"ED"itor's Note: This informative and well written article was a collaboration of Quacs and Fcbarcelona101...
In 2006, a television show debuted in the US called Man vs. Wild. Originally a British show called Born Survivor, Man vs. Wild was a reality TV series hosted by the noted outdoorsman and stuntman Bear Grylls that chronicled his efforts to thrive in remote locations by demonstrating and using various survival skills. Throughout each episode, Grylls used every piece of information and natural resource the local landscape offered him, and provided the audience with some audacious survival techniques. Needless to say, it made for some compelling television.
Gryll’s locales provided him incredible opportunities to showcase his atypical survival techniques, and every landscape he visited was full of tools to survive. In our "reality game" of Lego investing, new Brickpicker members are faced with a similar challenge. Tools to learn and conquer Lego investing (or more colloquially, Brickpicking) abound, yet they too can be hidden in plain sight. Members' unfamiliarity with Lego investing may obscure the powerful tools that are readily available, or their inexperience may contribute to a lack of awareness of these tools. With this article, we intend to provide both new and veteran Brickpickers with a road map to our favorite site. So, strap on your waterskin and get ready to make your way through Brickpicker and all of its functions. With a little bit of guidance, its vast information can provide all of us with immense opportunity.
The first rule of Brickpicking is to make money, and in order to make money in Lego investing, you must learn how to build a portfolio. Portfolio construction is the vehicle that Lego investors use to make money. Broadly, portfolio construction includes the following steps:
- Building Your Portfolio
- Tracking Your Portfolio
- Refining Your Portfolio
- Selling Your Portfolio
While this sounds simple, learning to master this cycle will make you money in the Brickpicking game. Naturally, Brickpicker has evolved to include several modules that provide information to help conquer each of these steps. The site also includes a few additional modules that provide a break from the work of Lego investing. To unlock Brickpicker’s potential, let’s go step by step to discover the tools at our disposal to become a dominant Brickpicker.
Build your portfolio
So, you have made the decision to begin your journey as a LEGO investor. The most important question you will ask yourself is, "where do I start?". Thankfully, Brickpicker has several different features that can make that always difficult first step a little easier, but before we review them there are a few points that any investor should keep in mind:
- As with any investment, diversification is key. When investing in LEGO, a good way to diversify your portfolio includes purchasing sets from multiple themes and different sizes/price points. Don't discount the small sets due to their small returns - a good mix of well selected smaller sets can reduce the overall risk of your investment.
- Consider all the costs of LEGO investing. Take into account all of the hidden costs associated with Brickpicking such as wear and tear on your vehicle, insurance and storage. These will be important when determining the actual ROI of your portfolio.
- Craft your investment strategy before hand. It is extremely important that investors establish a clear set of rules to govern your LEGO investment selections. It is very easy to buy every set that sees a discount, but this is not the most efficient way to achieve good returns in the long run.
- Do your research. This goes along with choosing an investment strategy. It is extremely iportfolio.mportant that investors analyze prospective investments as much as possible before actually putting hard earned money into them. You would not invest in a company you have never heard about just because it is 10% cheaper than yesterday; Lego sets are no different.
- Invest within your means. Don't exceed your budget just because some other investors are purchasing several copies of a set and telling you how well they will perform. Follow your strategy and don't get caught up in the hype.
These points mentioned above are not the only ones you should pay attention to while starting investing in LEGO sets, but they are the most basic ones everyone should consider before jumping into Lego investing. With these in mind, let's take a look at the most important features Brickpicker offers its members when starting a LEGO portfolio.
Sales and Discounts
One of the oft-repeated mantras you will see in the forum is, "Never to pay retail for your LEGO sets". This is pretty basic advice and while an investor must consider several variables when deciding whether to purchase a set at MSRP, getting a set at a discount is your best bet to maximize future investment returns. A nice article that goes a little more into detail about the effect of discounts on your ROI can be read at Grolim's Blog.
The premise is pretty straightforward: by getting a set at a discounted price you will stand a better chance at making money even if the set ends up being an investment loser. It is pretty rare when a LEGO goes for a lot more under retail even when its investment performance is below average, so getting a discounted set will make a huge difference when it comes time to sell. Because of this, Brickpicker's Sales & Discounts module gives investors a lot of good information about currently discounted sets in the market. Once you click on the Module, several different features will drop down. Let's evaluate each one a little closer:
Amazon / Walmart / Target Discounts: These three individual modules consist of information related to the current discounts offered by each retailer. In some instances, especially with Amazon, you will be able to select the country you are interested in checking, and the list will include valuable information like the current price of the set, the current percentage discount, the MSRP, and the date and time of the last update. Please note the page will also warn you if the list price from the retailer is higher than LEGO's MSRP, a handy tool that could keep you from purchasing a set you believe has a great discount, but in actuality, doesn't.
