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    Brickpicker blog articles on LEGO investing, news, reviews, evaluations, discounts and more...

    • Back in 2007, LEGO released the first of the 'Town Modular Buildings,' set 10182, Cafe Corner.  Since that time, seven more modular buildings have been released, including the 10197 Fire Brigade in 2009.  Each set can stand alone or be used with the other modular buildings to form an entire block of LEGO buildings, with sidewalks, streetlamps and other structures found on your average city block.  Not only are these modular buildings attractive, creative and accurate in appearance, they have been highly profitable on the secondary LEGO market.  Let's take a closer look at the 10197 Fire Brigade and its 'investment' potential.
      This is what LEGO writes about set 10197, Fire Brigade:
      Build an authentic vintage fire station! Ding ding ding! There’s a fire in town! The fire brigade drives to the scene from this detailed and realistic 1930’s fire station. Designed to fit with other modular buildings like 10211 Grand Emporium and 10185 Green Grocer, the station features rare LEGO® pieces and innovative construction techniques. It includes a ‘30s-style fire truck, 4 minifigures, a fire-dog, an opening station garage door, and a removable building roof for interior access. It also includes 2 fully-furnished floors with fire-fighting tools, racks for the firemen's helmets, fire-pole, ping-pong table, kitchen with fully-stocked fridge, couch, bookshelf and a roof with a water tower and bell. Measures 14" (35cm) high and 10" (25cm) wide.
      Includes a 1930’s-style fire truck, 4 minifigures and a fire-dog! Features lots of realistic details including fire-fighting tools, racks for firemen’s helmets and even a fire-pole! The station house features an opening station garage door and 2 fully-furnished floors including a kitchen with fully-stocked fridge and a ping-pong table! Remove the roof for interior access! The roof is equipped with a water tower and bell! Fire Brigade features rare LEGO elements including bricks and plates in dark tan, 1x1 dark red tiles, a red hot dog and the 3x6x5 Belleville® arch. It also features gold fireman’s helmets, a tan hand bag and a red sliding garage door! Measures 14" (35 cm) high and 10" (25 cm) wide! Add Fire Brigade to your LEGO Town and combine it with other modular buildings like 10211 Grand Emporium and 10185 Green Grocer! Looks like a well done and creative LEGO set, with lots of pieces and neat features.  But what about its potential as an 'investment'?  Number one, it's a 'Town Modular Building.'  That cannot be understated.  Past modulars, such as the 10182 Cafe Corner  and 10190 Market Street  have appreciated very well since the sets were discontinued.  Take a look a some values of earlier modular buildings...
      SET YEAR RELEASED MSRP(US$) CURRENT $(MISB) % 10182 Cafe Corner 2007 $139.99 $874.00 524%  10190 Market Street 2007 $89.99 $844.00 832%  10185 Green Grocer 2008 $149.99 $485.00 223%  These are the three modulars that were released before 10197 Fire Brigade and look at how they have exploded in value.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this modular will also explode in value once LEGO discontinues the set.  LEGO fans love this theme and it translates into huge increases in the secondary LEGO market.
      Besides the fact that the 10197 Fire Brigade is a modular building, the point that it is one of the larger LEGO sets(2231 pieces) is a huge plus.  Large LEGO sets seem to appeal to the LEGO collector/investor more than the smaller sets.  Maybe the high cost of listing fees on auction sites and the simplicity of selling one set to make 'X' amount of money instead of selling multiple smaller sets(to make similar money), makes a large set more appealing to the reseller.  The set also features rare LEGO elements, including bricks and plates in dark tan, 1x1 dark red tiles, a red hot dog and the 3x6x5 Belleville® arch, gold fireman’s helmets, a tan hand bag and a red sliding garage door, all which make it more valuable to some LEGO collectors.  This particular modular also has a vehicle in it(Fire Engine), which makes it different from the rest of the theme.
      All in all, 10197 Fire Brigade is a winner in my book.  It is a well designed LEGO set that has tons of pieces(some unique to this set) and appeals to the LEGO collector/investor as well as casual LEGO fans.  The set works well with the other modular buildings and is similar enough in most respects to expect similar appreciation results.  Buy one now before they are discontinued and hit the stratosphere in the secondary LEGO market...
       

    • An interesting article was released at the 2012 New York Toy Fair by The LEGO Systems, Inc. Basically, it describes LEGO's year-end highlights and illustrates LEGO's continued growth in the U.S. Toy Market. Let's take a look...  
       
