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    Brickpicker blog articles on LEGO investing, news, reviews, evaluations, discounts and more...
    • Ed Mack
      There are certain LEGO themes that just seem to explode in growth on the secondary LEGO market.  Most of the time, popular investment LEGO themes do well after the theme is retired or goes EOL (End of Line).  But on occasion, there are LEGO themes that appreciate higher than MSRP before the theme is discontinued.  Popular themes like Ninjago, Friends and the CUUSOO line of LEGO sets have shown remarkable growth in values on the secondary LEGO market, even though most sets are still available at retail prices.  Another such LEGO theme was released in 2012 that has shown similar trends, the Monster Fighters theme.  The Monster Fighters theme is based on those old Saturday Horror movies.  Included in these creative and unique LEGO sets are the monsters and men that created them and in some cases, tried to “fight” and destroy them.  Thus the title...Monster Fighters.  Most of the major monsters are included in the mix and the theme has a variety of minifigures, vehicles and buildings to make it quite interesting.  Let's take a look at the individual Monster Fighter sets and their descriptions, data and BrickPicker analysis for each...  
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      The Swamp Creature 9461 70 $6.99 $9.86 -12.04% 41.86% 41.86%                                                                            Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay
        Defeat the Swamp Creature and grab the moonstone!
      On board his swamp boat, Frank Rock is on the lookout for the Swamp Creature's moonstone. If the Vampyre gets his undead hands on it first, he could use it to eclipse the sun and plunge the world into eternal darkness! Can he make it past his slimy adversary and ****** the stone? You decide! Includes 2 minifigures: Frank Rock and Swamp Creature.  
      Includes 2 minifigures: Frank Rock and Swamp Creature Features swamp boat and swamp with green moonstone and fish Swamp boat features spinning rotor and dual flick missiles Accessories include moonstone and 3 weapons Grab the moonstone! Battle the Swamp Creature! Drive the swamp boat! The swamp boat measures over 2” (4cm) high, 2” (5cm) wide and 3" (7cm) long    
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      The Mummy 9462 90 $11.99 $12.65 4.55% 5.5% 5.5%                                                                       Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   Stop the Mummy's chariot and take the moonstone!
      In her cool helicopter, hero Ann Lee flies after the Mummy making an escape in the ghostly chariot. If she can't stop the Mummy from handing the moonstone over to the Vampyre, the world will be cloaked in eternal darkness. Help her to stop him! Includes 2 minifigures: Ann Lee and Mummy.
      Includes 2 minifigures: Ann Lee and Mummy Vehicles include Mummy's chariot and helicopter Mummy's chariot features glow-in-the-dark skeleton horse Helicopter features spinning rotors Accessories include moonstone and 3weapons Attack from the skies! Capture the moonstone! Mummy's chariot and horse measure over 2” (6cm) high, 2” (6cm) wide and 5” (12cm) long Ann Lee's helicopter measures over 2” (6cm) high, 1” (3cm) wide and 2” (6cm) long Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      The Werewolf 9463 243 $19.99 $22.39 -7.4% 12.01% 12.01%                                                                           Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   Avoid the treetop ambush and recover the Werewolf's moonstone!
      Major Quinton Steele spots the Werewolf's moonstone under a tree. But it's an ambush! As he jumps out of his hot rod to ****** it, the sneaky Werewolf pounces on him from the treetops above! Can Major Quinton Steele fend him off with his giant blunderbuss weapon and make off with the moonstone? You decide! Includes 2 minifigures: Major Quinton Steele and Werewolf.  
      Includes 2 minifigures: Major Quinton Steele and Werewolf Vehicles Major Quinton Steele's hot rod Includes tree, moonstone and a weapon Tree features opening top ambush section with space for the Werewolf Avoid the Werewolf's ambush attack! Watch out for the Werewolf's glow-in-the-dark claws! Fire the blunderbuss weapon! ****** the moonstone! Quinton Steele's hot rod measures over 2” (4cm) high, 2” (5cm) wide and 3” (8cm) long Tree measures over 5” (12cm) high, 7” (17cm) wide and 4” (9cm) deep  
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      The Vampyre Hearse 9464 314 $34.99 $36.92 7.33% 5.52% 5.52%                                                                        Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   Stop the hearse and retrieve the Vampyre's moonstone!