The discount page also presents you with a Buy it Now button that will take you to the retailer's website and give the site some credit at the time of purchase. That is a free and good way to help Brickpicker!
Amazon Price Grid: This page is very similar to the discounts section we examined above, yet it does provide a more convenient place to compare Amazon discounts across different regions and a tool to sort the results in several ways. For example, if you are interested in checking only those discounts related to sets in the Architecture theme, clicking on the Quick Link will bring you to a page that shows you only those sets.
Furthermore, you can choose the lowest level of discount you want to be shown with the sorting tool in the upper right corner. If you only want to check the sets with a discount equal or greater than 20%, you can select that option and the page will show you a complete list of sets that meet that criteria. This can be very useful if you have a particular discount level that usually makes you "pull the trigger' with some LEGO sets.
Amazon Best Sellers and Top Selling Sets: These two individual modules are similar, but include information based on two different retail outlets: Amazon and eBay.
The Amazon Best Sellers page will give you the Top 100 best selling LEGO sets and products on the online retailer's site along with the current discount of each listed set, if applicable. This particular list is updated fairly frequently and you may notice that a set that used to be in position 80 in the morning might not be there by the time the night comes around. Those movements are just regular fluctuations of Amazon's sales, and most of the time the list is pretty consistent with whatever is popular at the moment.
As with the Amazon Discounts page, you will be able to select different regions to see what is popular in different locales. This is very useful not for those that do not live in the US, and for US sellers trying to determine unpopular domestic products that may flipped based on their popularity abroad.
This module also has a Top Selling Sets tab that is basically the same as the previous list, yet based on data taken from eBay. Unlike the Amazon page, this one is updated once a month with the same data that feeds the Brickpicker Price Guide (more on that later) and includes some other interesting data for you to make the best decision portfolio selections possible. For example, you will notice the page lets you know where a particular set placed on the Best Seller list during the previous 5 months. This information is critical to determining prevailing trends in the LEGO market.
As an example, say you are considering purchasing a somewhat expensive LEGO set for investment purposes and check the list to see what has been selling on eBay. If you check the list now, you will notice that the 10227 UCS B-Wing is currently in the top position. If the information from the previous months were not present, an investor may think that the ship is a great and popular choice. Yet, a quick look at previous month data would show the set placed in the high hundreds over the preceding months. A savvy investor would easily deduce there was an anomaly in the market that boosted the popularity of the set. In this instance, it was the controversial May the 4th Sale.
You can also filter the results by theme and see which set is the most popular on any given line, as well as its overall place in the Top Selling list.
Top Retired Sets: The last feature of the Sales & Discounts module is the one with the highest potential to be incorrectly overlooked. Even if most investors follow a strategy of investing in current sets, there is significant upside in finding retired sets that are still experiencing periods of high growth or what Grolim called a "Second Wind". Quite often, we see long retired sets growing rapidly in value after a period of somewhat stable pricing. Some sets never slow down and continue to grow rapidly for years (think 10179 and Taj Mahal). For those interested in diversifying their strategies and portfolio finding these sets can be a very rewarding decision.
One of the main advantages of using this strategy is that already retired sets grow from the moment you decide to purchase them if you pick the right sets - there's no wait ing for a future EOL date. For this strategy, the Top Retired Sets feature is very useful. This page shows you the top performing retired sets (released 2008 or before) over the past 6 months, and gives you their ROI. Additionally, it presents you with some eBay listings that are priced within a 20% range of the current market value. Looking for well performing retired sets is easy with using this list and the BrickIndex, a module we will discuss later.
Some other cool statistics shown on this page include the traditional set information, like PPP and MSRP, as well as some investment numbers used a lot in this site such as CAGR and monthly price movements.
These are the features of the Sales & Discounts module in a nutshell. As you can see, there are several features that will help you build your portfolio, and will prove invaluable once you get more experience and have a more polished investment strategy.
Tools and Data
Even though discounts are a very important part of the portfolio building process, they are certainly not the only thing to consider. The Tools & Data module presents the LEGO investor with several other features that will allow the decision making process to be based on data analysis rather than personal intuition or conventional wisdom. While it is very important to pay attention to the impressions of the community, a well-informed decision will always be supported with hard, quantifiable data. Let's look at a module that allows this: The Tools & Data Module. Compare Sets: Financiers compare prospective investment opportunities and historical performance of past investments routinely. When it comes to LEGO, comparing sets is equally important and will help the investor in several different ways:
- Evaluate the similarities and difference among a number of individual sets when it comes to metrics like PPP, MSRP, piece count, release date. This very basic information allows an investor to determine whether the value for the money of a particular set is consistent with several others.