      The seven basic bullet points of the article also illustrated to me that the 'secondary' LEGO sales market, such as EBAY sales, will remain strong into the future in my opinion. The children builders of today will be the AFOLs of tomorrow and the AFOLs drive the secondary LEGO Market. The LEGO brands continuing investment in movie and comic book themes will keep the sets fresh and creative. The positive and steady growth of the LEGO brand here in the U.S. for the past 7 years and across the world only gives AFOLs more confidence in collecting and investing in LEGO bricks, instead of other investment vehicles.  
       
      What I thought was most interesting to a LEGO collector and investor like myself was the fact that the some of the best selling sets of the past year were non-themed sets, like the Creator '3 in 1' sets and basic Duplo building sets. The LEGO collector and investor needs to pay attention to these under the radar sets. Obviously, there is quite an interest from buying public in these basic building sets and maybe it's time to start adding a few Creator sets to our collections, instead of collecting every Star Wars set imaginable. So, all in all, with the continued growth and success of LEGO Systems, Inc. and the continued influx of new fans and LEGO consumers, the future of LEGO collecting and investing looks promising.
       

    • Amazing how much money people have! Seriously, this goes to show the amazing appreciation and love for the world of Lego Star Wars. Either the person here has too much money to blow, has no idea what they are looking for on eBay or is just plain crazy. Looking at the numbers the Brickpicker database, we know that the current going rate for a Used #10179 UCS Millennium Falcons is $1125.39 USD, which is way below what this fellow paid. Next month when we run our numbers, I will be very interested to see how much this one listing raises the overall value for the used market for this set. Click Here to view the eBay Listing What do you think, is this buyer crazy? Would you ever spend that much on a used set?
       

    • Over the years, Lego has released hundreds of 'mini' sets to the buying public.  These mini sets usually were packed in small polybags and had approximately 25-75 pieces.  Most major Lego themes usually had a mini set or two that related to their larger sets.  Some sets had mini figures in them, but the majority(and the ones we are discussing here) are miniature versions of other larger Lego sets.  They were and still are priced well below $10(US).  These tiny sets were often used as "stocking stuffers" or were a giveaway from various newspaper and magazine subscriptions, such as Lego's Brickmaster magazine.  Although these sets were often considered freebies or inexpensive, their value to a Lego collector and/or investor should not be overlooked.  
       
      Of the main Lego themes, one usually stands out when it comes to overall appreciation of the sets,  is the STAR WARS theme.  This idea also holds true when  discussing Lego mini sets as well.  The STAR WARS mini sets are cream of the crop of the Lego mini world that is not mini figure related.  These miniature replicas of larger Lego STAR WARS models are not only highly accurate in appearance, they are damn cool from this AFOL's (Adult Fan of Legos) perspective.  Almost every major vehicle in the Lego STAR WARS theme, from the ARC Fighter to the Millennium Falcon to the X-Wing, has been rebuilt in miniature scale.  Not only are these mini sets accurate and awesome in appearance, they also are great investments.  Each and every Lego STAR WARS miniature building set has increased in value since their release.  Let's take a closer look.  
       
      The thirty five or so STAR WARS mini models can be broken down into two categories.  The first category is the sets that were released to the general public through stores and similar venues.  These had a MSRP(Manufacture's Suggested Retail Price) and the original sales price can be easily compared to current market data(Current market data is supplied from www.Brickpicker.com and their Lego Set Guide, which is based on EBAY 'sold' auction $ averages).  The second category of Lego STAR WARS mini models were the Lego Brickmaster mini sets.  Brickmaster sets were obtained thru the Lego magazine Brickmaster subscription.  Although the sets were free to all subscribers, there was a fee for the magazine.  Of the Lego mini building sets, these Brickmaster sets are currently the rarest and the most valuable of the bunch, but the actual appreciation figures can only be estimated.  Let's look at some sales data from the first category, the MSRP STAR WARS mini building models:  
       
