Published: July 24, 2018
At 22 years old, collectibles, toys and games expert Travis Landry is the youngest appraiser on PBS Antiques Roadshow. But Landry is no stranger to the television screen. At 16 years old, he was cast as a regular on the Travel Channel show Toy Hunter, getting his hands into collections and finding rare toys around the country. Now, he does it all. As an auctioneer and director of pop culture at Bruneau and Co., Landry has his hand in catalogs that range from American furniture to ceramics, tribal art, and of course, toys, collectibles and pop culture. We got together with Landry to talk about his unique ascent, the collectibles market and, as it goes, Star Wars.
What got you started in buying and selling?
I’ve been into antiques my entire life. My father is a police officer; my mother a nurse. But every Friday night was always spent going to an auction with my parents. Ultimately, it was the toys that got me into this. I was 13 years old when I took my first loan from my dad for $700 to buy a collection of Transformers off a collector in Connecticut. I was able to double my money on it and keep the best piece. It was a 1984 Transformer G1 Mirage, factory sealed. It was the first G1 factory sealed piece that I had ever come across, and being 13 and seeing that, it was unbelievable. I was born in 1995, so I didn’t grow up with Generation 1 Transformers.
And where did it go from there?
I always did a daily search for Transformers and toys for sale on Craigslist. So one day I see an ad that says “Do you want to be a part of a new reality TV show?” And that was for the show Toy Hunter that aired on Travel Channel. They were looking for spots and people’s collections to film for season one. I sent in the application, and my brother and I had just bought a storage unit of 70s-90s toys, a whole hodge-podge of stuff, so my parents’ garage was loaded. I sent in all the photos and got cast to be a guest. They were going to come film my house and buy some stuff from me. That was September 2012. A week later, the executive producer calls me and asks if I want to be a cast member on the show. So I traveled a lot from my senior year of high school through my sophomore year of college.
And the Roadshow?
I mentioned to Kevin Bruneau that I had never seen any toys and comics on the Roadshow. Kevin was on Market Warriors, the tandem show to Roadshow, a couple seasons ago, so he called the executive producer and made arrangements for an interview. So I auditioned and got on, and I had one stop in season 22. I was in Green Bay, Wis. I worked as an appraiser in the collectibles department. Then season 23 comes, and I have three stops. I couldn’t believe it. I was in Sarasota, Fla.; San Diego, Calif.; and I just got back from Rochester, Mich.
How can you make antiques appealing to a younger audience?
At auctions, I see no one my age by 20 years. The youngest person I see is 45. I try to get my friends excited, and they do, but I have to make it sound dirty, sexy and fun. My girlfriend and I collect period American furniture; we like the Federal style. We have a country Queen Anne highboy in our bedroom from the 1770s, and I tell my friends, “Isn’t it badass that this is older than the country we live in? And it still holds my clothes; it works fine, yet it is older than the United States of America!” So I have to make it basic and fun, versus just saying, “Oh, look at the slenderness of the cabriole leg and the pad foot, rising into a broken apron,” and all that. They don’t understand the jargon like it was 35 years ago.
What’s the draw for pop culture collectibles? Is it based in childhood nostalgia?
Pop culture, toys and comics, as much as the market has exploded, is still exploding and on the upright. It is nowhere near its peak. Pop culture is becoming the new antique. It’s collected because people can relate to it. Take Star Wars, it was first released in 1977, but there are still Star Wars fans being created right now, today, at 5 years old. They were being created in 1983 with Return of the Jedi, in 1995 when Hasbro revitalized the Star Wars brand and all the years in between with each movie release. These kids, 25 and 30 years from now when they’re in their 30s, are going to buy what they can relate to.
So relatability is key.
You have the birth of the modern-day superhero, Action Comics 1, Superman on the cover holding the car. That was 1938, what every comic superhero is based upon. You have collectors born in 1938, 1948, 1968 and on up. 20 years from now, we will have lived in a full century of the modern-day superhero. So that’s why, when judging true rarity and condition, once you get into the late silver and bronze age, there are a lot of comics in circulation. Because in 1965, there were already a ton of comic collectors. You had adult collectors in the 60s buying these books, reading them, and putting them in a bag and never touching them again. We’re at 80 years of relatability with comics; I don’t know any other property in antiques that has that.
Where does the value come from?
Even though a 1978 12-back Chewbacca was made in Hong Kong and cost $1.99 at the time, it is truly a piece of history because Star Wars is one of the most iconic properties in cinematic history. That’s why you see rocket firing Boba Fett prototypes sell for $75,000, when only a mere eight years ago, they sold for $10,000. Look at that mature rate in the market. Comics and toys are valuable because there is such a huge demand, and its affected by the perpetual properties around it.
What advice do you have for young toy collectors today? What has a high likelihood of making it into the collectibles realm?
You always want to be original and not derivative. We learn what’s going to happen in the future by studying the past. So let’s revisit 1999, The Phantom Menace. Everyone and their brother went out and bought these figures and kept them factory sealed because they thought they were automatically going to be worth money. If everyone keeps them sealed and in perfect condition, then they’re not rare, and they’re not worth money – maybe $1/piece now. But if you have a new property that is birthed that no one has seen before, and there’s no collector base, those are the toys that you’re going to want to keep in factory condition.
Are you living the dream? Is this a childhood passion turned profession?
There’s not a day I work. I get frustrated with traffic on the way in to the gallery because I want to get in earlier. I love learning nonstop.
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