      The Vampyre and his faithful servant the zombie driver have the moonstone and are making a getaway in the black hearse. Can Dr. Rodney Rathbone catch them on his motorcycle and steal the moonstone? Or will Vampyre launch a surprise coffin attack and send the doctor spinning out of control? You decide! Includes 3 minifigures: Rodney Rathbone, Vampyre and the zombie driver.  
      Includes 3 minifigures: Dr. Rodney Rathbone, Vampyre and the zombie driver Vehicles include the Vampyre's Hearse and Dr. Rodney Rathbone's motorcycle The Vampyre's Hearse features coffin with catapult function Accessories include moonstone and 4 weapons Stop the Vampyre's Hearse! Dodge the Vampyre's catapult attack! Retrieve the moonstone! Measures over 4” (10cm) high, 3” (7cm) wide and 7” (19cm) long Dr. Rodney Rathbone's motorbike measures over 2” (6cm) long   Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      The Zombies 9465 447 $39.99 $57.71 2.12% 44.81% 44.81% Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   Help Jack McHammer get out of grave danger and seize the zombie moonstone!
      Through the mist, Jack McHammer catches sight of the zombie graveyard. He's on a mission to recover the zombie moonstone, but as he reaches for it, the zombies rise from their coffins and attack! Can he make it back to his car and battle the zombies with the giant hammer? You decide! Includes 4 minifigures: Jack McHammer and 3 zombies.  
      Includes 4 minifigures: Jack McHammer and 3 zombies Features zombie graveyard and Jack McHammer's car Zombie graveyard features crypt, 2 coffins and zombie attack function Accessories include zombie moonstone and a weapon Bash the zombies with the giant hammer! Run from the zombie attack! Seize the moonstone! Zombie graveyard measures over 4” (11cm) high, 7” (18cm) wide and 5” (12cm) deep Jack McHammer's car measures over 3” (8cm) high, 5” (12cm) wide and 6” (16cm) long  
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      The Crazy Scientist & His Monster 9466 430 $49.99 $50.32 -3.97% 0.66% 0.66%   Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   Defeat the Crazy Scientist and his Monster at the laboratory!
      Dr. Rodney Rathbone and Major Quinton Steele have stumbled upon the Crazy Scientist's laboratory. As our heroes reach for the moonstone, the dastardly scientist zaps his ghoulish monster and brings him to life! Can they escape to their car or will the Crazy Scientist's Monster win the battle and imprison them in the laboratory? You decide! Includes 4 minifigures: Rodney Rathbone, Quinton Steele, the Crazy Scientist and his monster.
      Includes 4 minifigures: Rodney Rathbone, Quinton Steele, the Crazy Scientist and Monster The Crazy Scientist's laboratory features resurrection table with LEGO® light brick, catapult on the roof and prison with space for minifigure Vehicles include the hero's car Hero car features sliding seat and 3 flick missiles Accessories include moonstone and 3 weapons Zap the Monster to life! Launch a rooftop catapult attack! Fire the missiles! Zap the Monster with the light brick! Measures over 6” (16cm) high, 9” (24cm) wide and 5” (13cm) deep Hero car measures over 3” (8cm) high, 3” (8cm) wide and 4” (12cm) long  
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      The Ghost Train 9467 741 $79.99 $64.81 3.46% -18.98% -18.98% Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   Stop the Ghost Train in its tracks and grab the moonstone!
      The Ghost Train is getting away with the moonstone.  Help Frank Rock and Ann Lee catch it in their acrobatic airplane, suck up the ghosts with the vacuum weapon and grab the moonstone! Don't let them trap the heroes in the Ghost Train's prison! Includes 5 minifigures: Frank Rock, Ann Lee and 3 ghosts.  
      Includes 5 minifigures: Frank Rock, Ann Lee and 3 ghosts Vehicles include Ghost Train and hero airplane Ghost Train features prison, detachable carriages and lots of glow-in-the-dark elements Hero airplane features vacuum weapon, flick missiles and spinning propeller Suck up the ghosts! Fire the missiles! Stop the ghost train! Includes glow-in-the-dark elements Measures over 4” (10cm) high, 4” (10cm) wide and 19” (48cm) long Hero airplane measures over 3” (7cm) high, 8” (21cm) wide and 8” (20cm) long   Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      Vampyre Castle 9468 949 99.99 117.34 41.36 17.35 17.35 Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   Enter Vampyre's castle and rescue the world from eternal darkness!
