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Sonic’s most dedicated collector shows us the hedgehog’s rarest merch

It’s not easy to find a fan base as devoted as the one dedicated to Sonic the Hedgehog. Going into his 30th anniversary this year, throughout a series of ups and downs, the blue blur’s fans have kept him relevant throughout the years. One of those fans is Justin, better known as Treasure Hunting Sonic. 

Justin, who asked that his last name not be used, has been collecting Sonic merchandise since the 1990s. He has amassed a giant collection featuring some of the coolest and weirdest items from the hedgehog’s lengthy catalog. He has popular Twitter and Instagram accounts where he catalogs his collection, which has gained so much notice that he’s even taken part in an official Sonic merchandise release with the clothing company Stray Rats.

I spoke to Treasure Hunting Sonic about the beginnings of his collection, what got him started, and what draws him to Sonic. Even with a house full of strange and wonderful merch, there are still rare items that continue to evade him, making his collection journey an exciting one to watch.

When did you get into the Sonic series?

In late 1994, I played it for the first time with Sonic & Knuckles at Target on the Sega Kiosk, and I actually didn’t like it. I kept trying to rotate the D-pad to try to go through the loops and I couldn’t do it, so I just put it down thinking, “This is kinda whack.”

Sonic and Knuckles standing in front of the Sonic & Knuckles logo.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Then my neighbor actually got Sonic 3, and I went over to play. I felt really dumb when I realized you just had to hold right. But when I got past that loop, I loved it. I went and rented Sonic 1 and 2 from Blockbuster and played through those after.

What got you into collecting?

In February of 1994, I was turning six, so I went to spend some birthday money with my mom, and she holds up a Sonic comic, issue 19. She says: “Isn’t this that game you play?” So we pick that up and we ended up going to a comic store for the first time after I read it and picked up issue 18. So I started reading the comics, talking about Sonic online, and finding out there was all this other stuff that was impossible to access, mostly in Japan. 

The first physical items I got were McDonald’s toys, and I found those at local thrift stores. We actually didn’t get any actual Sonic figures until the Adventure Resarus figures in ’99.

Is there anything from your childhood you still have in the collection?

Actually, everything I collected as a kid, I still have.

How do you go about finding the more rare additions to your collection?

It’s pretty random. Once in a while, something will pop up on eBay that I was looking for. That Sonic and Garfield pack I recently found was something I saw at Best Buy as a kid, but didn’t know that it was extremely rare. The only picture you could find of it was a low-quality one on the internet. It was one of my saved searches on eBay and I got a notification that something popped up. And sure enough, it’s a boxed complete copy. So I grabbed it.

Sonic & Garfield game pack boxed lying on the floor.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

There’s another item I’ve never seen besides in pictures. A Sonic bathroom set with toothbrushes. And this Sonic ball from the ’90s. A lot of Sonic collectors believed it never made it out,but I swore I’ve seen it. Sure enough, someone tagged me on an Instagram post of someone selling it, so I took it. It’s pretty much the only one anyone knows of. Wasn’t cheap, but …

What are your rarest, weirdest, and favorite items in your collection?

For rarest, it’s hard to say. If you wanna go for released stuff, I’d say the Sonic Adventure LCD game and some of the McDonald’s Happy Meal displays. But for one-of-a-kind stuff, I’d say the art from the unreleased Burger King Sonic Adventure toy line or the shirt James Marsden wore in the movie.

For the weirdest, there’s some really weird stuff, like this Sonic pillbox from Japan, which just makes you think: “Why?” There’s the Sonic Adventure Band-Aids, granted I’d be all for Sonic Band-Aids. Oh, and those really weird Sonic walkie-talkies where you have to reach in his mouth to turn the volume.

Favorite piece would have to be my Sonic Adventure poster from Hollywood Video and the Sega World Sydney snow globe.

Do people ever offer to buy merch from you?

All the time. If I was looking to sell actually, now would be the time, with collectible prices skyrocketing. But I don’t collect Sonic stuff with selling intent. It’s my hobby.

Collection of Sonic Adventure figures hanging on the wall.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

But there are cases with like the Toy Island Rouge figure, the only Rouge figure we’ve got. That thing’s going for hundreds in the box, and I got it for $5. Sometimes I look at that thing like, “Damn.” Good money, but I’d never get it again.

Have you ever made a hard trade?

Yeah, recently I traded a rare boxed water gun and a rare boxed night-light projector from the ’90s. But he had some Sega World Sydney items I wanted, and Sega World Sydney is one of my top things, so we traded, but now I’m like, “Damn, well those are gone.”

Are there dream pieces of merch you can never seem to come across?

Sonic the Hedgehog blue Dreamcast and Sonic Dreamcast controller.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Quite a few. The 10th-anniversary Dreamcast and the E-102 Gamma plush. There’s a couple of other things, like more Sega World Sydney merch, which I buy every time I come across.

I’ve got to imagine that’s hard to find.

It’s very hard. It’s funny. I talked to a former employee, and she told me you’d go outside of the building at the end of the day, and there’s just passes and maps lying in the road. Now, one of those Sally passes from there would go for like $100.

How did that Sonic Stray Rats collaboration come about?

That was pretty fun. I never thought I’d take part in a Sonic merch release. They actually came out from Miami and brought the photographer, video guy, couple models, and turned my house into a studio. They put on the clothes, came into the rooms, and used my older merch as props and stuff, including the Sonic walkie-talkies.

Justin "Treasure Hunting Sonic" standing in front of his Sonic collection.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

That’s one of my best memories of Sonic collecting ever because they actually had me model one of their hoodies. They used it on the front page of their web store and Sega shared my picture to share the collection. That blew my mind.

What keeps you so interested in the Sonic series to push you to keep following him and collecting?

After doing it for 26 years, it’s kind of hard to become uninterested. For the games, I’m very curious to see where they will go from here. I loved Sanic Colors Ultimate, as well as Mania, and I’d love to see Mania 2. As far as merch, I feel like we are getting more unique items, as well as riskier items (like the Mecha Sonic figure), so I’m very curious to see what kind of merch we’ll get going forward.

If you want to keep up with Justin and his Treasure Hunting Sonic adventures, you can follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. He not only has videos showing off his finds, but you can always expect to see the next great Sonic oddity on your screen every time you turn it on.

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DeAngelo Epps
De'Angelo Epps is a gaming writer passionate about the culture, communities, and industry surrounding gaming. His work ranges…
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