- Compare the performance of already retired sets. It is this case where most of the information displayed in the pages comes into play. Input the set number or name and a list will drop down with those that match what you are looking for. Click your preferred sets and you will see a screen similar to the one below that will include each set's CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate), last six months performance graphs, current market value and percentage changes relative to several different periods of time both for New and Used sets. All of this information can help an investor determine which sets have performed better than average or at least better than the sample of sets selected, as well as help in the search for retired sets experiencing high growth.
- Compare a prospective investment to what you think have been comparable sets that LEGO has already retired. By doing this, you will be able to make an educated guess about a set's potential investment ROI based on the similarities of the comparables. Characteristics like theme, piece count, minifigures and other factors will determine which sets you will choose to compare.
The Brickpicker Compare Sets function will allow you to select up to 6 sets, and the process is very simple and fast. Just input the set number or name and a list will drop down with those that match what you are looking for, select your desired sets to compare, and you will see a screen similar to the one below.
The BrickIndex is easily one of the best features offered by the site. This chart is updated once a month in the regular data update and displays the top performing sets over the last 6 month period. Unlike the Top Retired sets list, the BrickIndex can include sets that are not necessarily retired but have showcased high growth over the past half year, as evidenced by the current presence of sets like Tower Bridge and the VW Camper Van.
This features plays a major role when trying to determine which sets are the best to select for your portfolio as they will likely be recent, and probably future, high growth sets. For example, you will see that the UCS AT-ST set is currently in the 5th position of the BrickIndex, with an increase of around 68% over the last six months. From this information an investor could make a reasonable prediction that, even if the set has been retired for a while now, there is further growth to take advantage of given the recent trends. That said, the BrickIndex is almost always comprised of already retired sets, as by default these are the ones that usually present higher growth.
Like several other features in the site, you are able to sort the results by theme to view only those sets that are part of a line you are interested in analyzing.
Bulk LEGO Data
Sealed and used sets get most of the attention in LEGO investing due to their proven investment performance, and because of their visual appeal. However, there is another branch of investing that can't be overlooked as it is also a good source of returns for many: buying and selling LEGO in bulk.
I would strongly suggest a beginner LEGO investor to look into this alternative as a way to diversify their investment portfolio because bulk lots are relatively easy to find locally through sites like Craigslist, garage and estate sales and through the more traditional eBay listing. The appeal of buying LEGO in bulk is twofold: LEGO pieces are always in demand from MOCers and LEGO enthusiasts, and bulk lots are fairly easy to market, sell and ship; and there is always the chance that a bulk lot contains rare pieces or minifigures that can earn the investor a great return in the short term.
Since bulk lots are more for quick flipping than a traditional buy and hold, it is critical that investors knows exactly how much can a lot be sold for on sites like eBay before going ahead and paying a bunch of money for 2 lbs of common pieces that may net you a loss. The Bulk Data center of Brickpicker provides investors with the tools to find out what bulk sets are selling for on eBay based on weight.
The information on this page is shown differently to what is found the set Price Guide since sellers list bulk lots with completely different titles. The most efficient way to present this data is to have the exact listing title along with the sold price, so that is how Brickpicker's Bulk Lot tool is structured. In the listing title, the weight of the lot is listed almost all the time, so by checking the list the investor will be able to make a fairly accurate estimate of the value per pound of a particular lot.
Some other interesting features in this section include selecting the minimum weight of the lots you want to see, themes included in the lot, and colors. Keep in mind that these features rely on how well the seller listed the lot and what specific keywords were used.
CAGR by theme
CAGR by theme is the last feature available from the Tools and Data module, and it can be extremely helpful to any new or veteran Lego investor. The data from this list includes the simple average of the CAGR of all of the sets included in a particular theme, giving you an average CAGR by theme that can work as both a popularity proxy and a performance measure at the same time.
For example, the top performing theme according to the CAGR by theme list is Ninjago (44.78%), something that an investor could take as evidence that the theme's popularity is rather high and that at least several sets have presented great performance upon retirement. These high measures are especially significant when one considers this average includes the CAGR of sets that are still in production, typically much lower due to currently available discounting.
As you can see, you can use this feature to find themes that have performed well in order to reduce some of your portfolio risk. That said, it is still very important to analyze the numbers more in depth by reviewing the individual sets of the theme before making a decision. The simple average provided includes the CAGR of small sets and polybags that can double or triple in value fairly easily, and they are all weighted the same as larger sets. For those of you that prefer investing in larger sets, a weighted CAGR is a nice alternative.
Track your portfolio
So, you've done your homework, selected and purchased a cadre of diverse sets based on your own investment strategy. Now, you must follow them closely and track their performance like a stock or bond trader. Fortunately for members, Brickpicker provides investors with an incredible tool to accomplish this: the Brickfolio.
