Every day, I read the forums and marvel at people that order 20, 30, and even 50 of a Lego set. I marvel because I am a hobbyist investor. Reselling isn't my day job, and it doesn't fund my 401K, or even my family vacation. I enjoy building Lego, so investing to me is a way to help fund my building hobby. My infatuation with Brickpicker has now encroached on my Lego building hobby (much to the detriment of my "Robo-Chicken" MOCs), yet my cash outlay is relatively minor compared to mega-sellers.
First, I want to reinforce to each and every Lego investing hobbyist like me that doing this as a hobby is okay: you don't need to buy 75 Epic Dragon battles to validate your BP membership, and no one will revoke your investor badge if you don't buy 60 Haunted Houses. In fact, I find approaching Lego investing as a hobby can be liberating. Here are some of the true benefits to hobby investing:
- No pressure = more freedom: Do you like SpongeBob sets and think they'll be phenomenal performers even though the forum thinks you're crazy? Then buy one or two, or better yet, craft an approach to getting it at a great discount and then pounce when you find it. Because the stakes are smaller, and your children will still eat if no one buys that Galaxy Squad set on your shelf, you can feel free to pick and choose whatever you want.
- More freedom = more savings: The freedom to buy what you want also allows you to approach deals strategically. Even though clearance pricing comes across the forum daily, hobbyists aren't forced to find stock to flip, so there is less of a chance of getting stuck with 5 Atlantis sets bought only because it was on sale for 40% off.
- Smaller inventory = lower pressure: Investing in Lego as a hobby allows me to set and change my strategy on a whim. If I don't like the way the B-Wing looks next to the Friends box, I can sell it at any time (likely at a small loss if it's not EOL) and buy something else. I'm not shackled to ROI like those that do this for a living are. This also helps me maintain good marital relations - my wife needs room to store the Christmas decorations too!
- Hobby investing = more Lego: When I sell a set at a profit, I plow that money into more Lego. That helps my MOCs, my relationship with my son and daughter who love to help Daddy, and yes, even my sanity. That said, even if my sets don't sell, I can choose to add my sets to my collection (although this gambit would destroy my portfolio returns) - it's always a win-win!
Lego Hobbying will not get you a visit from these guys...
So, according to the list above, who wouldn't want to do this as a hobby? Well, there are some downsides to Lego investing as a hobby:
- Hobby = discipline: Hobbies, while they can become all-encompassing, exist to provide a respite from everyday humdrum of work and life, not to dominate it. The well-rounded hobbyist will prioritize work, a partner, kids, family, and everything else that makes life worth living, and lean on the hobby after all other priorities are addresses. As a result, the people that are successful in keeping Lego a hobby will, in fact, have to work around at least one finite resource: time. They can't monitor the forums 24-7 looking for the next $130 Haunted House or $120 Arkham Asylum. Most will have a limited budget as well. The hobbyist will always be balancing time and money more than those who rely on Lego investing as an income.
- Discipline = less freedom: While the hobbyist can take chances that other, more profit-driven investors can't, the limited resources of time and money tamp down the number of chances the hobbyist can take.
- Discipine = less rush: Much like hitting on the right number at the roulette wheel or hitting the point at the craps table, purchasing a Lego set at a great discount can provide a rush of excitement. Even better, purchasing 20 Millennium Falcons for $85 a piece can bring you a huge rush; in the mind of the buyer, they've already made the score and money is in the bank. For hobby investors, the need to be disciplined can really depress the thrill of the deal: hobbyists will typically purchase fewer sets, and not have the time to dedicate to finding those insane 'Imperial Shuttle for $150' deals. I find myself longingly reading the "What Lego Set Did You Buy Today" thread, imagining all the awesome deals that weren't available to me.
To me, Lego investing as a hobby is more about the enjoyment derived from research, planning and execution rather than the thrill of the deal hunt. Don't get me wrong - I love seeing Potter Castle on sale for $85. But to me, I enjoy synthesizing a vast amount of research and sifting through the noise to craft an ideal portfolio. I also enjoy writing, and found extending my Lego hobby in a new direction very fulfilling. Remember, you don't have to spend money to enjoy a hobby. Participation on Brickpicker.com is proof of that. As a wise, old rocker once said, "life's a journey, not a destination." To me, Brickpicking's a journey, not a destination, and I will continue to enjoy it as such. I hope my fellow hobbyists do too.