      It's time for the final showdown with the Vampyre! He has gathered all 6 moonstones at his castle and is about to cloak the world in darkness forever so that his followers can roam free for the rest of eternity! Will our heroes Dr. Rodney Rathbone and Jack McHammer survive the castle's hidden spikes and traps to disable the moonstone device? Or will the Vampyre's bride and the manbats throw them into the castle dungeon? You decide! Includes 6 minifigures: Rodney Rathbone, Jack McHammer, the Vampyre, the Vampyre's bride and 2 manbats.
      Includes 6 minifigures: Rodney Rathbone, Jack McHammer, the Vampyre, the Vampyre's bride and 2 manbats Features the Vampyre's Castle with the moonstone device, shooting spiders, hidden spikes, trapdoor, stairs, secret entrances, coffin, organ and dungeon Hero car includes a net launcher 4 weapons included Watch out for the spiders! Dodge the hidden traps! Defeat the Vampyre and his nightmarish helpers! Measures over 18” (45cm) high, 11” (28cm) wide and 10” (26cm) deep Hero car measures over 1” (5cm) high, 2” (6cm) wide and 6” (16cm) long   
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      Haunted House 10228 2064 $179.99 $214.64 7.19% 19.25% 19.25% Buy from LEGO | Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   Enter the haunted house at your peril!
      The crooked Haunted House is home to the scariest ghosts and monsters. Tremble in fear as you open the gate, go weak at the knees as you step onto the porch and gasp in horror at the fireplace, kitchen, office, folding staircase, bedroom, potion room, music room and collection of other creepy objects. Dare you enter the Haunted House?  
      Add to your LEGO® Monster Fights Collection with the first officlal LEGO® Haunted House! Includes 6 minifigures: 2 glow-in-the-dark ghosts, Vampyre, Vampyre's Bride, Zombie chef and butler Features unique ‘crooked’ design featuring boarded up windows and working front gate. Haunted House opens to reveal detailed interior with 3 floors. First floor features fireplace that swings open and displays a ship in a bottle on the mantle. Cook up a ghoulish meal with the Zombie chef in the kitchen complete with old-style stove, jars and table! Write letters from the Vampyre’s haunted office! Pull the lever hidden in the chimney to release the drop down staircase and access the top floor! Top floor features gramophone, records and newspaper LEGO® elements. Customize the Haunted House with new stickers for wall hangings, spider webs and curtains! Measures 15.4” (39cm) high, 9.4” (24cm) wide and 7.5” (19cm) deep  
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      Zombie Chauffer Coffin Car 30200 32 $3.49 $8.94 4.68% 155.43% 155.43% Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   LEGO.com Description: N/A
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      Ghost 30201 33 3.49 14.06 -0.42 301.71 301.71 Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   LEGO.com Description: N/A
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      Zombie Car 40076 60 N/A $11.10 18.34% N/A N/A Buy from Amazon | Buy from eBay   LEGO.com Description: N/A
      Set Name Set # Pieces MSRP (US $) Current Value (US $) % Change (Last Month) % Change (From Retail) CAGR (%)
      Monster Fighters Promotional Pack 5000644 12 N/A $11.50 N/A N/A N/A Buy from eBay   LEGO.com Description: N/A
      As the reader can see, there is quite the variety of LEGO sets in the Monster Fighters theme.  Small and large.  Cost effective and expensive.  Hearses, houses, planes, trains, graves, zombies, bats, rats...whatever.  There is something for everyone.  The theme caters to the casual fan and serious collector and investor.  For instance, the 9461 Swamp Creature is a tremendous value for the investor with limited funds to invest, while the iconic 10228 Haunted House will be talked about for years as one of the all time classic LEGO sets.  Also, Zombies seem to play a major role in the theme and we all know how well the 8683-5 Zombie, from the Series 1 Collectible Minifigures collection, has done in the secondary market.  A $2 Zombie collectible minifigure has hit the $20 mark in the secondary market, so one would like to think that Zombies are moneymakers and will enable some sets in the theme to do very well in the secondary market.  If I have any issue with this theme it's the lack of sets and no proposed new Monster Fighters sets for 2013.  But on the positive side, a theme with limited sets is one that can be collected in its entirety, which, in the LEGO world, is rather difficult to do on a regular basis.