The Brickfolio is the place where all the information about your investment sets can be compiled and tracked. Because it's critical for every investor to know how efficiently they are investing, the Brickfolio puts the most valuable information all in one place to minimize the time it takes to research and evaluate your current portfolio.
The Brickfolio module has many interesting features, so let's evaluate the most important ones:
My Brickfolio: This section is where the bulk of the information is shown, and where you will be spending most of your time analyzing your portfolio's performance. The first thing you will probably notice are the overall numbers that relate to your investment such as total current market value, the monthly dollar and percentage change, and more generic information like the total amount of sets and total number of pieces. Futher, the market value of your Brickfolio over the past 12 months is presented in graph form to allow for easier and faster performance tracking and evaluation.
Further down the same page you will notice three different graphs. The first pie chart provides a breakdown of the value of your portfolio by theme, something that can quickly help you determine the makeup of the portfolio. For example, if half of your portfolio holdings are sets from the Friends theme, it would be rational for you to pay a closer look at the market demand for those sets, new releases and pretty much every other type of news relating to that theme to forecast any changes in value. This does not mean you should not pay attention to those themes that comprise a small part of your portfolio, but at least you get an idea of where you should be focusing most of your time.
Also, this graph will give you a pretty nice view of how diversified you are , and how closely you are following your capital allocation strategy. If your strategy includes holding 50% of your portfolio in Star Wars sets, this graph will be a great tool to assess whether there is any need to re-balance the portfolio.
The middle graph shows you how many sets you have in each theme without taking into account the current market value: think of it as counting the number of "shares" you have on a particular theme. Finally, the last graph will give you a breakdown of how well the overall themes you own have performed relative to the prior month. This is a great way to determine underperforming sets and allows you to evaluate your portfolio a little more deeper. For example, if you use this graph to find the sets you own in the Star Wars theme have cratered, you will have to determine why exactly this happened. It's possible you are either not picking the right sets OR not having a lot of currently available sets.
To the right of the graphs shown above you will find some other bits of interesting information about your current holdings as well as some options to customize your Brickfolio according to your region. There is also a button where you can click to see your entire collection of sets currently entered in your Brickfolio, the option to change your base currency, and an option to share your Brickfolio with other users. There is also some detailed information about your most valuable sets (new and used), and some minor supplemental statistics. Finally, the Brickfolio provides a breakdown of sets by Used or New including the market value by condition.
View Brickfolio Items: This option takes you to the same page as the View Collection button in the screen above. Basically, Brickpicker shows your collection by theme with the quantity of sets in each one, and some options like adding sets to the Brickfolio (even custom sets), searching a specific set in your collection (very useful if you have a large inventory), and viewing your entire portfolio to provide a more detailed display of every single set you currently own. This last one is the most interesting of all, so here's a screenshot to demonstrate its featues and look:
After clicking the View Entire Collection button, you wil be sent to a page with all of the individual sets in your Brickfolio, along with some very useful data. Most importantly, you will be able to see your purchase price, the current market value and the performance measures for each set (including ROI), and actual dollar profit. This is the best place to analyze your individual holdings and routinely track their performance (I would recommend monthly, if not more). You will also see the total price paid for all of the items in your Brickfolio and the total current market value of your holdings at the end of the table.
Add Brickfolio Item: So far, we have discussed how to track your investments in detail, yet we have not mentioned how to enter your sets in your Brickfolio. Accomplishing this is straightforward: just click on the Add Brickfolio Item link to enter a vast amount of information about your sets such as purchase price, date, place of purchase and set condition. This information will make tracking your inventory a lot easier and less time consuming. Even if this seems unnecessary at the beginning, once your inventory continues to grow you will need to add as much detail as possible. There is also a text field where you can add any other notes you may want to keep in mind when selling or just as reminders.
Data Services: This section really consists of two very important features: the "Clear your Brickfolio" and "Export your Brickfolio". The first of the two does exactly what it advertises, it clears your complete collection without the possibility to recover any of the data, so you should only do this only if you are certain you have no need for this data.
The export feature will automatically generate an Excel spreadsheet that will contain all of the information shown in the online Brickfolio. Exporting this information to Excel will allow you to manipulate data in the Brickfolio. This will allow you to perform several different tasks, including tracking inventory and recording current Brickfolio values for insurance purposes. I would recommend updating your spreadsheet at least once a week if you are very active both buying and selling, since keeping accurate and up to date records is crucial to tracking your performance.
As of the date of this article, there is currently no option to track actual sales, so you need to delete those sets you sell in order for them to be removed. To maintain a record of sold sets while eliminating its purchase information, edit the quantity and price of your sold items to "0". Future Brickfolio updates may include a feature to record your sales, yet nothing has been confirmed.