      MSRP Miniature STAR WARS Lego Building Sets
      Model # Year Released Set Name MSRP (USD $) Current Value (Avg MISB) % Increase 30055-1 2011 Droid Fighter 2.99 5.33 78% 30054-1 2011 AT-ST 3.99 6.66 67% 30053-1 2011 Venator Class Republic Cruiser 2.99 9.05 202% 30052-1 2011 AAT 3.99 8.78 120% 30051-1 2010 X-Wing Fighter 3.99 11.76 195% 30050-1 2010 Republic Attack Cruiser 3.99 8.05 102% 8033-1 2009 General Grievous Starfighter 3.99 12.16 205% 8031-1 2008 V-19 Torment 3.99 6.29 58% 8028-1 2008 Mini Tie Fighter 2.99 5.61 88% 6967-1 2005 ARC Fighter 4.99 16.56 232% 6966-1 2005 Jedi Starfigher 4.99 7.07 42% 6965-1 2004 Tie Interceptor 4.99 16.35 228% 6964-1 2004 Boba Fett's Slave I 4.99 24.37 388% 6963-1 2004 X-Wing Fighter 4.99 20.76 316% 4495-1 2004 AT-TE 6.99 24.37 249% 4494-1 2004 Imperial Shuttle 6.99 18.12 159% 4493-1 2004 Sith Infiltrator 6.99 14.77 111% 4492-1 2004 Star Destroyer 6.99 38.76 455% 4491-1 2003 MTT 6.99 16.94 142% 4490-1 2003 Republic Gunship 6.99 23.56 235% 4489-1 2003 AT-AT 6.99 27.41 292% 4488-1 2003 Millennium Falcon 6.99 40.17 475% 4487-1 2003 Jedi Starfighter & Slave I 3.99 34.90 775% 4486-1 2003 AT-ST & Snowspeeder 3.99 17.45 337% 4485-1 2003 Sebulba's & Anakin's Podracers 3.99 15.00 276% 4484-1 2003 X-Wing Fighter & Tie Advanced 3.99 31.46 688% 3219-1 2002 Mini Tie Fighter 2.99 18.92 533% As you can see from the proceeding chart, each and every Lego STAR WARS miniature building set that was released to the buying public from the year 2002 to present has increased in value for MIB/NISB sets, some substantially.  Usually, with any investment, the older the investment, the higher the return.  It is no different in this situation.  The older sets are worth more and their % increases are quite high in comparison to the newer sets.  That being said, some of the newer sets(less than 3 years old), such as set 30051-1(X-Wing Fighter) and set 8033-1 (General Grievous' Starfighter) have increased about 200% from MSRP in less than 3 years.  Not a bad return from this Lego investor's opinion.  Another thing to consider when buying these mini sets are the 'bonus' models that can be built when combining particular sets.  Take a look:  
       
      *Sets 4491-1, 4490-1, 4489-1 and 4488-1 will each have extra pieces in the four sets to build a mini Y-Wing fighter.
      *Sets 4487-1, 4486-1, 4485-1, and 4484-1 will each have extra pieces in the four sets to build a mini Tie Bomber.  
       
      So when purchasing these sets, try to buy all four of the series to maximize the appreciation potential.  Potential buyers will want to build that extra model or at the very least 'know' they could build it, even if they never opened the Lego box.  
       
      The MSRP mini Lego STAR WARS models were available to the general buying public as earlier stated.  But a second type of Lego STAR WARS mini model was released by Lego beginning in 2008, the Brickmaster miniature models.  These particular sets were only available to customers who purchased the Brickmaster magazine subscription through Lego.  Over the course of an annual subscription, the Lego customer would receive six Brickmaster magazines, along with a Brickmaster mini Lego model with each magazine.  The miniature Lego models would cover some of the larger themes of Lego at the time...City, Atlantis, Bionicle and STAR WARS.  In 2011, the program ended, thus making the mini sets that were released this way a little more rare, thus more valuable.  Here's a look at the Brickmaster mini Lego sets that were released from 2008 to 2011:  
       
      BRICKMASTER Miniature STAR WARS Building Sets
      Set # Year Released Set Name Current Market Value (USD $ MISB) 20021-1 2011 Mini Bounty Hunter Assault Ship 37.79 20019-1 2011 Slave I 27.38 20018-1 2010 AT-AT Walker 22.41 20016-1 2010 Imperial Shuttle 17.37 20010-1 2009 Republic Gunship 28.96 20009-1 2009 AT-TE Walker 13.00 20007-1 2009 Republic Attack Cruiser 39.23 20006-1 2008 Clone Turbo Tank 52.81 As the reader can see, there is no MSRP for these sets to calculate a % return average for the Brickmaster mini sets, but an educated guess can be made as to their impressive appreciation.  All of the Brickmaster mini STAR WARS models were of similar size, piece number and makeup of the MSRP sets, so if they actually had a 'price tag' when new, they would be very similar to the MSRP sets(in the $4-$7 range).  That being said, their current market values are as high, if not higher than the MSRP sets and in a shorter time frame on average.  If for argument's sake, you say the average price of these sets were $6(high side of MSRP mini sets), the  smallest appreciation was over 100%, while several sets appreciated 700-800% in less than 4 years of time.  Nice!  
       