        As stated above, the one thing that stands out to me with this theme is that no new sets are planned for 2013 as of this writing.  It looks to be a LEGO theme that has a limited life span.  While I have no proof of this and there is no telling when these current sets will be retired, an educated guess would be this is a one and done theme.  One year and on to the next theme.  It is quite possible a new Monster Fighters set or two will be released around the Halloween holiday, but I would bet against it.  Why?  If you look closely at the current Monster Fighter sets, the majority of generic monsters have been turned into minifigures and sets.  Vampires, Frankenstein, The Mummy and Wolfman, Zombies and the Creature(from the Black Lagoon) all have been immortalized in ABS plastic.  What's left?  Maybe the Invisible Man and mostly 'themed' movie monsters like Jason(Voorhees), Freddy(Kruger) and Michael(Myers).  I don't think LEGO wants to go there...LOL.  Another reason why I think this theme is limited in its production is that set 9465, The Zombies, looks to be EOL already.  The set is “sold out” on LEGO S@H and is not available at MSRP at any other retailer.  Now, being sold out is not a definite indicator of a set being EOL, but from the word on the proverbial LEGO street, from fans who have tried to buy this set, is that no more are going to be available.  Time will tell.
        So what does this mean to the investment potential of this theme?  Well, for starters, limited production of a popular LEGO theme means big time appreciation later in the secondary LEGO market.  Depending on how long this theme remains in production will determine how valuable the current sets will become in the secondary LEGO market.  If set 9465, The Zombies, is the first to actually go EOL, then the others might follow soon after.  But if the 9465 comes back in stock on LEGO S@H in a couple of weeks, then all bets are off and this theme might be produced for months.  My gut feeling is that this theme is winding down, with the exception of the 10228 Haunted House, which will be produced for quite a while due to its popularity, but what do I really know...I thought the 10188 Death Star was going EOL two years ago.  Point is, this is a quality theme, with quality sets, that engages adults and children alike.  It has shown great investment potential so far as indicated by the Theme CAGR and depending on how much longer the Monster Fighters are produced, the sets will either show strong growth in the secondary market or have the possibility to explode in the secondary market.  Either way, now is the time to buy these sets if you haven't already, because you never know when the LEGO Grim Reaper will come and “retire” these sets...

    • Eschdaddy
      The point of investing in anything is to increase a person's net worth through the increased value of what we purchase. There's three main parts to an investment cycle where decisions need to be made, which affect its value: When you buy, While you hold, and When you sell. Making money the first two ways has been extensively covered, (very well I might add), by brickpicker.com. They identify stores' sites with their specified discounts, eBay listings below each item's analysis, and more. Brickpicker also assists you during the holding stage by offering advice on which sets have potential for increasing their values, as well as updated analysis of how each set is doing and current trends. So this article's intent is to cover the last stage of investing: selling...and not so much the When “to” sell aspect (because that is another large and in-depth article in itself), but Where to sell a LEGO set and Whom to sell it to. For without this aspect, any potential gains will not be realized.
      Part I: Where to Sell
      So you have a LEGO set...you bought it cheap, it increased in value and now it has plateaued or even decreased. So, you decided to remove it from your Brickfolio and sell it, but where? There are several venues available to you: Bricklink, eBay, Amazon, Craig's List, or private sales. But which one you go with should depend on your comfort level for risk, and how much you are willing to spend to sell. I've personally bought and sold on all but Amazon and all have their advantages and disadvantages. Let's look at each one, advantages and disadvantages, and provide a recommendation.
      eBay is a well-known option that's been around almost as long as the World Wide Web. It has two primary and separate fees (three if you use Paypal): insertion and final value fees. You can read about them in detail here: http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/questions/what-fees.html. Insertion fees will usually run $0.50 plus whatever add-on features you want. Pics are now free and even a requirement, so the initial costs have come down significantly. Final value fees are just what they sound like, the value of your item at sale. Although the amount depends on what you're selling and for how much, most LEGO sets will go between $50 to $1,000. This example makes the final value fee $5.50 for the first $50 plus 6% of the remaining balance up to $1,000. Paypal also depends on the size of the transaction, but ends up being around 3.6%. Overall, it's about 11% from start to finish.