Here is a screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet generated automatically from your Brickfolio page: Promote Brickpicker:
The last feature of the Brickfolio module allows you to create a personalized signature with preselected data from your personal Brickfolio. I would wager that members have already noticed some posts with these around badges in forum posts, but in case you missed them, I included a picture a little further down. The goal of this is not only to share some of your holdings with other members, but also promote the site on other websites, forums and blogs. When creating your own signature, there is a check box that will allow you to maintain the actual value of your Brickfolio private while still showing some of the more generic information.
Refining Your Portfolio
Now that you’ve built a portfolio, and are intently track its inventory and value, effectively refining your portfolio will move your portfolio's ROI from good to great and allow you to meet or exceed your projected ROIs. What does “refining your portfolio” mean? It means constantly reviewing the selections and purchases you’ve made in the context of their value in the market. As we all know, information changes by the minute in today’s day and age, so to ensure you’re capturing the most value for your portfolio, it’s critical for BP members to be up to date on the most current market trends and information. Brickpicker provides five modules to aid in keeping you on information’s leading edge:
- The Lego News module
- The Evaluation Corner articles
- The Brickvesting Blog articles
- Lego Set Reviews
- The Discussion Forum
As an example of how important and quickly Lego news can affect the market, most BP members remember the 9516 Jabba’s Palace controversy in April. A news story about how JP would be discontinued hit the Lego News module, Brickpickers reacted to it in the forum, and many profited by quickly buying and selling Jabba’s Palace at a profit to speculators that were whipped into a frenzy about an erroneous EOL report. Throughout the controversy, most of the chatter in the forum thread dedicated to JP was calm and rational. Many BP members speculated that 9516 wouldn’t be retired and even if it was, directed others to current discounts on the set to ensure all members were prepared for an EOL in case it did come. When all was said, Brickpickers were more prepared than the general market to profit from this market fluctuation, and many did in spades. With that as a backdrop, let’s review each of the modules available to refine our portfolio:
The Lego News Module
Located near the bottom of the front page, The Lego News Module is a wealth of Lego-specific information from outlets across the internet. While it appears to be a typically updating news feed, it has helped me on more than one occasion stay well versed on planned Lego releases, and industry information from a number of great Lego fan sites, as well as some national outlets with Lego-related news articles. It updates quite frequently, so chances are you will not see the same stories twice. The Lego News Module is an underrated feature, and since it only takes a quick glance to get the latest Lego information, this News Feed should be added to your daily reading rotation.
Smack dab in the middle of the Brickpicker’s home page is the first of two user blogs that provide a vast amount of information and analysis: Evaluation Corner. In Evaluation Corner, members post in-depth analyses of Lego themes that include discussion of individual sets of a particular theme and their investment potential. The Evaluation Corner grew out of the original Set Review Module, and has become a fantastic repository of investment analysis and advice of each theme. The following recent themes are represented with analysis in the Evaluation Corner area:
Star Wars (Fall Lineup)
Playable UCS Equivalents
Lord of the Rings
The Lone Ranger
City Fire and Police
Legends of Chima
This list is only a fraction of the Evaluation Articles that have been written, and as you can see, it encompasses some of the most popular recent themes. Rest assured, the founders read each Evaluation Corner entry and respond to the author’s analysis to provide a second opinion, while members are given the opportunity to scrutinize the article in the entries below. Everyone has a chance to weigh in on the applicability of the advice, so be sure to read these response comments carefully, too. The Evaluation Corner, above all else, helps with assessing the sets with the most investment potential in a particular theme.
Brickvesting Blog Brickpicker’s Brickvesting Blog Module has provided the site with the most cutting edge and relevant Lego investing market analysis, beginner’s guides, and investing advice on the market today in one convenient location. While the topics for these articles are as varied as they are informative, they are all well written and packed full of information, advice and in some cases, contradictory opinions. If you need some information on a particular investing strategy, would like help with eBay, or wonder how to pick the right sets for your portfolio, there are many articles from veteran BP scribes with information to help both new and old Brickpickers alike. Similar to the Evaluation Corner, the Brickvesting Blog has a response comment section for every member to assess the content of the article and challenge their notions and analyses. The site content has really exploded over the last three months, and the Brickvesting Blog has greatly benefited. Be sure to read and scrutinize all applicable articles to build your own portfolio.
With over 1,000 reviews on file, the Lego Set Review Module is yet another source of information and advice for a Brickpicker looking to refine their portfolio. The majority of these reviews are in a structured format to give BP members the opportunity to understand the details, value and playability of the set in addition to its potential return. The format structure really makes the Review Module a strong tool since it forces the reviewer to provide insight beyond the useless “this set is awesome” meme. Additionally, while the Review Module has its own navigation tab at the top of each screen, the set reviews are also embedded in their respective entries in the Lego Price Guide for easy access. The reviews give very specific information by set, so they go a little deeper than the Evaluation Corner articles. Use this module to learn as much as you can about the set, but beware that many of the reviews are written by fans of the set or theme, so investment potential may be slightly biased.
