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  • LEGO 10184 TOWN PLAN: Are retired LEGO sets a worthy investment?

    Ed Mack

    When I write an investment piece for the Evaluation Corner or Investor's Spotlight, I usually try to keep my "investment" LEGO set suggestions to new or recently retired sets.  My thought process on this is to give the LEGO investor/collector the ability to invest in a LEGO set that is still currently being sold on the primary market, basically at MSRP, or in some cases, slightly less than MSRP.  Even recently retired sets are usually very close to MSRP.  I mean, I could recommend an $1800.00 10179 UCS Millennium Falcon to potential LEGO investors every day of the week, but who could afford it and what fun would that be?  I want the average LEGO investor/collector to be able to afford the LEGO sets that I suggest in my articles.  But is that the right and only way to make money in LEGO investing?

    The answer to the last question is...NO.  Investing in new or recently retired sets and flipping them a couple of years later is only one way to make money in the world of LEGO investment.  There are over 9000+ LEGO sets in existence, and many of the older, retired sets are available on sites like eBay.com, Chowrentoys.com and ThePlasticBrick.com.  Some of these sets must be worth investing in...right?  Yes, many older and retired sets are worth investing in.  The trick is figuring out which retired LEGO set still has room to increase in value.  Most new LEGO sets increase in value shortly after they are discontinued.  Even the undesirable and forgettable sets usually show some value increase in the secondary LEGO market after being retired, albeit a tiny increase.  All new sets that are flipped a couple of years after EOL(End of Line) might not make huge sums of money for the LEGO investor, but some do.    The real question for the LEGO investor is, "How and where do you want to invest your hard earned money?  Into a safe and reliable 'new' LEGO set that could bring back a small profit(...with a possible larger payoff on some sets)?  Or do you want to take a risk on an older and retired set, that has a track record of positive growth and has appreciated a substantial amount for the current seller, but still might appreciate to the stratosphere”?  Sometimes in the investment world, you have to take a chance on the more expensive investment option to reap larger rewards.  In the case of LEGO sets, the retired sets that are large in size and price are the expensive investment options.  But which retired LEGO set should I risk my investment dollar on and why?  With that question in mind, let me suggest the 10184 Town Plan...

    Here is the LEGO.com description of the 10184 Town Plan:
    Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the modern LEGO brick with this special-edition update of the classic Town Plan set! Completely redesigned with the best of modern bricks, details and design, the all-new Town Plan features a 1950s-style gas station with pumps, car wash and garage, a town hall with a newly-married couple, a movie theater with ticket booth, seats and posters, 2 automobiles, 8 minifigures, rare LEGO colors and elements, and more. Includes a letter from company owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, who appeared as a kid on the original Town Plan box and returns on this one! Includes 3 gold bricks to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the LEGO brick! 

    Let's take a quick look at the 10184 Town Plan and what makes it so special.  First off, it has almost 2000 pieces(1981 to be exact).  Included in those pieces are three GOLD METALLIC BRICKS that are not found in any other set, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the LEGO brick.  The eight minifigures found in the set are exclusive to the 10184 Town Plan, which is another nice feature.  Rumor has it that the 10184 Town Plan was a limited release LEGO set, but only LEGO itself only truly knows the actual production numbers.  In addition to the special bricks and minifigures, also included in the set is a letter from company owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen commemorating the 50th anniversary of the LEGO brick.  Besides the 10179 Millennium Falcon, this is the only set I know of that has any sort of special letter or document inside from LEGO or its owner.  These are some very unique qualities that no other sets possess.  The 10184 Town Plan is one of the most highly rated sets by AFOLs and offers a quality design and building experience.  LEGO fans love the Town theme, and this set does not disappoint on any level.  All this is great, but is it worth the current market average price of $438.00+++ for a MISB and what kind of increase, if any, can we expect to see from this set in the future?

    Well, in my opinion, the answer is yes...the 10184 Town Plan is still a good buy, even at $438.00+++.  Why?  Take a look at the chart below:

    10179UCS Millennium Falcon2007 $499.99 $1,833.00267%44%
    10143UCS Death Star II2005 $269.99 $747.00150%43%
    10181Eiffel Tower2007 $199.99 $890.00345%40%
    10030UCS Star Destroyer2002 $269.99 $1,157.00287%48%
    3450Statue of Liberty2000 $199.99 $1,340.00573%-13%
    5526Skyline2005 $129.99 $343.00164%32%
    10182Cafe Corner2007 $139.99 $1,098.00685%75%
    8421Mobile Crane2005 $149.99 $428.00186%66%
    8285Tow Truck2006 $119.99 $465.00288%16%
    10018UCS Darth Maul2001 $149.99 $528.00252%45%

    The chart above is of the ten LEGO sets that are similar in size to the 10184 Town Plan and are considered some of the largest sets in the LEGO world, basically anything over 1800 pieces or so falls into this class(Call them the XL sets...LOL).   These ten comparable sets were also released before 2008, the year the 10184 Town Plan was released.  These pre-2008 sets were used because I wanted to see if LEGO sets older than the 10184 Town Plan were still appreciating well, especially over the past year.  The ten comparable sets are varied in themes and minifigures, with the 10182 Cafe Corner being the closest in piece size, theme type and minifigure count.  As you can see, these sets as a group appreciated approximately 320% from MSRP, with the 10182 Cafe Corner and 3450 Statue of Liberty being the top gainers with gains of 685% and 573% respectively.  There are two things that interest me with that data.  Number one, the 10182 Cafe Corner had astronomical gains since 2007.  Number two, the 3450 Statue of Liberty might be nearing its maximum value in the secondary market.  Why?  Because it was the only set of those ten that showed negative % change last year and that it is the oldest of the sets.  Maybe there is a ceiling for older and retired LEGO sets, but is the 10184 Town Plan at that ceiling?

