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  • Making Money from LEGO Bricks...


    Ed Mack

    People are always looking for the next hot investment.  With today's volatile stock market and falling real estate prices, people are looking for someplace safe to invest their money.  I'm here today to make a case for LEGOS.  That's right, you read it correctly...LEGOS.  Hard to believe?  Maybe, but let me show you some interesting tidbits and data that help me substantiate my claim.

    In 2000, LEGO was named "Toy of the Century” by Fortune magazine as well as by the British Toy Retailers Association, beating out such other classics as the teddy bear and Mattel's Barbie.  These simple, colorful and durable blocks have been around since 1958 in their current form and are more popular than ever.   The LEGO Group works with other top entertainment franchises, such as Star Wars and Harry Potter, to keep their ideas fresh and popular.   Fifteen 'billion' components are produced every year by the LEGO Group.  They even have a line of LEGO video games that are available on all current video game consoles.  Impressive, to say the least.

    I know what you are thinking...How does this information make me money?  Well, first of all, it indicates that LEGO is a solid company that keeps up with the times and puts out a quality product.  Secondly, it shows that people, both young and old have a love affair with these little plastic bricks and will pass this interest to the next generation.   Both these ideas are important in building a strong foundation for the LEGO Group's future and gives an investor a little piece of mind when plunking down hundreds of dollars to buy a new LEGO set for investment purposes.

    Before we look at the data that backs up the idea that LEGOs are a solid investment, let us discuss what LEGO investing actually is.  When I 'invest' in LEGOs, I usually buy a new or used set that is MIB(Mint In Box).  MIB means that the LEGO box was never opened or the parts used in any way.  The box is still factory sealed and in good condition and is stored carefully in a smoke-free and clean environment.  Investing in older and rarer sets that have been assembled(box has been opened, obviously) is also an option for investment, but for our discussions here, we are talking about sealed boxes.

    When speaking of LEGOs as investment vehicles, I like to associate LEGO sets with stocks.  There are thousands of different LEGO sets, just like stocks.  Both can be bought and sold rather easily.  As with stocks, there are LEGO sets that are top performers when it comes to investment purposes and then there are your dogs, or poor performers.  But unlike stocks, most of the LEGO sets that have been created over the last 50+years have increased from their original MSRPs(Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) if they were kept in MIB condition.  That's more than a lot of stock investors can say.  How many times has a new company's stock price tanked soon after launch?  Too many to count,  I'm afraid.

    Take a look at the chart below...

    IMAGE LEGO SET RETAIL PRICE CURRENT PRICE % INCREASE
    10018-1: Darth MaulPieces: 1868 149.99 393.47 162%
    10019-1: Rebel Blockade RunnerPieces: 1747 199.99 713.75 257%
    9302-1: Community Builders SetPieces: 1670 179.99 73 -59%
    3724-1: LEGO DragonPieces: 1530 98.99 464 369%
    8466-1: 4X4 Off-RoaderPieces: 1102 119.99 412.5 244%
    10001-1: MetrolinerPieces: 782 148.99 275.28 85%
    3804-1: Robotics Invention System V2.0Pieces: 717 199.99 224.22 12%
    7317-1: Aero Tube HangerPieces: 706 89.99 94.17 5%
    6290-1: Red Beard RunnerPieces: 698 99.99 170 70%
    4709-1: Hogwarts CastlePieces: 682 89.99 161.98 80%
    8538-1: Muaka & Kane-raPieces: 633 69.99 61.4 -12%
    3451-1: Sopwith CamelPieces: 574 49.99 133.37 167%
    7316-1: Excavation SearcherPieces: 471 49.99 36.96 -26%
    6472-1: Gas N' Wash ExpressPieces: 470 49.99 114.09 128%
    8539-1: ManasPieces: 457 89.99 149.32 66%
    7186-1: Watto's JunkyardPieces: 443 49.99 194.35 289%
    6776-1: Ogel Control CenterPieces: 422 49.99 35.12 -30%
    6292-1: Enchanted IslandPieces: 419 69.99 143.75 105%
    8549-1: TarakavaPieces: 411 49.99 50.74 2%
    4708-1: Hogwarts ExpressPieces: 410 49.99 90.4 81%
    8465-1: Extreme Off-RoaderPieces: 365 39.99 79 98%
    8008-1: StormtrooperPieces: 361 34.99 41.5 19%
    8007-1: C-3POPieces: 341 34.99 67.75 94%
    4707-1: Hagrid's HutPieces: 299 29.99 44.35 48%
    10002-1: Railroad Club CarPieces: 293 37.99 359 845%
    6291-1: Armada FlagshipPieces: 280 49.99 104.81 110%
    10000-1: Guarded InnPieces: 253 24.99 75.08 200%
    8242-1: Slammer TurboPieces: 253 19.99 28.08 40%
    7315-1 :Solar ExplorerPieces: 242 34.99 34.77 -1%
      7166-1: Imperial ShuttlePieces: 238 34.99 84.96 143%
        2300.7 4911.17 113%