Easily the most dynamic module of the Brickpicker site is the Discussion Forum, the place where all Brickpickers go to discuss Lego investing, collecting, news and stuff in general. The forum is typically a collegial place, so you will find most members quite accommodating to new members.
There are some important rules about the forum to understand and follow:
- Solicitation of any kind is not allowed. Don’t post advertisements or sales you are trying to unload, and don’t solicit members for deals, business ventures or partnerships on the forum.
- Political discussions are not allowed. The site is not a forum for members to discuss politics.
- Crude language is not allowed
- Name calling is against the forum rules
- Spamming is not allowed.
In addition to these written rules, there are some unwritten rules that members generally follow that make the forum a great place to cyber-chillax:
- Be respectful. Members of all ages, nationalities and creeds enjoy Lego, and they all have different perspectives. Sharing your thoughts and opinions respectfully makes for a better forum.
- Because the forum is a dynamic place, there is an entire archive of topics that have been discussed. Before posting a new thread, check the old threads for a similar topic. There’s even a function to help with this if you’ve clicked the “New Thread” button. After typing your preferred title, the site will bring up a number of similar threads that may be a good place to post your thought. Review these, and if any are close, click on that topic and a new post will be started in this thread.
- Brickpicker is an international website that welcomes Lego fans from everywhere around the globe, and English is a second language to many who post on the forum. Please don’t pick apart someone’s grammar mistakes - everyone makes them!
To help with quick access, the Discussion Forum is organized into five main areas:
- The General Board – This board has the broadest group of threads, and is the “catch-all” for most non-investing threads. The four sub-forums in the General Board are New Member Introductions and FAQs (a great resource for newbies), Site Information and Updates (a great resource for veterans to suggest and check on changes to the site), Odds & Ends, and Building Lego. The last two include many topics that are not related to Lego investing.
- Members Only Forum – This board is not available to non-member lurkers, so Brickpickers that share good deal, pre-release information, and every-so-often an insider nugget will post their information here.
- Investing and Collecting – This board has the most topics of all, and they are generally grouped by theme. If you have a question or need some insight on Technic, there’s a theme dedicated to discussing it. There’s also a sub-forum discussing the always controversial retirement (EOL) topic, but keep in mind no one REALLY knows whether something is retired until TLC confirms it!
- Buying and Selling – Another with many topics, the Buying and Selling board has sub forums and threads that are centered around specific Lego distribution channels, i.e. eBay, Amazon, Toys R Us, etc. Buying and selling practices and information regarding clearances specific to these retailers can be found among these threads.
- Local Area Lego Deals – The most recent board to be created, The Local Area Lego Deals includes topics centered around specific locations around the world. Live in Chicago and want to discuss your thoughts about the marketplace? This is the place to share.
There are other neat little features of the Discussion Forum that are used frequently that make it a vibrant platform to discuss Lego:
- Reputation Points – Brickpickers have the option to give a poster some credit for a particularly useful or cogent post. In the bottom right corner of each post, there is a small green arrow – clicking on this will give the poster a “reputation point”. These reputation points give newer members an idea of which posters contribute strong and relevant content. Anyone can see the reputation points of any member by clicking on that poster’s avatar.
- Following a thread or forum – Members have the option to check a box in the upper left hand corner that allows them to “follow” a specific thread or forum. When following a thread or forum, the website will automatically send out e-mails with new posts from the followed thread or forum.
- Brickpoints – The Site Founders, Ed and Jeff Mack, have instituted a promotional system where participating in the site can earn you Brickpoints that can later be redeemed for Lego sets. To the left of each post, the poster’s information is displayed including their avatar, country, post count, Brickpicker classification (Brickpicker, Brick Troller, etc.), and their Brickpoint total.
The Discussion Forum is the best place to get immediate feedback and reaction to any Lego-related thoughts or questions you may have. We look forward to both your questions and answers!
Selling Your Portfolio
So, you’ve built your portfolio, tracked it, refined it and now you’re ready to start raking in the big money! Is it time to sell that 10214 Tower Bridge, or should we wait another year? How about that Jor-El polybag you got last month for free from Lego S@H? While you have the option to ask for opinions in the forum, this is your money on the line and any serious investor wants to sell for their target ROI. How can an investor make an informed decision on when and how much to sell for?