      A $200 sale would be as such:
      $5.50($5.50 of first $50) + $9.00(6% of remaining $150) = $14.50 = 7.25% of $200 + 3.6% for Paypal = 10.85% of transaction
      eBay Advantages:
      Higher volume of customers = quicker sales, higher prices You can auction or do a fixed price sale Insurance included for you and buyer Shipping service available at discounted price Free educational products to take advantage of Free mass loading software Detailed sales records Relatively great customer service Easy international sales Seller rating system and discounts for highest rated If you want maintain a long-term presence, its easier to start/maintain your 'brand.' eBay Disadvantages:
      Higher sales fees in comparison to some competitors They tend to be strict about their policies, so read them first Reputation has a long memory (an advantage for a buyer) and can take a year to clean itself up. Caps on sales are used to prevent you from taking on more than you can chew, but can be increased as you prove yourself. Amazon.com
      Amazon is another option for those wishing to say goodbye to their LEGO sets. Amazon's a very trusted site and one of the pioneers along with eBay. You can see a detailed fee schedule:
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=1161240. Again there are two fees: referral and closing fees. For toys, the referral fee is 15%, plus a variable closing of $0.45 plus $0.05/lb. So depending on the size of what you're selling, your fees may be well over 15%, or a flat 15%.
      Amazon Advantages:
      Excellent customer service Higher volume of customers = quicker sales, higher prices Easy listing with their online catalog Charge back protection (if you use credit cards) Amazon guarantees all marketplace sales. Amazon Disadvantages:
      Painfully high fees Sellers must adhere strictly to the site's policies or lose their presence on it. It's hard to establish your individuality or brand. Craig's List
      Craig's List is very inexpensive...very! However, you usually need to do a face-to-face transaction, so eventually, you have to trust. There have been crimes associated with Craig's List transactions, so we recommend meeting in a public area and only accept cash. For the buyer, there is no recourse for faulty items, so thoroughly check the item you are buying before accepting it. Unless you are posting a job search, your fees are zero and the site shows where you are located (not your address), so your buyers can determine if they want to go that far to buy it.
      Craig's List Advantages:
      No fees Buyers are guided to Seller in their local area. Not just for selling, but can be used to look for services, jobs, cars, etc.(equivalent to the classified section at the back of a newspaper). High volume of users, but not all buyers. Easy to use Craig's List Disadvantages:
      Major issues related to fraudulent sellers and buyers Buyer and seller meet face to face, so caution must be used during transaction. Never meet at your home or a private area. No protection to buyer or seller after sale...example: insurance No feedback or rating system Bricklink
      Bricklink is the eBay of the LEGO world. Everyone who invests and collects LEGO bricks is very familiar with this site and its clumsiness. The site has almost everything you could want, LEGO-wise, but the process of buying requires the buying, then the invoice, then the paying, then the shipping. All of which is handled by email and Paypal. But Bricklink only charges you 3% of the purchase price, plus the Paypal fees. Most of the LEGO info is already established there, so there's less info to put in.
      Bricklink Advantages:
      Very cheap fee schedule. A very specified educated user/customer International customer base Easy to list products Bricklink Disadvantages:
      Not as large of a customer base Buying and selling can be cumbersome and non-intuitive. No shipping service A lot of like competition No insurance other than what Paypal provides. Description and photos of items being sold is limited. If all these fees seem overly complicated, fear not my young Padawan. There are many apps that determine the fees for you and some even compare them so you can decide the most cost effective route. We recommend the Auction Calculator, Professional Edition, by Logicworks. It determines fees based on preset variables; from eBay store ownership and Powerseller status, to Amazon's referral fees. Compare the fees and see which is best for you.
      Overall, we'd recommend selling LEGO bricks and sets on either eBay and Bricklink. eBay has a wider audience, that includes the entire population of buyers, not just the diehard LEGO fans that have heard of Bricklink. eBay does allow you to set a price and let it run til it sells, but it also has the option to auction. So if you're in an emergency and need your money fast, eBay's the only way to go. However, if you're patient and want the most money out of your set, Bricklink may be your solution. You can still establish your price where you want it and sooner or later someone will come along and buy it. Both Bricklink and eBay use Paypal, which is a very safe option for both sides of the transaction. Both sites have relatively low fees in comparison to Amazon, so it all boils down to how fast do you want to sell it and how much you're willing to pay in fees for more exposure.
