Building with LEGO has been a favourite pastime for kids pretty much since the time the plastic bricks were invented. Many adults are enthusiasts too – known as AFOLs or Adult Fans of LEGO – and it can be an expensive hobby. But, did you know there are ways your collection could help fund your hobby, or even earn you some extra cash?
I loved LEGO as a kid, but after years of separation, I now admit to being an AFOL.
Watching episodes of the LEGO Masters television series, I’ve seen just how creative some people can be with their original builds.
Many fans are happy to do the same and create their own designs from scratch. Others prefer to build some of the many set pieces that you can buy in stores and online, such as the popular Star Wars, Harry Potter and other themes.
My rediscovery of LEGO started with the Las Vegas Architecture set I bought on holiday, in Las Vegas. Since then, my wife Ann (another AFOL) and I have enjoyed building many of these set pieces and we’ve seen our collection grow, at a cost.
How much does a LEGO collection cost?
Some small sets will set you back just a few dollars, but there are also monster kits that cost more than $1,000, such as the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series.
It’s not only the cost you have to factor in as a LEGO fan, it’s where to display or store your collection (we have a cupboard full now). That’s where you can use your collection to potentially help fund your future purchases, and free up space at home.
LEGO Masters series 3 winners David and Gus with their incredible build.
Credit: Channel 9
Some LEGO sets appreciate in value
Some LEGO set pieces are available for a limited time and when you can no longer find them in stores or through online retailers, that can push up the price for people looking to buy any second-hand sets.
The returns can be pretty amazing, according to a research paper, entitled LEGO – The Toy of Smart Investors, published in 2018. Moscow-based researchers Victoria Dobrynskaya and Julia Kishilova looked at the resale value on 2,322 LEGO sets, sourced from the website BrickPicker.com and the book The Ultimate Guide to Collectible LEGO Sets written by the founders of the website.
“We find that LEGO investments outperform large stocks, bonds, gold and other alternative investments, yielding the average return of at least 11% (8% in real terms) in the sample period 1987–2015,” the researchers said in the paper.
Discontinued sets delivered higher returns, as did seasonal, architectural and movie-based themes. Some sets they found increased in value by a staggering amount.
The three most profitable sets at the time were Café Corner, up 2,230% after eight years, Market Street up 1,064% after eight years and Holiday Train up 1,048% after nine years.
But not all sets increased in value. The researchers found about one in 10 of the LEGO sets sold for less than the original retail price. Some sold for only half price.
How to sell your used LEGO bricks and sets
Whether you’re trying to make a profit out of your used bricks and sets, or just want to get rid to make room at home, there are plenty of places online where you can put them up for sale. Some people opt to sell on eBay, Gumtree or Facebook’s Marketplace.
Or you could approach one of the many dedicated resale websites such as BrickResales, which buys used bricks and sets from people at various rates per kilogram, depending on the condition. It then cleans and sterilizes the bricks before reselling them from the company’s outlet in Brisbane’s Coopers Plains or online.
BrickResales founder and director Judy Friedman told Canstar she’s aware some people try to make a profit from LEGO resales, but would-be sellers need to be prepared for some hard work.
“We know that it takes a lot of time and effort,” she said. “There’s so much work involved to be successful and earn money.”
Judy Friedman, BrickResales’ founder, among her brick collection at the Brisbane shop.
Credit: Judy Friedman
She said it’s important people do their homework to see what the realistic going price is for sets, as some websites can offer items she believes are overpriced. So if you ask too much, you might not get a sale.
Mike Klonowski is an avid LEGO collector who told Canstar his collection was “pretty big”, with some sets still left unopened in the garage. But he has sold some used sets too.
“Mainly just to keep the hobby going,” he said.
“An example is the Ghostbusters Firehouse which is a massive set I bought on sale for $200, and I sold it for $500. Probably should have held on to it because now it’s worth $1,000,” he said. BrickEconomy has it valued at $1,043 (at the time of writing), more than double the original price.
That is a typical example of how a set piece, now retired so no longer made by LEGO, can increase in value as it becomes more in demand.
Another example from Mr Klonowski’s collection is the LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Series Imperial Shuttle, which he said is now a sought after piece. It was valued at $1,598 (at the time of writing), an increase of 255% against the original retail price.
LEGO Minifigure Emmet, from The LEGO Movie, standing on the Imperial Shuttle.
Credit: Mike Klonowski/MK Photo & Film
When it comes to tips on how to get a good return on your investment, he said it is important to keep your sets in good condition.
“Keep all the pieces, keep the instructions, maybe keep the box, although if you build a lot, you’ll probably have to flatten those boxes. But it’s a bonus if you’ve got the box,” said Mr Klonowski.
If you have missing pieces from your set, there’s a chance a specialist companies such as BrickResales will be able to help you replace them.
But Mr Klonowski warned people to be careful when buying used sets online as there are non-genuine sets being passed off as the real deal. The LEGO Group has some useful advice on how to spot fake LEGO sales.
How to connect with LEGO enthusiasts from around the world
You don’t necessarily need to limit yourself to the Australian market if you’re trying to sell your sets and bricks. LEGO is an international brand with enthusiasts around the world.
Torsten Schnoor is the founder of the website PilotBrick that connects enthusiasts, both in Australia and overseas, to help them sell their used bricks.
“PilotBrick itself is not a dealer and does not buy LEGO sets,” he told Canstar.
“You have to remember that we are talking about a global market. Someone from South Africa, for example, is interested in a very special LEGO set that someone from Australia is currently offering.
“So here it makes perfect sense that buyer and seller deal directly, and the goods don’t have to be shipped to a third party first as well.”
Popular sets he has seen include many from the Star Wars theme, the pirates theme including the Imperial Flagship and those sets from the Creator Expert and certain LEGO Architecture themes that have increased in value.
“Also, well-preserved sets from the 1970s and 1980s achieve very high prices consistently,” said Mr Schnoor.
I managed to track down this old LEGO London bus (pictured below) for Ann as a surprise birthday gift. It was the same model as one she had as a child, and I’m sure I paid more than the original sale price.
Both box and bricks are a little battered with age but BrickEconomy says an as-new, still sealed in the box version would be valued (at the time of writing) at more than $700. But who keeps LEGO sets still sealed in the box?
Vintage classics are sought after such as this LEGO London Bus from 1966.
Credit: Michael Lund
Some people do, apparently. Unopened sets do well, said Mr Schnoor, and his tip is to consider buying two: one to build, the other to keep and wait a few years.
“As sad as it is, the best way to make a return on investment with LEGO is to never open and build the set,” he said.
But remember, not all sets increase in value, some decrease in value.
Personally, I’m not a fan of keeping LEGO in unopened boxes. LEGO should be fun and the sets built and enjoyed.
So if you’re a LEGO enthusiast looking to save up for your next purchase, now may be a good time to check the cupboards to see if you can make any money from selling any old or unused brick sets. How awesome is that!
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