     

    This is a chart of the 30 largest LEGO sets from the year 2001.  The year 2001 was chosen to show a ten year time frame when comparing the MSRPs to current values, which is a common investment time period.  Next to the LEGO set name and piece count, the set's MSRP and current market value according to www.BrickPicker.com are displayed.  After that, the percentage increase/decrease over a ten year time frame.  www.BrickPicker.com gets its information directly from eBAY auction results and averages out these results to get current new and used values.   eBAY is the most accurate source for used and older LEGO sets in the market today.  On any given day, there are 200,000+ LEGO listings on eBAY, both domestically and internationally.  LEGOs are one of the five most active categories on eBAY, which also includes collectible baseball cards, stamps, coins and Barbie Dolls as other active categories.  

     

    As you can see from the data, over 80% of the LEGO sets increased in value, some drastically.  Some of the sets even tripled and quadrupled in value over a 10 year time frame, such as set# 10019(Rebel Blockade Runner) and set# 3724(LEGO Dragon).  That's some serious money if you had the foresight to purchase a few of these sets 10 years ago.  To put it in perspective, compare these 30 LEGO sets to the 30 largest US companies that make up the DJIA(Dow Jones Industrial Average), which is the benchmark for stock investing.  Back in October of 2001, the DJIA was at 9075.14 points.  In September of 2011, 10 years later, the DJIA was at 11153.98, for an increase of 22.9%.  During the same time period, the total increase for the 30 largest LEGO sets of 2001 is 123.5%.  That is over FIVE times the gain in value over the DJIA.  Impressive once again.  

     

    To be honest, it is amazing how these 'toys' increase in value.  The world wide economy has been in a major recession for years, yet there are some sets that show 100-300% increases during that time period.  Www.BrickPicker.com has a feature, called the BRICK INDEX, that will show you the Top 25 LEGO sets/items that have increased in value the most over a 6 month time frame.  The BRICK INDEX also has another option that shows which sets have increased the most over their MSRP.  It is quite common to see 100%+ increases in market value in popular categories like STAR WARS and the TOWN(Modular Homes), even after a couple of years.  One reason for such an increase in value could be the fact that LEGO discontinues sets after a couple of years, thus creating a sort of a 'limited' edition for each set.  That, plus the fact that most of the LEGO sets are opened and built, not put away and saved to sell at a later time for profit, also increases their value.

    Investing in LEGOs is not without its drawbacks, though.  As with any sort of collectible, the safe storage of the collectible is very important.  It is no different with storing LEGOs.  Although the actual LEGO brick is pretty much indestructible under normal conditions, the LEGO boxes and instructions need special care.  Due to the fact that maximum value is obtained when a LEGO set has a box and instructions that are in excellent and sealed condition, an organized and safe storage method is required.  A system of shelves in a spare room works well, but it takes up a lot of space and a lot of potential investors might not have the extra space to put aside for thousands of LEGO bricks.  LEGO boxes come in all sizes, but if you have a rather large collection, they start to take up entire rooms, unlike coins or stamps that take up minimal space.  Also, the storage area needs to be dry, smoke-free and out of direct sunlight.  The LEGO boxes also show shelf wear relatively quickly, thus reducing values even more.

    Another issue that confronts the LEGO investor is insuring the entire collection. Insurance companies look at you like you have two heads when you tell them you want to insure LEGOs, but with some collectors and investors, they might have tens of thousands of dollars worth of bricks and boxes in their basement.  After speaking with my insurance agent, he stated it was possible to insure a LEGO collection, but a breakdown of the individual sets and their current market values are required.  A site like www.BrickPicker.com can help with a current market value of a person's LEGO collection by using their BRICKFOLIO tool.  The BRICKFOLIO tool of www.Brickpicker.com enables a collector to input their entire collection of LEGO sets and get up to date values for the entire collection.  It can be printed out and then turned over to the insurance company, so the collection can be insured under the investor's home owner policy.

    Thus, in conclusion, it is this author's opinion that LEGOs are a worthwhile and fun investment.  Although it is not your typical sort of collectible like coins or stamps, LEGOs appreciate quickly if the proper sets are bought and stored correctly.  A site like www.BrickPicker.com can help show what LEGO sets are hot and increasing in value and which ones should be avoided.  Their BRICK INDEX shows the top value gainers in the past 6 months and from MSRP.  Now in days, online auction sites like eBAY are very useful in buying and selling these collectible LEGO sets.  Also, www.LEGO.com and www.Amazon.com are useful in purchasing new LEGO sets.  All three options are listed on the www.BrickPicker.com's SET GUIDE for comparison.  Personally, I have seen my own collection double in value over the last 3-4 years and that coincided with one of the worst economies of the last century.  LEGO investing is something that has gone under the radar for years now, with only a few smart people tapping into the market.  I'm here to say that everybody can get involved, even to a small degree, and make money from LEGOS...and have FUN doing it. 
    Keep those bricks clicking...

    Edward Mack
    AFOL and LEGO Investor...



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