      Part II: Whom to Sell To
      So, we discussed where to sell your LEGO set, but to who you sell a LEGO set to can also make a difference and additional profits for the seller. In Part I, we recommended Bricklink and eBay for the LEGO seller. Bricklink's low fees and eBay's ease, safety and exposure outweigh Amazon's and Craig's List's advantages. But another major factor is their ability to sell internationally. The World's population is roughly 7 billion people and the US's population is 311 million. That means 95% of your potential customer base is outside the US borders. Still, most eBay sellers in the US elect not to sell internationally. Some sellers refer to customs paperwork and shipping restrictions/costs as the main ingredients leading to this decision. Some also worry about international import duties and charges. With most, its just the fear of the unknown and the potential for losing a package overseas. But with just a bit of education, you'll see that shipping internationally is actually very easy... especially if you're using eBay or Bricklink.
      The additional costs of international shipping, such as import duties, are the responsibility of the buyer. The package arrives at their country's customs department and send this charge directly to the buyer, so it's not really something to worry about. The customs paperwork is an additional requirement to what you would need to do for a US buyer, but it couldn't be more simple... again, especially if you use eBay. When creating a shipping document, you first enter the weight and dimensional info as you normally would. Once entered, a US sale would lead you to print out the shipping label. But for international labels, you're instead redirected to input product information for your customs forms PS form 2976. On eBay, this is prefilled for you, using the data from your listing. All you really needs to do is click the acknowledgment field, (located at the bottom by your signature block and usually highlighted by a red arrow), that says you've read and understand what you can and cannot ship. From there, what you do next depends on how you ship, First Class and Parcel, or Priority. First Class and Parcel will print out a single label that you must sign and date and then attach as you normally would. For Priority, the only difference is the number of labels you'll print out. You'll cut along the dotted lines, sign, date, and put them into a Ziploc bag. From here, just tape the bag to the package as your label. Be sure to sign and date all the forms, but the sender's copy, before putting them into the bag; label facing out. The tracker for international packages currently tracks only to the US border, so it's only good for the start of its journey. But this will change once a new, easier system becomes available to the regular public.
      Besides a larger customer base, there's an even better reason to sell international...price! Being born in the US is a blessing in many ways, but one of the most overlooked is our price of LEGO bricks and sets. The US LEGO market is significantly cheaper than most of the world. In Australia, the prices are about 33% higher, Europe the same way. Even Asia and Japan are significantly higher. When you combine this with the week dollar, many other countries are dying to buy their LEGO sets here. I've only been selling LEGO internationally for two months, but the day I started my sales went up 40%. Not to mention, it's a great way to teach geography to your kids. We have a world map on the wall and every international sale, in a new country, means another star and a chance to learn a bit about it. So far we've got over 34 separate stars we've sold to; amounting to over 147 sales in just two months...which amounts to almost half our sales.
      There's always an opposite side to every coin and this one's no exception. So what are some of the down sides? There's the lack of tracking outside the US borders and some government's postal services aren't as trustworthy as ours, leading to missing packages. Rarely, there's even a communication gap. However, the benefits vastly outweigh the costs, especially with a new program just getting started at eBay, the Global Shipping Program. You can read about it here: http://announcements.ebay.com/2012/11/attention-sellers-upcoming-program-will-make-selling-internationally-as-easy-as-domestic/. Essentially, it's a program where you'll ship to a place stateside and they'll handle everything else, all the way to its final destination anywhere in the world. Now, no one has an excuse not to ship internationally. But of course we need to be fair, so here is a list of advantages vs disadvantages:
      Enormous customer base Easy to compete price-wise with other local LEGO stores and sites Can sell at higher sales price...even new sets(This is why some new and “available from primary retailer” LEGO sets have current BrickPicker prices higher than MSRP). Bring money into the US economy Insurance available at discount New program will make international shipping as easy as domestic Disadvantages:
      Increased number of fraudulent buyer Potential for corrupted postal services Extended shipping times, up to 2-4 weeks and sometimes longer Tracker only works to US border, but will change with new program As you can see, by picking the right selling venue and selling to the right people, you can actually increase your gains from your LEGO investments when it is time to sell. Bricklink, eBay, Amazon and Craig's List all have their advantages and disadvantages and what works for one LEGO seller might not work for another. Also, international shipping, while lucrative for some sellers like myself, might not be worth the added hassle for other sellers. That being said, the new Global Shipping Program, when launched by eBay, will give eBay a decided edge over its competitors and along with its other advantages, will make eBay the most effective site to sell your LEGO sets in my opinion. So, pick smart, buy smart, and sell smart. All three basics of LEGO investing should be taken into consideration over the life of your investments...otherwise, you might be selling yourself short.

