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    Buying LEGO in Bulk: The Filthy Dirty Not So Secret Side of LEGO Investing


    While lurking in the shadows of this site I've read many differing takes on the ins and outs of investing in LEGO. The majority of those opinions center arround either long term investing or short term flipping and which sets are best suited for either. While those are both worthy endevours and I would not discourage anyone from either pursuit one angle of investing seems to be overlooked in most of the posts that I have seen. The missing strategy is buying LEGO in bulk. Where to get it, what to do with it, and how to use it to build your investment. Just as with any other investment strategy bulk has its own pros and cons, I hope to cover a few of them here. Full disclosure, I began my money making career on LEGO by flipping bulk lots and still spend much of my investing resources doing so.

    I've always prefered bad news first so lets start with the cons:

    1) TIME. With bulk, in general terms, the more time you spend on it the more money you make. At a bare minimum any bulk lot needs at least a simple hose down and a quick sort to remove as many non LEGO as possible. A fbulk lot treated in that manner would bring, on average, $5.00 per pound on eBay. To make any real money you need to spend the time to sort. Bricks sorted by color usually bring around $10.00 per pound. This assumes that you removed all minifigs and minifig parts. The real money in bulk is made by bringing sets back from the dead. The last loose 3181 I sold went for $46.00, had I sold it by weight I could have expected about $7.50. It took about 3 hours of work to sort/find all the pieces, but the extra return made up for it.

    2) Bulk is DIRTY. The last lot I bought smelled faintly of cat urine. I always wear gloves at first and wash using dish soap in a 5 gallon bucket, then rinse in a pasta strainer that is market LEGO so I don't use it for food. Some people wash in a sink or bathtub, but I have seen how hard it is to clear a clog. Also make sure to dry your LEGO. They will get moldy. Special note about bleach. DO NOT USE BLEACH. It will make your LEGO brittle and worthless.

    3) Hard to find/Competition. Good bulk lots can be difficult to find. As more people discover how much their old toys are worth this will only get worse. My primary tool for finding lots is Craigslist. With all its quirks and scams I've found it provides the most consistant results. Lots can also be found on eBay or bricklink, but you will pay more for them. I have yet to travel around to random garage/yard/rumage sales, but they also have potential to yield results.

    4) Unknown results. With bulk you never really know what you have until you dig in. Although, that's also one of the things that I like about it.

    And now for the positive aspects.

    1) Higher returns. The best bulk lot I ever found I paid $50 for. It consisted of 5 kitchen trash bags full of bricks. When I was done with it, after fees, I made $1,447. Time wise, I spent 80 hours sorting, cleaning and building. I will not touch a bulk lot unless I think I can make 3 times my investment. Most times when all sorting is done and fees are paid I hope to make about $15 per hour.

    2) Find COOL sets. I have 2 kids, a wife, and a mortgage. I don't have much in the way of disposable income, as such, I could never afford 10144, 6211, 7261, 7783, 6210, 4848, 4842...You get the idea. I have built all of those and more out of various lots that I have found. Once in a while I've found a gem that I couldn't part with such as a pristine (loose) 4195 that now holds a place of prominence above a bookcase.

    3) Low entry price. With patience a bulk lot can be found for almost any budget. Start small and reinvest the profits to work up to larger/better lots.

    4) Learn about LEGO. Part of the fun in building large numbers of sets is learning about LEGO. You start to see similarities between sets like the builds of 7260 and 7259. You eventualy can tell a Mega Blok by color and  can spot a valuable minifig (or a fake) a mile away.

    I'm sure that I've missed a ton on each side and the pros and cons of mint sets vs random bulk can be argued for ever, but for those just getting into investing in LEGO or those with limited funds bulk lots offer a viable alternative to start and a way to grow equity to invest in the more expensive boxed sets.

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    The price that I am willing to pay varies from lot to lot. If I can identify what sets may be included (and I like what I see) I may raise my offer a bit. Likewise if lot has a high number of minifigs I'll also pay a little more. Most lots that I've picked up came with at least a few sets of instructions, in those cases it makes it easier to identify what may be present. A lot with no instructions or minifigs where I couldn't see any identifiable pieces I would offer at most $2.00 per pound. Much of it comes down to a little luck, some guesswork, and a load of patience.

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    Just made my first bulk Lego purchase. 150$ for 6211, the smaller imperial star destroyer plus about 50 labs of loose bricks, bionicle and at least 100 minifigs. The challenge I am trying to deal with is the lack of instructions. I plan to part out the sets, but don't have the instructions to sell with it. What do you do when parting out and selling used sets? Do you buy the used instructions on tricklink, sell without instructions or sell with a printout of the instruction booklet PDF, when available? I want to net the best return possible on my investment.

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    That sounds like a pretty good buy. When building sets that lack instructions your best friend is Lego.com. I have never found a set that didn't have its instructions as a PDF on that site. I also sometimes use letsbuilditagain.com, they have many, but not all instructions scanned and uploaded on their site. When I sell a set without instructions I email the buyer on where to find the instructions online. Printing out that many pages is, to me, environmentally unsound. Some sets, 6211, included go through slight changes over their production run. Early versions of 6211 have 14 pieces holding the hull plates on. Later versions have 16. The first time I built that set I was nearly drivin to order parts on brick link before I realized my set wasn't missing anything by checking another sites instructions. Good luck with your lot.

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    This has given me the confidence to start perusing yard sales this spring - I'd like to get into a little bulk buying if the right opportunity presents itself. Nice article!

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    Just don't rush, the point is to make a little scratch. Not overpay for a bunch of random LEGO. And don't underestimate the amount of work involved.

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    There is a lot of work that has to be done to make the most money out of this. I found out the hard way. I bought a large lot of Lego. No instructions, no box, and there were some minfigures. I still am trying to identify sets that I have in the lot and to make sure I have all those pieces before I sell the rest of the loose pieces. I have been doing this for about a year now. It has been a long process and good luck to all who do this.

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    There are times when it becomes better for your own sanity to cut and run. What I mean is after staring at the same pile of bricks long enough it is better to sell in 5 or 10 pound lots just to get rid of it. I normally will do this once the sets that are left in a lot are worth less than my time to build them, or if the lot is heavy in Atlantis, Toy Story, Random Space Theme etc. I have purchased lots in the past that yielded no full sets whatsoever, that is one of the reasons it's so important to keep your costs as low as possible. It gives you a way out without losing anything. I've also found that including a minifig or two as a bonus will boost the price you get from random lots on eBay 5-10%, even if the minifigs are from unpopular themes.

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    Every lot that I've purchased for resale has been off Craigslist. I've watched some lots close on eBay, but they have gone higher than I was willing to pay. I check Craigslist multiple times daily.

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    Great article, thanks for sharing! Even earlier this year there were regular bulk lots on eBay that were worth buying. I picked up a lot for $95 that included most of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 4 Junior's Redbeard's Pirate Ship, Passenger Plane 7893, and a couple other sets. I pieced all of the above together and so far all of them but the pirate ship have sold, doubling my investment after what I put in to complete the sets. I've had a couple of other finds like that although not on the same scale. The past 4-5 months, I haven't seen anything worth going after on eBay. Prices have gone up and there aren't a lot of auctions available. I'll have to check out Craigslist and see what there is to be found!

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