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Meet Dov Kelemer of DKE Toys in North Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dov Kelemer.

Dov, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started selling vintage collectible toys when I was 18. Star Wars action figures were always the main focus and most popular. When the “designer toy” boom started around 2005 my wife Sarah Jo Marks and I decided to branch off into wholesale distribution. By 2013 when we sold the distribution branch of the company we were largest independent wholesale distributor of designer toys, limited edition art objects, collectibles, and gifts in the world exclusively representing hundreds of artists, designers, and boutique manufacturers. We still continue to sell vintage toys and action figures to this day.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There are always struggles for small businesses that are growing. Trying to remain consistent to your vendors, retailers, and employees during fluctuating markets can be tough.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Currently, DKE Toys does about four conventions a year in which artists from all over the world create limited artist edition figures. Each piece is generally made out of hand-poured resin and many are hand painted on custom printed (and sometimes hand drawn) card backs. Sometimes as many as 20 different artists participate in a given show. Many have commented that the DKE booth at these various shows look like a small art exhibition. While these figures are generally referred to as “bootlegs” they are far from pirated versions of mass-marketed toys. Each of these artists uses transformative properties in their work to communicate ideas that are often political, parody, or commentary about the pop culture world we live in. In addition, Dov handles vendor relations and product development part-time for Disburst Ltd. as well as curates art shows, writes books, appraises and buys collections and toy closeouts of all shapes and sizes.

What were you like growing up?
I was always a collector. They say maladjusted kids gravitate to certain activities that give them a better sense of themselves. So if you are not the best athlete for example maybe you have the best comic book collection. But selling stuff felt like my road to independence. When I was young I would buy 100 pixie sticks at the candy store down the street for nickle and sell them the next day at school for a dime each. Turning $5 into $10 seemed like a magic trick. Soon I was selling baseball cards and comic books. I guess it never really stopped.

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Image Credit:
DKE Toys

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