    That question leads me to the previous year gain/loss data.  As I stated earlier, the 3450 Statue of Liberty was the only set among the ten comparable sets that showed a negative return last year(-13%).  The other nine sets showed gains from 16%(8285) to a whopping 75%(10182) for an average increase of 40% for the entire lot.  That is an incredible one-year increase for these large, retired sets.  Granted, these are some of the most popular and iconic LEGO sets in existence, yet they have been retired for years and they are still appreciating very, very well.  This bodes well for the future appreciation on the 10184 Town Plan.  Now you say, “The 3450 Statue of Liberty didn't increase in value last year!”  Very true.  Nine out of ten comparable sets had positive returns in the past year, except for the 3450 Statue of Liberty.  Why?  Maybe the set has hit its ceiling like I mentioned earlier.  The set is selling for close to $1400 and has been around since the year 2000.  It has appreciated close to 600% since it debuted and maybe it's finished appreciating or maybe there was a scarcity of MISB sets that were sold.  The 3450 Statue of Liberty is sold as a used set, most of the time, due to the lack of quality MISB 3450 sets in existence, and their astronomical high price($4000.00+ in some cases).  There is a limit to which LEGO sets will appreciate and maybe that's it for the 3450 Statue of Liberty, but taking into consideration the fact that used sets are the majority of sales and most sold listings that were considered 'new' are actually 'used,' maybe the 'used' figures are more accurate for this set(10% gain for the last year...which still shows moderate growth).  Regardless of the new/used misclassification of the 3450, if you compare the 10184 Town Plan to the 3450 Statue of Liberty in age and current price in the secondary market, The 10184 Town Plan is much newer and affordable set, and still might have a long way to go to maximize its investment potential in my opinion.

    A better comparison for the future value potential of the 10184 Town Plan is the 10182 Cafe Corner.  Both sets are from the Town theme.  Both sets are approximately 2000 pieces.  Both sets have minifigures.  Both sets are similar in scale, playability and building techniques.  Both sets are creative and innovative in their brick types and colors.  Some might even say both sets are "ostentatious."

    Whether or not you think these two sets are rather flashy, there is no denying the "grandiose" returns of the 10182 Cafe Corner...685% increase from MSRP and a 75% increase in value in the last year!!!  That is some serious appreciation.  Now, I'm not telling you that the 10184 Town Plan will increase 75% in the upcoming year like the 10182 Cafe Corner did in its fifth year since its launch(The 10184 was released a year later than the 10182), but even if the 10184 Town Plan appreciates in a similar manner(40% average yearly increase) to the other nine comparable sets being discussed, you can see a $175.00 increase if you buy the 10184 Town Plan for the current average EBAY price of $438.00.  Take a look at the chart below:

    10184Town Plan2008$149.99$438.0019257$613.00$175.00

    That is still nothing to scoff at.  Because of the special nature of this 50th Anniversary LEGO set, you might stand to see an even better return, maybe similar to the 57% increase that the 10184 Town Plan appreciated last year.  This would bring the potential value to $687.00, a possible $249.00 increase in one year.  Nice.  Now all this data and talk of potential value increases are just prognostications, or in layman's terms, guesses.  But they are “educated” guesses, with some historical data to back them up.  I originally asked whether or not it was wise to invest in older, retired sets and from the data presented, I would have to say the answer is a resounding...YES!  These older sets are still appreciating very, very well and even with the higher current prices of retired LEGO sets, one has to seriously consider investing in a "known" commodity, over a newer LEGO set that is a total crap-shoot.  Also, LEGO collectors and investors sometimes go into a buying “frenzy” when they sense certain sets are becoming too rare and too expensive to buy.  They fear not being able to obtain a discontinued LEGO set at a reasonable price and start snapping up the remaining retired sets at a very rapid pace...and higher and higher price.  This might happen to the 10184 Town Plan as it did with the 10182 Cafe Corner...might.  ;-)  Take a chance on the 10184 Town Plan.  With all of its special features and possible limited production quantities, you might be pleasantly surprised in a year...

    For what it's worth...I encountered a similar situation/question two years ago when I bought my 10182 Cafe Corner.  A MISB 10182 at the time was selling for $600.00 on EBAY and I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to buy one.  Well, I did and I am very happy today, because the set is selling for around $1100.00...consistently on eBay and Bricklink, for a 83% return on investment($500.00).  Just my last 2 cents...LOL

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