Fortunately for members, the core module of Brickpicker is the Lego Price Guide. The price guide includes individual information on over 9,000 Lego sets. Because there is so much information in each set’s price guide entry, we must separate these entries into their component parts to understand and absorb all of it. Here is the list of the parts of each set’s Lego Price Guide entry:
- Pricing information by region
- Photo Gallery/Set information
- Current Offers
- Monthly Listings – Quantity Sold
- Monthly Listings – Price Sold
- Price and Performance Information
- Set Ratings and Member Reviews
- EBay Listings
That’s a lot of information to digest, so let’s review the features included one-by-one:
Pricing Information by Region Pricing
Information by Region includes data that’s truly valuable and sets Brickpicker apart from other Lego sites. It utilizes an eBay data capture program called TerraPeak that tracks sales of all Lego sets, bulk lots and minifigures on eBay. Brickpicker utilizes this data to produce an average value for every set that sells on eBay. To produce the pricing, the last 30 sales are used to produce an average selling price by region. In the past, Brickpicker’s Lego Price Guide only tracked sales made on eBay US, but recently eBay sales from three new regions were added to the Price Guide: Great Britain, Germany and Australia. These sales are aggregated by Brickpicker into four, region-specific sales averages to give members are clear, concise average value of any Lego set among all four regions. Not only is this incredible information, it can present an enterprising Brickipicker with opportunities to sell across country lines.
As you can see in the picture above, the Pricing Information by Region table is split into various columns of information. The Market Value (New) and Market Value (Used) are estimated prices for new and used sets respectively, the Last Month (New and Last Month (Used) are the price increase or decrease for each from the previous month, the CAGR prices measures the Compounded Annual Growth rate from a set’s release year (not its retirement year), and the Price Per Brick columns divides the average new and used prices, and the retail price by the number of bricks that come in the set to give an estimated value to compare sets across time and other themes. All of this information paints a great picture of what the relative price is for an individual set.
Photo Gallery/Set Information
This module may appear diminutive, but it packs a punch. Here, you can look up the primary statistics of every set, including piece count, minifigure count, release year, retail price in all four regions, and links to this set’s page on Rebrickable.com, Bricker.com and even online instructions for the model! It even has a separate section to show how many of these sets are in your own Brickfolio, another great little feature that goes largely unnoticed. The links to Rebrickable.com and Bricker.com are also useful in their own right as they provide further specifics into the inventory and parts list for each set, as well as other set features. Finally, this module includes another underrated feature – a photo gallery that shows images of the set. While it doesn’t sound like much, having a visual image of the set or box allows the viewer to quickly check this is the set they want to review.
While not glamorous, this bit of information tells Brickpickers what price point online retailers have set for this model. It easily and quickly provides a snapshot of your competition’s price when determining your own price. It also provides a pass-through link to the online retailer that sends Brickpicker a small commission on that sale that helps pay for the information the Site Owners provide for free.
Monthly Listings – Quantity/Monthly Listings – Price
The two Monthly Listings sections are also powerful tools. Essentially, they are graphs that track the quantity sold and the average price sold of new sets and used sets over the last twelve months. Remember the 9516 Jabba’s Palace controversy, or the B-Wing discounting? Graphs for both of these sets show the relative spikes in sales quantity and price during their respective market disruptions, and provide an investor with a picture of how the sets sold before and after their respective fluctuations.
Pricing and Performance Information
This is another module with incredible detailed information aggregated into useful statistics. There are four tabs across the top of the table that contain different information:
- Performance Over Time – This shows the set’s current appreciation/depreciation over the past month, 6 months, 1 year and 2 year time periods. It also includes how much the set has appreciated over retail, providing a de facto measure of ROI.
- Recent Sold Listings – This gives Brickpickers the specific sales that TerraPeak uses to calculate its average sales price for the set. This is a great table that provides individual sales quickly. The date and “New” or “Used” designation are also provided. For new members, I highly recommend scrutinizing this list, along with eBay’s and/or Bricklink’s current sold data, to determine a sales price for your listing.
- Averages – More data that provides statistical measures of the TerraPeak data by region. Mean, Median, Mode, Max and Min Price statistics are all included, as well as the quantity of sales that goes into determining each average price.
- Live Completed Listings – This section provides a link to eBay’s live completed listings for the set. This is also invaluable to determining a fair sales price for your sets.
All of this data will provide a pattern of sold prices that should help to determine what your sets’ sales price should be. Keep in mind that these are not absolute, so if you want quicker sales, you can price your sets lower than market value. If you want a higher price for your sets over this rough estimate of market value, you can see the upper limits of other sales prices.
Set Ratings and Member Reviews
This module shows reviews of the set that have been completed by Brickpicker members, and the average overall score for the set. There are links to specific reviews here, as well as arrow keys that toggle between other older reviews. This information is good to gauge a “general consensus” of the quality and potential EOL value for the set. These opinions should help with timing decisions and pricing decisions for your sets’ sales.