    • Ed Mack
      There are over 9000 LEGO sets in existence. Of those 9000+ LEGO sets, the vast majority have been retired or in LEGO terms, gone EOL(End Of Line). The common topics among forum members usually relate to newer LEGO sets, while the LEGO sets that are five years old or older, get very little attention in terms of buying as an investment. New sets like the 10211 Grand Emporium, 10197 Fire Brigade, 10217 Diagon Alley and 21102 CUUSOO Minecraft get a lot of love from LEGO investors. There is constant speculation of when these sets will retire and how high they will appreciate. There is constant dialogue about the various sales and deals for new sets, but are we overlooking thousands of older and retired sets in the process? I say the answer to that question is a definite...yes.
        For our purposes here, an “old” set will be any set that is five years old or older. A set like the 10188 Death Star (or “Live Star” as some members call it) is an exception to that rule in that it is still being produced five years after its initial release, but removing the 10188 and others like it from the equation, leaves a solid standard in which to separate new and old sets. It is my belief that the majority of LEGO sets will be retired in a year or two after initial release and make its largest increase in value in the secondary market soon after EOL(approximately years three-four after initial release). Around year five, the set's rise in value in the secondary market seems to slow on an annual basis, eventually leveling off at some period...and maybe even dropping in value at some point. Many LEGO collectors and investors will sell their investment LEGO sets around this time(~five years) frame and start the process again with another new LEGO set. It is a method that has worked for many LEGO investors over the years and has made many a LEGO investor/reseller some solid profits. But can this technique be applied to a set that is older than five years old and come up with a solid return on investment? Let's take a look...
        When I discuss older LEGO sets and their investment potential, I always like to discuss examples of how I bought older sets that have appreciated well five or more years after release.
        Take a look at the chart below. These are some examples of LEGO sets I bought after they were retired. All the sets were at least five years old and retired when I bought them. I bought them at various times on EBAY auctions/Buy It Nows and were all MISB/NIB condition. Take a look:  
      Set NameSet #Year ReleasedYear PurchasedPrice Paid (US$)Current Value (US$)My Profit (US$)My Simple ROI(%)My CAGR (%)UCS Star Destroyer1003020022008$299$1021$722241%35.94%UCS X-Wing Fighter719120002008$275$741$466169%28.12%Vezon & Kardas1020420062011$179$332$15385%85.47%UCS Rebel Blockade Runner1001920012008$284$731$447157%26.66%Statue of Liberty345020002008$550$1220$670122%22.04%UCS Darth Maul1001820012008$220$533$313150%25.91%Enzo Ferrari 1:10865320052010$185$310$12568%29.45%UCS Death Star II1014320052010$425$916$491115%46.81%LEGO Mini Figure372320002010$210$391$18186%36.45%As you can see, there are some really nice gains there from sets that were five years old or more at the time of purchase. These are just a few of my more memorable sets I have acquired over the years. There are hundreds of other smaller sets, such as the 10020 Santa Fe Super Chief and 10026 UCS Naboo Starfighter, that I have bought that meet this criteria and appreciated nicely as well, but I do not want to bore you with charts. As a matter of fact, many of my smaller, older sets have appreciated even better than these large scale LEGO sets. I have tens of dozens of older STAR WARS(especially the mini sets) and Bionicle sets that have exploded since I bought them in the secondary market. Many have since leveled off in price, but that doesn't diminish the strong returns on investment that were achieved. Ideally, I should have sold off some of these sets a year or two ago, to maximize profits, but I am a collector first, investor second. What is funny is that my first 100+ or so sets wee all old and retired LEGO sets. The 10179 Millennium Falcon was my first “new” purchase. These older and retired LEGO sets have served me well over the years and have made me a tidy profit(on paper at least).
