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    CITY Airport Sets: Investments That Fly High


    In the LEGO investing world, the CITY theme is one of the least talked about and somewhat ignored by most investors. Other than the trains, it seems a lot of people simply don’t pay enough attention to the theme, maybe because there are a lot of re-released sets, mostly targeted to kids or its very generic nature. Having said that, the theme is a pretty good performer overall, with a CAGR of around 13.00%, above the average LEGO set/theme, and is probably the only theme you can keep constantly expanding and recreate a very complete LEGO city. I recommend you to look into the theme and try to learn a little bit more about it, as with any investment, diversification is key.

    After that short introduction, my main purpose with this article is to showcase one of the best performer sub-themes of LEGO CITY, the airport/plane themed sets. No city will ever be complete until there is a functional airport that serves commercial and private entities, and LEGO fans of all ages know this very well. Even more, planes in general are one of the most successful LEGO investments you can make, as a previous article in the Evaluation Corner explains, given their popularity with people of all ages.

    Something else CITY airport themed sets have going for them is the fact that, unlike fire or police stations, you can keep expanding airports as long as you would like, as that is usually how real world airports work. I am not saying that you can’t purchase two different CITY fire stations and have a really large one, but I think you will agree that one is usually enough, as they are very similar. On the other hand, by purchasing several of the airport sets you can expand your airport, getting more terminals and of course adding several planes, it just looks more realistic in my opinion.

    Before we go into the specifics, let’s take a look at the overall statistics of the Airport sub-theme. First of all, I selected the 9 sets that have already been retired on the airport sub-theme (and a couple really similar ones from the cargo sub theme) from Brickpicker’s price guide to calculate the numbers, so the upcoming sets to be released later this year were not included. Based on that information, we can see that the average CAGR of this sub-theme is around 20.22 %, a very high number well above the average LEGO theme. In fact, if we took this number and placed the whole airport sub-theme into Brickpicker’s theme ranking, it would make the Top 15, above Harry Potter, Sculptures and some other popular ones.

    Let’s now take a look at individual (Retired) sets, including some promotional ones as well:

    - 3182 Airport

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    Comments: This set is the largest one produced to date on the Airport sub-theme, with 703 pieces. A must have to any city, this set is really detailed and comes with a really cool plane, so you are basically getting most of the things you need to start building your international airport. The plane can be opened and played with inside, and there is even a nice baggage cart to take the bags out of it.

    Investment wise, this set has done outstandingly well. The airport retired only by the end of last year, and while in November it had a Market Value of around $ 106, to get one now it will cost you almost $ 150. That’s an almost 50 % change over retail in just a few months.

    - 7894 Airport

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    Comments: Very different in appearance to the newer version, but still almost the same when it comes to size and piece count. As 3182, the set also included a plane, but its main appeal, in my opinion, is the inclusion of the jetway that is not present in any other airport themed set and is an extremely necessary section. As I said before, these differences between the main two airport terminal sets really allow for anyone to buy several copies and build them together while still adding some realism to their city.

    As its younger sibling, this set has appreciated nicely since it retired a few years back, with a CAGR of close to 10 % at this point and a market value of over $ 150. It seems that sealed copies of this set are somewhat hard to find, and the only ones currently listed on eBay ask for almost $ 300!

    - 7734 Cargo Plane

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    Comments: This is a really cool plane that used to be the only cargo plane you could buy to add to your airport, something that will change with some of the upcoming sets. Not being the traditional passenger plane, this set is the one that has appreciated the best at this point in the airport sub-theme with a CAGR of almost 40 % and currently selling for over $ 200. The set appears to have stabilized a while ago, but we will have to see how the market reacts to the new Cargo Terminal that is going to be released later in the year. Still, given that this plane is so much different from the newer one, propellers vs. jet engines, and that people will likely prefer to add some variety to their airport, I don’t see this set being hurt too much.

    -7893 Passenger Plane

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    Comments: The largest passenger plane released and the only one with four jet engines has also been an investment powerhouse over the years. The set has been retired for almost five full years and still presents a CAGR of over 20 %, with a current market value of around $ 160, translated to a 300% change over retail. Considering that the set originally retailed for $ 40, this has proven to be one of the best plane sets investment wise released under the CITY theme.

    - 7733 Truck and Forklift

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    Comments: Not exclusively an airport themed set, but one that fits nicely into the category now that the new Cargo Terminal themed sets are coming out, including a remake of this very same truck. The 7733 set has appreciated nicely to over the past few years, and considering it was retired some time by the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, its almost 30 % CAGR demonstrates a great performance. The set itself is very interesting, and we can hope that the new version is as popular as this one has been so far. For a set with a MSRP of only $ 25.00 there are very few listings for it in MISB condition on eBay, and the ones currently available ask for almost double the price guide’s value, so apparently the set went under the radar of most investors at the time.

    - 3181 Passenger Plane

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    Comments: One of the smaller planes released, this set was just retired around October of last year. There is not much to this set other than the plane and a small tow truck, but in my opinion it serves it purpose and allows for a more realistic airport, with planes of different design and sizes. As far as growth, this one has gone up somewhat slowly, but with some CITY sets that’s usually the way they work, most of them just don’t shoot up quickly in value, but rather have slow but steady movements. So far, it has a CAGR of around 8 % and sells for $ 50, but look for it to continue moving up and reach maybe $ 70 by the end of the year.