This module is nothing more than its title: a list of active eBay listings for the set. Yet, it still provides members with loads of information. First, if your set has already been listed, you can view your competition to see whether you have a good chance at a sale. Second, if your set hasn’t been listed, you can see where your actual competition has set their prices. Finally, you can see how many listings you will be competing against for a sale to determine whether this will likely sell quickly or slowly.
There are a couple limitations of the Price Guide to note. First, the prices are generally updated on the 15th of every month for the previous month’s sales, so this average value is not a real-time price. Second, eBay sales prices are only as good as the sales’ corresponding listings, so if an eBay seller lists a set as “New” but titles the listing “without Minifigures”, this listing is still captured by the Lego Price Guide data as a “New” set. This can sometimes under report the actual value of a new set. A quick review of the sold listings will net individual sold listings of the average value, and it’s usually easy to tell the average listing and an outlier that may not be an actual NISB sale.
Ultimately, all of the information in the Lego Price Guide exists to help you determine market value for a set. Once you know market value, you can determine whether your set will garner your targeted return parameters. If you believe you can meet your sales targets, it’s time to sell! Proper research and use of the Lego Price Guide will make you an informed and intelligent seller, and allow you to see your portfolio’s expected returns converted to actual returns. What you do with all that profit is up to you!
Have Fun and Share!
So far, all we have discussed has dealt with how to use Brickpicker effectively for LEGO investing, but that's not to say Brickpicker members are about all work and no play. In fact, there are several features that are designed to provide members with a break from the "stress" and "work" of deal hunting and selling LEGO sets (even though most investors don't consider this an actual job). Let's take a look at some of the most important ways you can relax a little and share things with some of the other members.
We have already talked about this great feature earlier in this article, but it is important to point out that personal blogs are not limited to investment related articles. Of course, Brickpicker caters to investors, but the personal blog section gives any member the freedom and a space to share pretty much anything LEGO related. Do you have a fun story about how you got started into LEGO or about your MOC creations? These are completely valid topics to discuss in your personal blog!
Brickpicker members have access to a gallery feature they can use to upload images and charts for articles or reviews, or to post pictures of MOCs and personal displays. There is really no limit to what you can share with other members in pictorial form, and we can all agree that sometimes a picture tells more than you could ever describe in a forum post. You can even comment about other member's images and share your impressions!
Brickpicker's image hosting module is a very useful feature that was just recently added. For those of you that have used sites like Photobucket already know what I am talking about, but for those that don't, image hosting sites allow you to upload images from your personal computer or device and store them in the cloud while providing you a link that will make your images visible and easy to share. By copying the link, you will be able to insert the picture pretty much everywhere, from posts to blogs for all to see.
When posting in the forums, there are several "actions" or milestones that will earn you one of the many awards available to members of the site. Things as simple as posting a certain amount of posts or focusing on some particular feature of the forums can net you a badge that will show under your avatar. The following are just some of the awards currently available to members, but the list may include some extra in the future.
Brickpoints and Brickpoints Store
As mentioned previoulsy, the Brickpoints system is sort of a rewards program for those members who decide to become active participants on the site. There are several ways to earn BPs, going from regular posting to submitting Evaluation Corner or Brickvesting Blog articles that get published. For a list of detailed ways to earn points please visit the following link to the Brickpoints Program.
Once you have earned your BPs, there are many ways to use them right here on the site. Think of them as some sort of e-currency that allows you to "purchase" sets at the Brickpoints Store, getting them in exchange for your regular participation. They will also be used to reduce listing costs once the Brick Classifieds platform goes live (TBD). Let me emphasize this again: BRICKPOINTS ARE FREE, so make sure you participate in the site and get rewarded in the process!
Just to give you a taste of what you can earn with your Brickpoints, I included a screenshot of the BP Store below.
As you can see, there are several different ways to enjoy the site even when you feel overwhelmed by all the investment talk. It is therapeutic to take a break and enjoy talking about LEGO with other fans from around the world, and special forums like Odds & Ends, Building LEGO and the features described below are there precisely designed to help with that. We really hope you try them all and pick those that are the most interesting and fun.
If you've lasted this far, you have officially survived Brickpicker's version of Man vs. Wild. As you can see, the size and scope of the website is enormous and tackling it can be daunting. Hopefully this guide has both provided you with the road map to navigate the site, and placed you solidly on the road to making money investing in Lego! Enjoy your time discovering and exploring the site, and don't hesitate to use this as a reference. By and large, Brickpicker exists to help its members make money, and we hope you are successful with your Lego Investing adventure.
Ed and I would like to give a special Thank You to both Quacs and Fbarcelona101 for putting together this extraordinary user guide to the Brickpicker site. It is something that is long overdue and these guys did a fantastic job. Much better than I personally could ever do. We can't thankyou enough! Bravo!!