Whether you are a wet-behind-the-ears AFOL(Adult Fan Of Lego) fresh out of the Dark Ages, or a seasoned brick veteran, there are two major classifications to consider when evaluating a good set for investment purposes: licensed franchises such as the STAR WARS and Lord Of The Rings(LOTR) themes or original LEGO series such as the City or Friends themes. There is strong evidence for either category to do well in its own right, so how do you choose?
When looking at current values of the most successful LEGO sets that are now enjoying the sky high prices that accompany EOL(End Of Line) status, there is a good mix of licensed vs. original. The UCS(Ultimate Collector's Series) Millennium Falcon 10179 is the talk of the town these days with a Brickpicker price guide value of $2169, but let's not forget about the Cafe Corner Modular that went from $140 in 2009 to an astonishing $1,122 just a few years later. Although the Falcon boasts a higher price tag, it has not increased in value eight times(!) its original MSRP like the Cafe Corner 10182 has. I think a lot of people miss the fact that if you had purchased three Cafe Corners with the same money that it cost you to get one UCS Falcon, you would have a higher overall return on investment by over a thousand dollars.
Another great comparison is the City themed Town Plan 10184 set vs. the Batcave 7783 set from the original Batman theme. These sets came out around the same time, and had similar enough retail prices for the sake of this discussion. Both sets now book at right around $450, and are highly sought after. City is an original LEGO theme that has enjoyed a lot of success over the years, and as we all know, Batman is a well-documented, ever-popular theme that first appeared in 1939.
The Grand Carousel 10196 is an impressive piece of brick engineering that has an equally impressive price guide value of $816. It is part of the Miscellaneous Advanced Models series. Another set came out around the same time, had an almost identical price and piece count, but a much larger fan base. The set I speak of is the Death Star II, Set No. 10143. As I am sure you have guessed by now, it has a very similar price guide value as the Grand Carousel at $876.
These three examples represent only a minuscule amount of data in the case of licensed vs. original. So how do you know which is the winner? Which one is the safer bet? Is there really a magic formula or concrete answer? The answer to that question is…no. Sorry to disappoint, but no. The reason there is no one clear cut favorite over the other is that all LEGO sets are high-quality, well-made, and a lot of fun. Star Wars may have a humongous following, and the Death Star is the stuff of legend, but somehow a previously unknown 3,263 piece carousel has found a way to give Darth Vader's floating fortress of foulness a run for its money.
The difference between a Cafe Corner 10182 and a Millennium Falcon 10179 represents the difference between one LEGO collector and the next. Everybody has their own preferences and tastes. I personally would be inclined to want to build the Falcon, but let's face it, there are people out there who have never seen Star Wars and have no interest in building the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. Maybe they are an architect by trade, and would love nothing more than to spend a few hours assembling a 2,056 piece building that bares a nostalgic resemblance to the old store on the corner of the street they grew up on.