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    LEGO Bricks and Barbie Dolls


    I recently wrote an article, LEGO Bubble...Fact or Fiction, in which I compared the recent Baseball Card collectible's market bubble and its subsequent bursting, to a potential LEGO investment bubble. The main point of the article was to show similarities between two comparable collectibles' markets and to question whether or not the LEGO collectible's market would crash and burn like the Baseball Card collectible's market did several years ago. While doing research for the article, I came across another very similar collectible's market that might be even more closely related to LEGO than the Baseball Card market is...the Barbie Doll collectible's market. Take a look at a very interesting article, written by Nancy Colasurdo of CNBC.com, about the Barbie Doll collectible's market and see if you can see some very clear similarities between the two...


    Copyright 2011 CNBC.com.

    "They set out to buy a motor home and see the world," Holder said. "It was a very beautiful story."

    Whether trying to assess the value of a doll found in an old attic or if it's worth buying the latest model of Barbie, Holder said it's worth consulting an expert. She felt it particularly gratifying to be able to give a retired couple $27,000 for a doll they brought to have appraised. They were astounded.

    Van Patten is the author of The Official Price Guide To Dolls, but the resource material out there, in print and on the web, is vast and constantly updated.

    "Whether you are new to doll collecting or have been doll collecting for years, you need to have a good grasp of doll collecting basics," Van Patten writes. "The basics you'll need range from how to value and identify your dolls, to how to protect and preserve your dolls, to how to photograph your dolls and get the best prices for them on eBay."

    Denise Van Patten, a long-time doll collector and dealer of modern, vintage and antique dolls whose online home base is About.com, recommends that an aspiring collector explore the answers to these questions to get started: Are you interested in antique, vintage or modern? Are you interested in a narrow time period or one particular material? Do you want to collect based on a theme or variations of one doll?

    That's one universal truth in doll collecting. Another is that whether it's Barbie, Madame Alexander, Russian or papier mache, words like "pristine" or "perfect" will drive up the value. At Patricia Vaillancourt's eBay store called Antique Dolls, the starting bid on a Jumeau — 19th century French doll made of bisque — in "perfect" condition is $6,200. A rare glass-eyed China doll, also described as "perfect," begins at $3,500.

    "It's all about demand and what people will want to pay," Holder said.

    For the purposes of investing, Holder recommends researching and consulting with someone who knows the business before making a significant purchase. In Barbie collecting, for example, dolls from the 1970s — a.k.a. "the Malibu era" — can sell for around $200. It is also important to keep up with what special editions catch hold and which ones don't. For instance, the artist series — in which dolls are dressed in clothes resembling the art of masters like Van Gogh and Renoir — is not as coveted as, say, Holiday Barbie, a tradition that began in 1988; only a limited number of each are sold annually.

    There are two camps in the collecting world: Never Removed From Box (NRFB) and De-Boxed. For investment purposes, NRFB is ideal, but many collectors prefer to enjoy the dolls by displaying them out of the box." I do it for fun and love of the hobby," Holder said. "I play Santa Claus 365 days a year. It lets people recreate childhood memories, especially in the dismal days we have right now.”

    "The Barbie market and values are strong," Holder said.

    The latter price tag is a Guinness record set in May 2006 for "highest price paid for a Barbie doll in an auction" and is held by Holder's store. During her last auction, in November 2011, a doll sold for a whopping $19,000.

    Typically, though, the money to be made collecting Barbie dolls revolves around acquiring vintage dolls that are, optimally, still in the box with all their accessories, including the stand. Barbie was launched in 1959 and that original version, where she's wearing a black-and-white striped bathing suit, can fetch between $7,000 and $27,000 depending upon the condition.

    "There was a limited amount made," said Sandi Holder, author of Barbie, A Rare Beauty and owner of the Doll Attic in Union City, Calif. "It was in the news and it became controversial because mothers disapproved. More media attention drove up the demand."

    In October, Mattel released 'tokidoki' Barbie, complete with a pink bob hairdo, tattoos and cactus friend, Bastardino. The dolls retailed for $50 and are, as of this writing, listed on Amazon.com starting at $400 and going for as much as $1,590. That kind of escalation in value is rare in a market where vintage or antique is typically the way to go.
    In most cases, turning a profit in the world of doll collecting requires a great deal of research and patience. But a very recent example shows that trend spotting can be an exception to the rule.By Nancy Colasurdo, CNBC.com 12/23/2011

    Why Barbie is a Real Doll of an Investment...

