A Belmont FIFO worker with a passion for basketball toys and figurines has struck gold, which he hopes can one day lead him to meet Michael Jordan.
Joshua De Vaney always had a passion for collecting toys, starting with movie toys before turning his eyes to basketball memorabilia.
He originally aimed to make a collection of toys of his favourite basketball player, Magic Johnson, but quickly collected 20 within a week and needed a bigger challenge.
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“I started looking at Michael Jordan toys because I had a couple from 1996 and found that there was a huge range,” he said.
“I figured that’s what I’d start pursuing and collecting. From there, I bought back the first two Jordan toys that I had and that sparked the nostalgia and interest again for me.
“I just started buying literally one of everything on eBay and it got to the point where I had amassed quite a lot.”
Mr De Vaney said his spending would reach somewhere around $100,000.
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While that amount of money spent on toys would be baffling for many, an unexplained set of figurines on eBay would prove to be a gold mine for the Perth collector.
“There was one toy in particular that had no packaging, it kept coming in plastic bags. It sparked my interest further as to why that was happening,” he said.
Mr De Vaney said he contacted a good friend in Chicago who had been collecting toys for more than 20 years for more information about why these toys were not packed like the others.
His friend said he did not know why, which spurred Mr De Vaney to call US toy manufacturer Ohio Art Company directly.
“The lady I got a hold of at Ohio Art was in the archives department and she happily received my email and asked where I received all these toys from. I told her eBay,” he said.
“She said ‘I’ll get back to you in four weeks’ time’, four weeks passed by and I heard back from her.
“Again she asked, ‘how did you get these?’.
“The reason being is that these were prototypes. These weren’t meant to be released.
“Michael Jordan was photographed and the toy company had promoted this toy back in 1988 and I found out very quickly through my investigations that indeed I was holding these prototypes.
“I asked her how many were made at that stage — she said 48 and I had 32.”
Mr De Vaney said he was subsequently invited to Ohio Art Company in 2019 and met the CEO, who showed him their archive room which did not have any of these prototypes.
“I took seven of them along with me to show them and they were just fascinated because they weren’t ever meant to be released and were never sold and packaged,” he said.
“They were quite astounded this guy from Perth now possessed 30 of them.”
Mr De Vaney said he bought each of these figurines, without knowing their history, for $75 to $600 each.
The lack of information on these figurines meant the prices were unpredictable and difficult for sellers to value.
However, there is one toy with obvious defects which is the rarest of all and Mr De Vaney’s golden ticket to one day meeting Michael Jordan himself.
“I have one that’s different than the rest and that’s the one that I specify as the most rarest Michael Jordan toy,” he said.
“Out of all the ones that I have, this one has a white chest and that’s a paint flaw from the factory. And the Nike tick is also reversed.”
The factory imperfection makes this already rare prototype even more so, making it nearly impossible to value. Mr De Vaney said he had had one estimate of $US70,000 to $80,000 ($108,251 to $123,716).
The Perth collector has already been in contact with Michael Jordan’s son Marcus, fellow championship teammate and Aussie Luc Longley and Jordan Brand vice-president Howard White.
“I haven’t given up on my goal and my purpose and that is to have a conversation with him, to share with him all of this knowledge,” he said.
“I’m sure it’s just gonna blow his mind to think ‘how did an Aussie get this toy to here?’.”
Out of the $100,000 spent, Mr De Vaney said about $25,000 was spent on shipping and estimated his collection to now be worth “at the very least $200,000”.
He said he hopes to one day donate his collection to display in a museum in Chicago.