      In conclusion, there is something to be said for the miniature Lego STAR WARS building sets.  While the larger STAR WARS sets, such as the Millennium Falcon, set #10179-1, are the 'Belles of the Investment Ball,' the miniature version of the Millennium Falcon, set #4488-1, has more than doubled the 10179's appreciation percentage.  Similar appreciation figures can be seen throughout the Lego STAR WARS mini building set world in comparison to their larger counterparts.  Not only are they good investments in this AFOL's opinion, they are affordable and enable a beginner Lego investor/collector to start their collection with limited resources.  The mini sets are creative in Lego brick use and accurate in appearance.  They are also easy to store and take up little space in comparison to the larger, boxed sets.  Also, they can be displayed in a relatively small area, such as on a desk or small bookcase, without some little 2 year old hands destroying hours of work.  All in all, they are a very cool theme in the Lego world, and better yet, these mini Lego building sets give a major investment bang for the buck.  What else could you ask for?
       

    • Legos are an iconic toy. Through my work at www.BrickPicker.com, I have also found out they are valued as an investment vehicle for some very smart collectors out there. Year after year, new sets are released and older sets are discontinued, making those older sets more valuable with each passing year. But an untapped market within the Lego world is now emerging...Custom models and minifigures.  
       
      With the advent of CAD software for the Lego community, programs such as Ldraw(www.LDraw.org) give the amateur Lego bulider ways to record and document their creation's 'instructions.' For some talented people, this is a pathway to making money from their hobby. On any given day on eBAY, there are 5000+ listings for custom Lego models, instructions and minifigures. Obviously, someone is buying these custom Lego items.  
       
      As with anything, there are quality custom creations and then there is the garbage. As a Lego collector and fan, I have invested in a lot of these custom creations. Some people have a knack for creating some pretty cool stuff, that they sell on eBAY and make a pretty penny doing it. There is a huge amount of time invested in these creations by the builder. But that time investment is rewarded with numerous sales on eBAY. Let me share some of these custom creations with you...  
       
      One of my favorite custom Lego companies is ArtiFex Creations. They have a large presence on eBAY with their custom Lego lighting for various large scale models and a Lego 'cleaner.'  
       
      EBAY LISTING: Lego Brick Lights PRO PLUS Kit
       
         
       
      EBAY LISTING: Brick Duster Kit
       
         
       
      I have seen the lights on their R/C Turbo Tank model and they work great and have purchased the Lego Duster and it does a spectacular job of removing dust from my Lego displays.  
       
      They also dabble in model 're'creation. One such item is their Star Wars R/C Turbo Tank.  
       
      EBAY LISTING: Custom R/C Motorized Turbo Tank Instructions & Lights - Lego Star Wars 8098 7261
       
         
       
      Awesome is all that I can say. I have bought and built this monster and it is something any Lego Master Builder would be proud of. Over 4000+ pieces, R/C controller that works multiple functions, lights, working rocket launchers, etc...It is a creation that took a year to make and I can see the love and effort that went into it.  
       
      Out of those 5000+ custom Lego listings on eBAY, the majority are for custom minifigures and their accessories. It is a huge market. Anything from custom weapons to headgear to entire figures, make up the major part of custom Lego creations. My favorite custom Lego minifigure creator is a gentleman by the name of Haunted Pirate. This guy comes up with some stuff that Lego was afraid to make. LOL. Minifigures replicating famous movie villains is his specialty. Characters such as Chucky from Child's Play...  
       
      EBAY LISTING: Lego Custom Horror Minifig Minifigure Display Chucky Childs Play
       
         
       
      Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street...
       
      EBAY LISTING: Custom Lego Minifig Freddy Krueger Halloween Display
       
         
       
      Jason from Friday the 13th
       
      EBAY LISTING: Lego Custom Minifig Jason Friday the 13th Movie Display
       
         
       
      All in all, some awesome creations in my opinion and not a bad price. For a basic investment of anywhere from $30-$50, you can have a one-of-a-kind minifigure. He even made a couple special ones just for me. Pretty cool.
       
      Besides custom Lego models and minifigures, there is a large selection of custom instructions that use the LDraw CAD system that are for sale on eBAY. Instructions for Star Wars models such as the Imperial Walker...  
       
      EBAY LISTING: Custom Star Wars AT AT Imperial Walker are top notch.
       
         
       
      The most popular custom instructions are for the Lego Modular Buildings in the City/Town series. The Modular Buildings line of Legos were based on actual Lego fan's designs that Lego converted into actual sets. These sets can be combined to form an entire town block. Sets included buildings such as grocery stores and pet stores. Lego fans continue to produce new and interesting custom instructions for this Lego line and sell them like hotcakes on eBAY. Instructions like these hospitals...  
       