    There are some very interesting similarities pointed out by the article between the LEGO and Barbie Doll collectible's market. The first one is the age of the two companies. The LEGO brick, as we know it currently, was launched in 1958, while the first Barbie Doll was produced in 1959. Another similarity of both markets is the importance of the box that the toys were sold in from the factory. In both cases, LEGO and Barbie Doll collectors and investors value the items that are still new and sealed in the original packaging. Known as Never Removed From Box (NRFB) in the world of Barbie Doll collecting and Mint In Sealed Box(MISB) in the LEGO world of investing, these two terms are one in the same. Regardless of whatever you would like to call them, it is the desired condition of the toy when one is collecting them for the purpose of investment. As with LEGO sets that have been opened, built and displayed and are called “used,” Barbie Doll has a similar classification called “de-boxed,” in which the Barbie Doll is removed from the packaging and displayed. By opening and displaying both LEGO sets and Barbie Dolls, the value of the collectible item decreases substantially.

    As any LEGO collector or investor can see, the values of some Barbie Dolls far exceed even the most expensive LEGO set. The 10179 UCS Millennium Falcon has sold for over $4000 on several occasions, yet that pales in comparison to vintage Barbie Dolls selling for $27,000 or more. Now, there have been large LEGO MOCs(My Own Creation) that sold for more than $30,000 on EBAY, but the conventional store sold LEGO sets have maxed out under $5000. That being said, both markets are still remarkably similar. Most Barbie Dolls on EBAY sell for less than $100, very similar to LEGO sets. In fact, both LEGO and Barbie Dolls have similar sales numbers on EBAY in relation to total auctions on a daily basis...around 200,000 listings at any given time. They are both iconic toys and have been around over 50 years and have shown excellent growth in the toy industry and interest from child and adult fans alike.

    So what's the point of this whole article and how does it really relate to LEGO collecting and investing? Well, for one thing, I wanted to point out that there were toy collectible items that were closely related to LEGO sets and bricks that weren't Baseball Cards and haven't suffered from a “speculative bubble” that burst. The Barbie Doll collectible's market is alive and strong and items can sell for top dollar, in the tens of thousands of dollars on occasion. The Barbie Doll collectible's market, like the LEGO market, deals with new and used items and box condition is of paramount importance to the value of the items being sold and there are hundreds of thousands of EBAY listings on any given day of Barbie Doll and LEGO items. These two markets have run a parallel course over the past 50 years to become two of the most known and most popular toy lines ever created. In my research for this article, I did not find any reputable or coherent mention of a Barbie Doll investment bubble and that is quite amazing considering the selling price of some of the more expensive, rare and vintage Barbie Dolls can be tens of thousands of dollars. As a strong believer in the LEGO brand and LEGO investment, I would like to think that success in a similar toy collectible's market like Barbie Dolls will translate into continued growth and success of the LEGO product line in both the primary and secondary LEGO markets and that it is possible for continued positive growth without the “speculative bubble” hanging over every LEGO investor's head.

    On a final note, I would like to point out that there is a definite influence of Barbie Dolls in the new Friends LEGO theme. For years, the LEGO brick was considered a toy that was geared towards young boys and men, but the Friends theme was developed to draw interest from young girls and women, with Barbie-like minifigures, pastel-colored LEGO bricks and sets that reminds Barbie fans of old Barbie Doll Dreamhouses and convertible Barbie cars. This Barbie Doll influence on LEGO sets has been a profit windfall for The LEGO Group, with sales of the Friends theme far “exceeding” expectations and have sold twice as many Friends sets than expected(LEGO PRESS RELEASE) over the first half of 2012. This success looks to continue, with the Friends sets being sold at full MSRP and getting hard to find in various toy departments.

    All in all, I found the article about Barbie Doll investing to be quite enlightening and very relative to the current LEGO investing and collecting market. The Barbie Doll and LEGO collectible's markets are similar in many ways and have been driving forces in the toy industry for over 50 years. I see both markets continuing on a positive growth path and while there are no guarantees in the investment world, investing in the correct Barbie Doll or LEGO set can be a very profitable endeavor...

    LEGO PRESS RELEASE: http://aboutus.lego.com/en-us/news-room/2012/august/half-year-result_2012/

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    I'm wondering how friends matches up to belville and paradisa. Lego has released toys for girls before but they never achieved cult status. AFOLism is ultimately a man's market after.all.

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    this actually illustrates that lego is still not too bubbly. 4000 vs 27000 is a huge gap. People will always love to collect things with artistic value, there is a huge market for ancient pottery, chinese pottery, etc.

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    Now I would argue against the comments that AFOL collectors are guys only. Specifically since I am a collector. Great article though. Long live LEGOs!!!!!!

