Toy Story

Johnny Jimenez, a frequent guest on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars, has always had an eye for discarded beauty. His father worked as a garbage man and would often bring home boxes of random odds and ends. It was Jimenez’s chore to go through the “junk” and to see if there was anything of value tucked away inside.

“It could be cameras, it could be books, it was toys—it was everything,” he says. Using price guides to sort junk from gems, his father allowed him to keep anything of value, and he soon amassed a large collection. At 8 years old, Jimenez began to resell his assorted goods to dealers—film reels from the 1920s and ’30s, books dating back to the 17th century and antique toys found on the curb.  

Even through high school, Jimenez would spend his time away from school hanging out with 50-year-old collectors, talking shop. “It’s like hunting; some people go hunt ducks and deer, we go and hunt for old collectibles,” the 32-year-old says. “It’s a rush to find something for $4 or $5, and flip it for $100 or $200.”

Jimenez’s collection continued to grow, and 10 years ago he moved to Las Vegas to start a sign-making company. As business began to wane, Jimenez realized he could make just as much selling his collectibles full time, and three years ago he opened Toy Shack (3684 Paradise Road, 542-7770). The store specializes in rare and antique toys, focusing on vintage Hot Wheels and anything from the ’80s. A loyal core of treasure seekers has made the Toy Shack a regular stop: In today’s world of eBay and large retail stores, a small collectible toy store is a rare find, and while Jimenez also sells online, toys are one product that still rewards real-world contact.

The store also provided Jimenez with a rare find: a chance to spend more time with his 12-year-old daughter, Marcilena. A single father, Jimenez has raised “Marci” by himself since she was 2. “This is something me and my daughter can do together,” he says. “She knows just as much about these toys as some of the guys who have been doing this for years.”

With the economy slumping, the Toy Shack’s future was in doubt before Jimenez began appearing on Pawn Stars. Now the store is so popular that Jimenez has plans to open another next year.

“Collectibles has always been a passion of mine, but I never thought I’d have my own store,” Jimenez says. “I always loved old stuff, but most of all, I love the stories that come with them.”