      EBAY LISTING: Custom Lego Hospital Instructions CD
       
         
       
      EBAY LISTING: Custom Lego Modular Building Instructions Hospital
       
         
       
      are also top notch custom creations. As you can see from their listings, these designers have numerous types of buildings to compliment the stock Lego sets. So in conclusion, this author can safely say that the custom Lego market is growing year to year. The amount of 'custom Lego' listings continues to rise annually on eBAY and other Lego sites. Custom sets, instructions and minifigures are being created by the average Lego fan and being sold for a profit. Build or make a quality Lego creation and there is money to be made...a lot of it. All you need is a vision, some spare time and of course, some Lego bricks...
       

    • I have to admit, I am addicted to Lego store displays. I love them. I scour eBay and Bricklink for any sort of Lego display. From Agents to Star Wars, they are awesome in my opinion. But what are they really worth and are they a good investment?
      Lego store displays are rare for the most part. These plexiglass covered, Lego dioramas can be found at any local Toy R' US or Target. The thing that makes them rare is that they are not for sale to the public from Lego or any department store. Rumor has it that they are supposed to be destroyed or returned to Lego when they are done being displayed, yet somehow, some find their way onto eBay and similar auction sites.
      Displays can range in size and shape. I have seen tiny minifigure displays from the San Diego Comic Con to large, 4 foot cases with 4-5 complete sets inside. Most Lego displays are glued together from Lego and cannot be taken apart. Some are lighted, some have movement, some have sound or a combination of all three. In short, there is a display for most of the major Lego categories and most Lego fans favorite set types.
      But the question remains, are they worth anything? And if they are worth something, how do they compare to a regular Lego set that is new or a used one that is complete? Let's take a look at a variety of Lego displays.
      The Lego Collector displays from the San Diego Comic Con or similar Lego expositions probably are the safest bets when investing in displays.

      A display similar to the above General Grievous display is a numbered set from Lego and is limited in it's production. Most sold in the $25-$50 range at the show, yet on eBay, these displays bring back double that amount. The Lego store displays are a little trickier when it comes to figuring out investment value. As I stated earlier, it's really up to an individual buyer to set a price for an item. A large, 4 foot display can run anywhere from $100-$500 on eBay. One thing is certain, displays containing STAR WARS sets(such as the one below), bring in more money than a similar sized non STAR WARS display(similar to the Agents display below).


      Both sets are the same size and contain about the same amount of sets, yet STAR WARS Legos almost always bring back more money in auctions. Another consideration is the size of a display. These 4 foot store displays make an awesome impression in person, but they are huge to be honest. Lego seems to be downsizing some displays so that they are attractive in appearance, yet don't take up too much shelf space.

      The smaller size decreases the value of the display slightly, but it seems that there is more interest in the mid sized displays, because people can actually fit them in an office or bedroom. Most 2 foot displays can go for anywhere from $75-$250 and some of the more expensive STAR WARS displays can hit $400 or more. Last, but not least are the Lego displays not based on actual sets. Stores such as Toys R' Us and Target have had custom designed displays that fetch big time money. Toys R' Us displays that are 18-20 inch plastic replicas of Lego minifigures(see below) have consistently brought in $500-$1000+ on eBay.

      Target displays of R2-D2 and Yoda have brought back over $500.

      As you can see, these rare displays can bring in big bucks, but unfortunately, they are very hard to come by.
      So what's the bottom line? Are Lego displays worth anything and will they increase in value? It's this author's opinion that Lego displays will continue to increase in value. This is based on the fact that the large, vintage minigure replicas of the 80's and 90's have reached exorbitant levels. The current plexiglass Lego dioramas that are being produced are relatively new to the scene.
      Although there are some dioramas that were produced in the early 00's, most have been made over the last 4-5 years. As with most collectibles, VINTAGE MEANS MONEY and Legos are no different. As the years go past and more and more of these displays get trashed or destroyed, the remaining ones will become more valuable. At least that's what I'm hoping for(because I have an office full of Lego displays .
      As with anything, it's all about the "eye of the beholder". Some, like myself, love these miniature plastic worlds and don't mind paying top dollar for them. Others think they are a waste of space and would rather invest their money in a 'new in box' STAR WARS set. For the investor who really wants a bang for their buck, Lego displays are not the way to go. Vintage, 'new in box' sets are the more consistent investment over the long haul. But at least you can view a completed Lego set in a display. I mean, what fun is it looking at a sealed box? LOL.
      Any questions or comments are welcome. Thanks.
       

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