Speculating with Lego – What the Hell?

The other day I read a thread on Eurobricks about a guy who bought a number of older Lego Star Wars sets at a yard sale. All still in their boxes. Amongst them was the Ultimate Collector’s Millenium Falcon from 2007. A huge set with over 5000 pieces. He asked how much the set is worth and the answer he got was in the realm of several thousand dollars. Too bad that his son already started unboxing and assembling it…

I think this really shows the absurdity of collecting Lego – and collecting any type of toy in general. At least I can’t get my head into it, why an assembly of (mostly) pretty common Lego pieces can reach prices like that. Of course the mechanism is well understood: supply and demand. Scarcity of an item, which is regarded highly in a certain group of people, creates high prices. Especially in unboxed, “mint” condition. Of course, with the current popularity of both Star Wars and Lego, there is significant a margin of speculation involved too and who knows if somebody actually pays so much for that set in the first place. I hope not!

Projecting collector’s value into Lego has been, however, an increasing trend in recent years. Many kids, who experienced the “golden age” of Lego in the 80s and early 90s are now adults, financially settled and want to recreate a part of their childhood they have very fond memories of. Fair enough. But the whole situation got quite ridiculous really. Lego is a toy after all. Nostalgia or not. Sadly the (otherwise pretty damn cool) collectable Minifigures are contributing to this issue too. At least at a smaller scale: you still don’t have to pay as much for them as for a used car…

Still: its a toy. And it wants to be played with, not horded. And playing obviously includes the unholy and contaminating action of unboxing and assembling it. What a sacrilege, what a waste of value!

When I buy a Lego set it has a clear destiny: it will be unboxed and assembled. And maybe taken apart again at some point in the future, or at least customized. And played with and used for funny photo shootings! That’s what toys are made for after all: to enjoy them and to have fun with them.

I disdain people who buy sets just speculate on them increasing in value over time. Especially when that means that collectors buy large numbers to create artificial scarcity. Such things have been reported for the Disney collectable Minifigures, though I hope that is rather the exception than the rule. Fact is however that you pay significantly more for discontinued sets on the secondary market. Especially licensed ones.

My sincere hope is that this upwards spiral will end and that the prices will go back to more reasonable levels again. Lego is a toy after all, not an investment and when the market eventually gets saturated, incentive to hoard and overprice will dwindle.

TLG (The Lego Group) itself can contribute to this and it seems that they, by releasing new editions of popular, retired sets every couple of years, try to keep the prices at affordable levels and ruin the game for the speculators. Who wants the old set from yonks ago, when the new one is so much better and the Minifigures have so much nicer printing?

So to conclude this little rant: buy Lego for fun, not to be greedy. And don’t pay ridiculously high prices. There is always something better to do with it than shovel it down the throat of some speculant!