JD Hobbies Inc. corners the memorabilia market

JD Hobbies Inc. is one of a kind. It’s actually sports memorabilia, hobby collectible and toy shop that is a dying bred. Sure, there are hobby, toys and sports collectible shops all over the place in Orange County and elsewhere. But none can stand up to the mighty collection and vast spread that is JD Hobbies Inc. JD Hobbies Inc. sits on close to 10,000 feet of property in the middle of downtown San Pedro.It is a two-level vacuum of antique die-cast model cars, hard-to-find World War II figurines, books and memorabilia that folks from as close as Orange County and as far as Europe come by to pick up these treasured artifacts. In between, visitors travel from East Coast cities such as Chicago and Detroit to step foot into one of the biggest hobby and memorabilia shops in the country.The sports part of the massive enclave of memorabilia can be found all around the store, whether in the form of the highly sought after McFarlane sports figures, in the form of vintage magazines such as Time, Life, Ring Magazine and through an assortment of sports trading cards. JD Hobbies Inc. (471 W. 6th Street, San Pedro, 90731) is a one-stop shop for everything that sports and memorabilia collectors can want and find.This is the Treasure Island when it comes to that particular genre. Oh, let’s forget about the uniquely, expansive model train set that used to lie in front of the store that customers would gasp at in jaw-wondering awe. Unfortunately, that particular item, which has come to define the essence of JD Hobbies Inc. was sold by owner Louis Lee for some change around $10,000 to a train engineer.As anyone knows, tracking down long lost memorabilia can be a sometimes fruitless chore. Lee says that JD Hobbies Inc. gives the ultimate memorabilia hawker or even the generic store shopper a little of everything that parlays on their wants and needs. The biggest thing that JD Hobbies Inc., open for business Tuesday through Sunday, does is get people thinking about what they used to enjoy during their childhood. It ushers in a sense of nostalgia for a lot people, Lee said.“Here, you don’t know really what to expect,” Lee said. “A hundred times a day, people say this invokes my childhood. What’s here cannot replicated, cannot be duplicated on a computer screen. If they’re looking for a water canteen from the Civil War that’s under lock and key…you get to see it, you get to see the condition of it, the weight. How can you duplicate that on a computer screen? It is so specific to the hobby, in all of its forms, in all of its genres. You have to touch it, people have to see.”One of the greatest allure of any hobby or memorabilia shop is recapturing or reminiscing about an era that is no longer here. Lee says he sees this all the time with his customers.“I got one collector who is a medical doctor. He’s a medical doctor. He collects model kits. He doesn’t build, doesn’t open the kits,” Lee said. “What he does is he puts it in his storage unit, and he opens the door and takes a big whiff of the plastic and it flashes back to his childhood. And he closes it up.”That kind of sentiment is missing today Lee says. It is an era that has perhaps said good-bye. However, Lee he is motivated when he and his talented staff tools around to gingerly tend to the products that line the shelves at JD Hobbies Inc. This makes JD Hobbies Inc. an even more of a hot commodity in the dying hobby industry, Lee says.“It’s gone. Not missing, but gone,” Lee said.With JD Hobbies Inc. operating in full force, it is safe to say that the hobby industry is still in good hands. Lee was studying pre-law when his uncle began asking him to help out with the shop in a myriad of ways, including looking over contracts, when he was younger. His uncle called him so much that Lee eventually got hooked in the hobby madness that he thoroughly enjoys.Amazingly, JD Hobbies Inc. has been able to thrive for decades by just word-of-mouth advertising. And that’s been the strength of collectible company.“We are one of the largest, independently-owned hobby shops in the United States. It is just under 10,000 square feet," Lee said. "The good news is that the barometer to all of this is that people from the East Coast travel. If you take the mix of current and out of production stuff and print items, well that creates a certain fascination and appeal. That to me is perhaps the most gratifying thing that I do.”

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