    - 3222 Helicopter and Limousine

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    Comments: This little set is also one of the top performers in the list, since it was a Walmart exclusive and only lasted around four months on the shelves, factors that usually lead to abnormal returns in most sets. With an original retail of $ 30, the Helicopter and Limousine is currently selling for almost three times retail, and from the current listings on eBay it should continue to go up in the coming months.

    - 7891 Airport Fire Truck

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    Comments: There is always need for an emergency vehicle at the airport, just in case one of the planes has a little accident while landing or taking off. This is the set that fills that gap and is actually one of the older ones present in the list. There is really not much to the set other than being a yellow fire truck, but it has done reasonable well in the secondary market with a CAGR of more than 14 %, more than doubling in value.

    - 3178 Seaplane

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    Comments: Once you start getting into the smaller sets, the only way to make a decent amount of profit is either by moving a lot of them or by picking the ones that just explode in value. This little Seaplane falls into the first category, since with a CAGR of around 11% it has only gone up less than $ 5.00, and the fact that it was available for a lot more than two years does not help either. Still, this set was just retired at the end of last year, so there is plenty of time for it to grow.

    Growth of sets with less than 100 pieces

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    Growth of promotional sets

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    The sets above complete the whole list of sets under the Airport theme, with the smallest sets that have less than 100 pieces and all of the promotional sets that were given out in some way or the other. As you would expect, some of this hard to find promotional sets have become very valuable, especially the 2928 that was only given as a promotion with a partnership with some major airlines.

    Now that we have examined some of the past sets in the airport sub-theme, is worth mentioning that there are no more currently for sale in stores, but that will be changing in a couple months when LEGO releases for of its 2013 CITY set. In my opinion, you would be wise in taking a look into them and maybe deciding to invest in at least a couple in a way to diversify your Brickfolio. Even more I think that from the historical performance of this sub-theme, you really should not be disappointed. I will list the upcoming sets next.

    60022 Cargo Terminal: This is in my opinion the most promising set of the ones to be released later in 2013. From the past performance of the only Cargo Plane, I would expect this set to be a similar performer in the secondary market, and for some reason it is my belief that a lot of investors will not pay too much attention to it in the end. You better be on the other side of the aisle!

    60021 Cargo Heliplane: Very cool looking aircraft again focused more in cargo transportation than passengers. There is not that much information about this set at the time, but it does look to be a very solid investment choice, especially since it is another Cargo focused plane and not really a plane you get to see that often.

    60020 Cargo Truck: If you remember from an earlier section of our article, we examined an extremely similar set: 7733 Truck and Forklift. This is almost the exact same set released again under a different name and, if all goes the way I think, could very easily recreate the same growth trend of its predecessor. It is not a fancy or really remarkable set, so I think investors will once again miss on the chance and not stock up on this one, something some may regret later!

    60019 Stunt Plane: This is probably going to be the smallest of the 2013 CITY airport sets, but at the same time is also a very unique one. A stunt plane could prove to be very popular, but there is really not much information from previous sets that can help us determine how it might do in the future.

    And that’s it as far as LEGO CITY airport sets are concerned. I really hope this article will bring some of the investors who haven’t though too much about CITY as an investment to maybe research it a little bit more and see that there are actually some really nice returns in several different sets. Also, more specifically in the airport sub-theme, you see that there are a lot of really great performers, so if you want to start investing in CITY and already have some of the trains, your next best bet might be investing in planes and airports!

    Thanks for reading.
     

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    As a Lego fan, I've always loved the planes and airports.  As a kid, the airport was a great, playable model that really brought my city to life, so I am not shocked that many others feel the same nostalgia I do for these sets.

     

    Great write-up FCB!

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    Great article. I agree that this theme hasn't attracted much attention which is really a shame. The planes look very cool and the are very playable for kids.

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    The Helicopter & Limousine is one I still kick myself for not purchasing the second I saw it. I came across it two to maybe three times at Walmart and then never again. Dang it. Maybe if it said Zombies on there somewhere.... ;)

    Same thing for the City House which was Target's exclusive at the time except I only saw that one once. Bugger!

    Oh right, yet another good article as usual, Fcbarcelona101. :thumbsup:

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    Good article. I had previously ignored the entire Airport line until I saw them in clearance. By the time I checked BP they were all gone and I was kicking myself. Thankfully I was able to find later a 3181 and two 3182 sets at clearance prices. I had thought about a quick flip, but after reading this article I think I will hold onto them for a bit longer. Cheers for your effort!

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    Great article.  I too believe that City sets are largely overlooked.  I only have a few, but the ones I've decided to buy all seem to be climbing in the positive direction.  Especially the Level Crossing from a couple years back-wish I would have bought more than one :(

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    It's good that it isn't a "popular" investor theme. It means less sales and less sales means faster end of life and faster end of life means faster increase in CAGR. I tend to buy sets nobody or very few people are talking about because they perform the best.

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