I deal with bulk Lego more than any other type, I find it relaxing, I get to spend some quality time with my seven year old, and it is very profitable so long as you don't over pay or spend to much time on it. Time, time is the killer of an otherwise perfect lot. While there is no single solution to speed the process of finding value in a lot, there are several ways to speed up the process of sorting and building, thus finding the value quicker. Take the lot below, it is roughly 20-25 pounds of seemingly random lego and while I did get many sets of instructions with it, some of the sets were without instruct
Regardless of whether you get instructions or not with a lot like this one (completely mixed) I use the same techniques to figure out what sets I have. I will start sorting a bulk lot as I wash it, sometimes before. The most effective way to tell what you have (unless you have the instructions) is to know your mini figures. With my first run through I pull out every mini figure and mini figure part I find. Say hello to Ten Numb, he was one of the first figures I found and he is only in set 6208. Looks like I have a B-Wing.
Stickers are the next method I use to identify sets. Some like a license plate will actually give you the set number. Same goes with printed tiles. A quick note about stickers, they HATE to be washed. I will try and pull any piece out that has a sticker on it before washing. Washed or not as I find pieces with stickers or printing I sort them into a tray.
The same goes for any unusual pieces, as I find them I set them aside in trays or boxes depending on how big the lot happens to be. I will also sort out some of the more common bricks and plates by size and shape, while I don't generally sort by color if you find it helpful by all means do so. An average tray of sorted plates looks like this.
Makes your pile smaller and whenever you need a plate of any size you know where it is. I will do the same with bricks, rounds, smalls, and all the other more common pieces. When I am done I will always have a few pounds of random unsorted pieces that don't seem to fit in with anything. With those I just put them in a box and dig through it as needed.
Sometimes, even with a lot as random as this one, you luck out and will find pieces of sets or even ones that are near complete. It's not something that happens all the time but it's worth mentioning. Just be alert, for every chunk of a set that I have found I've also run across two or three altered sets or flat out MOCs.
Anyone who has ever processed a bulk lot will know that they always come with non Lego. As I'm sorting anything that I don't think is Lego goes in its own box.
Saving non Lego was a painful lesson to learn. While sorting one of my first bulk lots I took a quick look at the head to the creature from 7255, and thinking "no Lego looks like this" tossed it in the recycling bin. Oops. At least I could still sell Grievous. So, trust me, keep your non Lego until you're done with the lot.
I have always found it difficult to wait to start building so while I'm sorting a lot I tend to start assembling sets. I'll even work on several at once, I keep each one in their own box as I go.
I got all the bins from one of the nicer lots that I purchased, each set was in its own bin with its instructions. That has only happened once so don't expect it to be the norm. And I have no idea why this pic seems to be sideways.
With the first bulk lots that I processed I would only consider a set "worth the trouble" if I could get $20 or more for it, sometimes if much of the value was tied to a single figure I would just sell the minifig and be done with it. Over the last year or so my son has started helping me and I've had him do some of the smaller sets on his own, he enjoys it and when selling a bunch of $10 sets you wind up with the same amount of profit as you get from selling one more expensive set. A word of caution though, wait to sell the smaller sets until you've sold all the larger ones, it saves having to Bricklink pieces for an expensive set after using them on cheap one. I will still sell a mini figure to save time, but not as often as I have in the past. With older lots I would end up with 10-15 pounds of leftovers that I would sell in one shot just to get rid of, didn't make as much as I could have, but I saved time, now I wind up 5-10 pounds and sell it off in smaller lots or as sorted pieces. It's all about what your time is worth to you. I hope y'all have found this informative, and please comment on anything you do or do not agree with. I only need another 997,207 Brickpoints to get that 10179 and each comment is a +1