "Adventure Set," which featured the stuntman in various travel outfits from an artic suit to jungle camouflage. There's a box with a few sets in it and Jordan says it could eventually sell for $700. But the most he thinks the most he should pay is $375. Jim offers them for $400 and they eventually settle on Jordan's unspoken target of $375.

Jordan finally uncovers a toy from the 1980s. It's a sit-and-skate Roller Racer from Wham-O. He offers $50 and Jim quickly agrees. But Jordan is quickly back to the real vintage toys, picking up a 1960s-era three-foot tall Jolly Green Giant doll for $200. When he's finished, he's spent two days buying items at two different places and only found two 1980s toys. His last hope on this trip is in the small community of House Springs.

Vince has been collecting since he was about three and his bedroom is crammed with toys and other pop culture items. One of the first things Jordan spots is a 1981 Darth Vader collector case, still in the package. While millions of the cases were sold, what makes this particular item so valuable is that it's one of the limited edition cases that also included three rare action figures. Jordan thinks the top price from a collector would be $1,200, so he doesn't want to spend more than $650. He offers $600, but Vince stays firm at $700 and Jordan eventually agrees.

He then snags an old Intellivision gaming system in the box for $40 and a huge Pee Wee Herman doll for $65. Jordan then spots an item he says might be on the rarest 80s toys he has ever found. It's a Wonder Bread He-Man action figure. The figures were only available from a coupon found on Wonder Bread products. Aside from the rarity of the distribution, the figure also is painted with different color hair and boots than the version that was normally found on store shelves. Jordan starts at $125 and eventually settles on $200 for the figure.

Once he's back on the road, Jordan calls his friend Steve, who can hopefully offer up an accurate price for the figure and confirm that it isn't a fake. Steve sends him to Scott, a guy living in an apartment with hundreds of Masters of the Universe products. Steve tells Jordan that the Wonder Bread story is just a rumor and that neither Mattel nor Wonder Bread have a record of the promotion. No one seems to know where the figures originated, but they are rare and collectible. He tells Jordan that if it were mint it would be worth nearly $1,000. However, this one is well-played and Jordan ends up selling it to him for $475.

Jordan tells the camera that he'll probably make about $2,000 on the trip, which still doesn't explain how these trips make any economic sense, given the hotel and travel costs. Despite that, I enjoy this fun show and always enjoy seeing some examples of toys from my past.