Turn Your Toys Into Cash

This is not your ordinary child's play. As host of Travel Channel's "Toy Hunter," Jordan Hembrough takes viewers on the ultimate adventure across America searching for the rarest toys and turning them into huge profit.

Hembrough caught the collecting bug at a young age and quickly learned he could make more money selling vintage toys to his school peers than he could on any paper route or summer job. At only 16-years-old, he began buying and selling toys professionally and hasn't looked back since.

Hembrough has plenty of at-home tips for our "Good Afternoon America" viewers on how you can score big bucks on your old toys.

Tips on what to look for when purchasing vintage toys and collectibles:

  1. Always try to make sure the toy is in original packaging.
  2. Make sure the box is not torn or ripped in any way. This will affect the overall value.
  3. If not in box, make sure toy is complete with all accessories.
  4. If battery operated, check battery compartment for any corrosion or damage. Remove batteries if still in toy.
  5. If it's a toy with soft goods or clothing, check for mold or mildew.
  6. Look for multiple items that you can purchase all at once, to help strike a better deal.
  7. Consider the market (if purchasing for investment). Will people still want this toy 20 years from now?
  8. Make sure the toy you are purchasing is truly vintage and not a re-issue made to look vintage.
  9. Ask questions: Is this complete? Are all the parts here?
  10. Don't ever be afraid to walk away from a potential purchase. If it's not what you want, you will eventually find what you're looking for later on.

Tips on how to begin collecting:

  1. Avoid storing toys in extreme hot, cold or damp environments. Choose something climate controlled if possible. Your toys should "live where you live."
  2. Avoid storing any toy in direct sunlight. It can fade packing and even bleach out some fabrics.
  3. Be mindful of spending limits. Don't over-extend yourself when it comes to purchasing.
  4. Collect what you love. Never think of "what this will be worth down the line?"
  5. Don't be afraid to ask questions of the seller; How long have you had this? Do you have any more items like this?
  6. Utilize research tools; Internet and websites are bountiful on toys and history. Read about what you're interested in.
  7. If going to an event such as a toy show or flea market, bring a friend or two. Collecting is a social activity.

How to keep toys intact:

What toys should be kept in boxes?

Ultimately, all toys should be kept in their boxes. If that's impossible at the very least try to keep the package for when you want to sell the toy or pack it away. This ideally applies to boxed vehicles, dolls and play sets. Some toys, such as smaller action figures and Diecast cars, are on blister packaging, making them impossible to play with without tearing them off the card.

If possible, save any instructions and cardboard inserts. Truly intense collectors save the small wire bands that hold the toys in place in the box.

Are there toys you can repair and then restore value?

Almost any toy can be repaired. The question is to what extent the repair can be done? Teddy bears can have arms sewn back on, and action figures can have a leg glued back into place.

However, restoration and repair does not always translate into value. Few toys retain value, once broken. The intrinsic value of most of these toys is their originality. The exception would be something like a plush doll, a teddy bear or stuffed animal. It's simpler to attach an arm or eye and add stuffing to a bear than glue a leg back on plastic toy.

The important thing not to do is try to repaint a toy. This is particularly true of older tin toys from the turn of the century and 1920's. Many of the older wind-ups from that era are manufactured from pressed tin. The graphics and lithographs are part of the metal making up the toy. It's nearly impossible to match paint on a toy once it's been manufactured and sustained some life of play. Moreover, collectors actually look for small imperfections and patina to validate the age of the toys. It adds to the overall look and mystique, thereby increasing value at times.

The important thing to remember:

Whenever possible have the repair work done by a professional, especially when dealing with valuable toys.

What types of toys are worth saving from a child's toy collection that could eventually become valuable?

This is a really difficult question to answer since nobody has a "crystal ball" that can predict the future. A safe guess would be to look at the current hot trends in the market, and base your decision on that. Look for either hot movies or TV shows that were popular during the child's life that are still popular today.

Try to save some of the toys which may not have been readily found on the shelves. For example, many of the larger playsets from GI Joe and Batman were simply too big for store shelves. Retailers did not carry many of these toys since they took up valuable space that could have been used for smaller, faster-selling items.

The GI Joe Defiant Shuttle was an absolutely huge toy that retailed for more $100 back in the 80's. It was extremely difficult to find since it stood nearly four feet high. Today, a sealed boxed version could easily sell for close to $4,000.

If all else fails, I always use the old "rule of two." Purchase two; One for the child to play with and the other to store away for the future.

What are ways a parent can preserve these toys while still being enjoyed by their children?

Parents can start by trying to monitor how their children are playing with the toys. While most kids' toys today are suitable for outdoor use, keeping them clean is a must. Give them a good wipe down if the toys have been in mud or sand. And be sure to keep electronic toys out of water.

Parents can help their children take care of the toys by explaining the importance of keeping the toy together and intact with all their accessories. I used to tell my son, "How would Luke Skywalker feel if he didn't have his lightsaber? You need to help him fight Darth Vader… by keeping his weapon close to him. Don't lose it." If you can find a way to explain it "in a child's eyes" it makes it more personal to them.

Keep it fun. I always tell parents to have fun with their children when it comes to cleaning their rooms, brushing their teeth, or even taking care of their toys.

Try giving a "gold star" for each week that the toys are put back on shelves or away in a toy chest. Kids can collect their stars on a bulletin board in their room. At the end of the month, if the toys are all packed away nicely and with accessories, the child gets a new toy. Encourage your kids to donate some of their older toys as well to local churches or charities.

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