Monday, January 27, 2014

'Toy Hunter' show visits local comic book store, Metro Detroit area

Taping at Wonderworld Comics in Taylor.
Jordan Hembrough has been buying and selling toys for decades, but it’s only been the last few years that a camera crew and a slew of producers have been following him around as he scours the country for the “holy grail” of toys.

The third season of Hembrough’s Travel Channel show, “Toy Hunter,” debuts at 9 p.m. Wednesday. This season promises to be the biggest yet, according to the star.

SLIDESHOW: Behind the scenes of "Toy Hunter" taping.

“We’re going to have more celebrities and more high dollar toys this season.” Hembrough said. “We’re having people from the wrestling world, football players, rock stars. We’re going to be looking for the ‘hero toys,’ things that are worth $10,000 and $20,000.”

But the high dollar toys won’t necessarily be the rarest toys featured on the show this season.

“I can’t pay retail,” he said. “As a dealer, I have to make some money. When talking about how rare something is the excitement is genuine, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth a lot. Rarity doesn’t necessarily equate into high dollar amounts.”

One of the celebrity clients that Hembrough will be shopping for this season includes Detroit Lions defensive tackle Israel Idonije. Other stars lined up for season three include Gary Busey, Vanilla Ice, Hulk Hogan and Stan Lee, among others.

One of the stops that Hembrough made while shopping for Idonije in December was at Wonderworld Comics in Taylor. Hembrough and companion Dave Gaule were searching for “classic” action figures that Idonije could use to inspire a toy line for his own comic book characters.

Self-published by Idonije, the comic “The Protectors” is printed through Athleta Comics.

Idonije said that he came up with the idea for the book during training camp in 2007 while he was a member of the Chicago Bears. The story combines sports action and superhero action to tell the tale of football’s Isaac Chike, baseball’s Miguel Montiero, basketball’s Douglass Larter, soccer’s Danielle Peters and hockey’s Gerard Rioux. The group, all stars in their respective sports, come together to form “The Protectors,” a group of genetically gifted individuals with abilities beyond normal humans.

“I’ve known Dennis (Barger, store owner) for a couple of years,” Hembrough said. “I was going to be in the area, so I went out and saw him. While I was there we decided to poke around and see what we could find. It was a great time.”

Barger had nothing but praise for Hembrough and the entire crew of the show.

“It’s great to get a national show like the ‘Toy Hunter’ to cast a positive spotlight on Downriver,” he said. “Jordan and his whole crew were amazing. (They) were so un-Hollywood it was refreshing to see.”
For the third season, the show is going more regional rather than basing each episode solely on a single hunt like in the past.

“We look through all of the requests we’re getting from people,” he said, “and try to pick three or four people by region. That helps us figure out where we’re going to go.”

“You’ll see us in Michigan for three or four days. It really brings the travel aspect to the show. We’ll be able to focus (landmarks) to highlight specific areas for Travel Channel.”

While in town, Hembrough shot at Wonderworld, Ford Field and at a large closeout toy store on the northwest side of Detroit. The name of the closeout store will be revealed on the show.

The show will feature less collector’s basements and more wide ranging venues this season. More conventions and toy shows, and a trip overseas are also in store.

When not on the road for the show, Hembrough, a self professed comic-book geek and film buff, spends his time in New Jersey at his store, Hollywood Heroes. The store serves as a boutique for high-end toy collectors.

“It’s appointment only,” he said. “We do that so we can give the attention to the customer and give them one-on-one service.”

For Hembrough, the next find is always his favorite, though he has had many big finds over the years.

“Don’t get upset that I can’t tell you yet,” he said about his favorite find while on the road with the show. “It’s coming up in season three.”

He said everyone was very helpful at all of his Michigan stops, and that he’d love to come back if the opportunity comes up.

“I love Detroit,” he said. “It truly is a beautiful city.”

As for the specifics of what he found while shopping at Wonderworld, Hembrough remained vague — as will The News-Herald Newspapers, which was invited to attend the taping — so as to not spoil the show for viewers.

“(Dennis) has a toy that he bought from me at C2E2 in Chicago that he’s reselling,” Hembrough said. “That’s fine, I say that with love.”

Both Hembrough and Gaule were able to find things to purchase while sifting through the merchandise both in the store and in the warehouse that stores much of the rest of the store’s inventory.

It won’t be the first time that Barger and items from Wonderworld have been on a reality TV show, last year Barger sold a life-sized Silver Surfer statue on the TruTV show “Hardcore Pawn,” which films in Detroit.

An air date hasn’t been confirmed for when the episode featuring Wonderworld Comics and Idonije. Hembrough said that it’s a mid-season episode that will likely air in March or April.

“(I’m) proud that I get the chance to introduce Taylor to over a million viewers when it airs,” Barger said.

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