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    "It's all about demand and what people will want to pay" Exactly. Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay. Good read. Oh, and by the way, I know a few lady LEGO collectors. So, no, AFOL's are not predominately male.

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    So if you put together all the men and women AFOLs you know, how many percent of each side? Over on my side, I'm like the only one; a 10:1 ratio. Quite predominant. It's also a patriachal society with social echelons too :D

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    What would be nice is if we can do a survey on here to see how many Male and Female investors/Collectors are out there. Might help to also find out how many AFOL buy The Friends Line/Theme. Maybe for their daughters or Women for themselves. Thank You again Ed for another great arcticle.

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    I think the gender lines are getting blurred with today's worldwide economy being as weak as it is. People across the world are looking for ways to boost their incomes and investing in Barbie Dolls and LEGO bricks are two solid methods. What was once a hobby dominated by one gender or the other is now morphing into a collage of mankind, looking to make a buck and learning to love their new hobby.

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    Hey, my mom collects the Holiday barbie doll editions. I wonder if they are worth anything :) I still think that legos are still predominately male. I always figured that most toy collecting is done by males. I could be wrong though.

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    I'm a long time collector of vintage Barbie dolls, having inherited a bunch of dolls and outfits from the late 50s and early 60s. I agree that there are many similarities between collecting Lego and Barbie. Interestingly, Mattel have also been targeting a more adult "collector" market for a number of years. In fact I'd argue they realized the value of targeting some lines to adults and collectors long before LEGO did and have been releasing adult and collector lines at a much higher price-point than the usual kid stuff for well over 15-20 years. (Holiday editions, Silkstone BFMC, etc.) Those lines have incredibly intricate detailed outfits and are generally of a much higher standard than playline dolls. And that's just what they release now. Funnily, you see similar gripes with quality on the "playline" lines of Barbie as you do with Lego sets targeted at kids today. :-) Yet, just like Lego, there are plenty of people who collect playline dolls as well... Another similarity, as you pointed out in your article, is the value of the vintage dolls, outfits and accessories. Condition, completeness, boxed, NRFB, etc, can all make a huge difference to the value, and people will pay huge money depending how far or close on the scale you are to NRFB or Mint-in-box... The other similarity is that there has been no waning of product over the years. The doll remains as popular as ever, and thus channels the nostalgia of lots of adults and older fans with disposable income, looking to either recapture their youth or own what they perhaps never had or lusted after as kids... I know that as an adult collector of Lego and vintage Barbie, I can rest assured that my passions will hold or increase in value, over time. And if they don't? At worst, I've overpaid for my toys, at even, I love my toys, at best, I have a little nest egg should I ever need it.

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    Thought I'd just add another little bit of insight. I'm a girl, and I love intricate, quality, detailed design in toys. This is why I live the vintage Barbie stuff, and very limited newer Barbie collectible lines, like Silkstones, that channel the early 60s aesthetic. This is also why I love Lego. I live detailed design and creative storylines. I have two sons, and one is going on 6 and obsessed with Lego, and just like his mum, a born-collector. Having said all that, I collect because I love the product, and do not own more than one of each set/doll/item. That they are valuable matters a great deal. This is what makes both so "collectible". So resale value is always a consideration, yet not my primary goal. In both cases, I intend to either display or build, as the case may be. And yet with Lego, I only buy NISB, even on older sets. With Barbie, I buy as close to mint as possible. And... I hate the Friends line. Give me regular Lego, with more female minifigs, and less fighting themes over pink-overload beauty salons and shopping ANY day. This is where Lego could really improve their marketing to be more gender-neutral. (My boys will happily play with dolls, play kitchens, animals, playmobil, etc. It shouldn't always be about "fighting" for boys, "shopping and ponies" for girls... And before you jump in with what a poor role-model Barbie is, I generally agree, but then again, she is a doll, so there are gender stereotypes in-built there, but there is no, NO, reason why girls couldn't be encouraged to build and play with Lego, outside of Pink stuff.

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    While I don't doubt the wisdom of Ed, I can't see the market for a theme like Friends as ever being as large as that of Star Wars, and therefore cannot quite understand the amazing CAGR of the friends sets.

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    My daughter collected babies for years and a big difference is overall collection. She sometimes received one or two special dolls through the year. Even at $100 or a piece that is $200 for the year. Legos are $5 to $50 per set but I am buying 5 sets every month when new ones I want are out. The overall investment per person is much grater.

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    I think we are going to see the investment for return diminish for bricks.  It is going to be a point where people who have a short bankroll will need to sell early and find that there selling legos is not worth their time.  For those who can hold on to sets for extended time they will still see Legos is profitable.

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