        When I started collecting LEGO sets, there was no such thing as BrickPicker.com. It was a figment of our imagination. I had to search and search and research to find decent deals. I would scan the EBAY LEGO auctions for HOURS every day, looking for older, cool sets that intrigued me. I would scan the Brickset.com pages to look up old sets and jot down information to compare sets. I would come up with lists that were pages long with chicken scratch charts and such to find sets that were worthy of my investment dollar. Heck...it wasn't even investing to me. It was collecting and a lot of damn fun...and addictive to say the least. Well, Jeff and I are here to make your life a little easier than mine was five years ago. With the development of our new, Top Performing Retired and Older Set Chart, you will be able to see a list of the top 50 appreciating older and retired LEGO sets over the past six months. The chart will show you sets that are at least five years old and have been retired and have appreciated well...many with gains of 15% or more in six months. It will also show you buying options for the particular set of interest within a given range of prices. Remember, these sets have been around quite awhile, so this sort of return on older sets is quite amazing.
      So in conclusion, I hope that you utilize this new chart and consider buying an older LEGO set as an investment. The explosion of LEGO investing and the interest in new sets like the Modular Buildings have put a premium on sets like the 10211 Grand Emporium and 10197 Fire Brigade and have caused thousands of LEGO investors to buy multiples of these sets in the hopes of a huge score one day. While this may pan out in the future and these sets might turn a wonderful profit, the likelihood of this happening is growing less and less with each new set that is sold. I often tell people to think “outside the box” when choosing LEGO sets to invest in. Buying new sets, waiting a few years and flipping them, sounds easy...but with anything, positive results are not guaranteed. By diversifying your collection and looking at older and retired LEGO sets to sink your money into, you can stand to make a pretty penny like I have over the years investing in these more traveled sets. LEGO investing is a grind. It takes time, patience and a willingness to risk some money. Don't be afraid to spend $500 on an old set that has appreciated well, but still shows signs of continued growth. You never know, that $500 can turn into $1000 in the blink of an eye. Maybe the next 10182 Cafe Corner or 10190 Market Street is somewhere on the chart. Good luck...

    • Doofy McGee
      Big and bold, the 10214 Tower Bridge is one of the largest LEGO sets ever created. With 4287 pieces, the 10214 Tower Bridge is in fact the third largest LEGO set ever created. That is quite an impressive feat considering there are over 9000 LEGO sets in existence. A beautiful recreation of the grand Tower Bridge that spans the River Thames in London, this particular LEGO model would make a wonderful display piece in any home or office. But does this huge set have huge potential written all over it? Quite possibly. Let's take a look at the LEGO Shop @ Home description of the set:
        Build London's famous Tower Bridge!
      Stretching over the River Thames since 1894, the famous Tower Bridge of London, England is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Now you can add this timeless classic to your LEGO world buildings collection! Designed with advanced building techniques and rare colors and elements, the Tower Bridge is complete with its iconic paired towers and a drawbridge that really opens. Fun to build and display, it locks together solidly but can be taken apart in sections for easy transport. Includes 4 miniature vehicles; a black London taxi, a traditional red double-decker bus, a yellow truck and a green automobile. Completed model measures 40" (102 cm) long, 17" (45 cm) high and 10" (26 cm) wide.
      Includes 4 miniature vehicles: a black London taxi, a yellow truck, green automobile and even a traditional red double-decker bus! Features the iconic paired towers and a drawbridge that really opens and closes! Includes unique printed shield! Features hundreds of 1x1 slopes in tan! Many useful arches, angular bricks in tan! Includes 4 blue base plates and over 80 windows! Tower Bridge is ideal for building and display - it can be taken apart in sections for easy transport! Add this amazing landmark to your LEGO world buildings collection! Completed model measures an impressive 40" (102 cm) long, 17" (45 cm) high and 10" (26 cm) wide. For those of you investors who don't currently own the 10214 Tower Bridge, now would be a good time to start thinking about grabbing one (or more, if you have the means.)
      This colossal LEGO landmark has just hit its two year anniversary, and as many of you know, the two other LEGO sets from the Advanced Models Buildings theme, had a lifespan of right around two years. The 10181 Eiffel Tower was available at LEGO.com for approximately 24 months, and the 10189 Taj Mahal was available for about 26 months.
      Speaking of the 10181 Eiffel Tower and the 10189 Taj Mahal, has anyone happened to look at what these sets are selling for these days? The 10189 Taj Mahal is a very cool set, and is going to capture anyone's interest upon the first glance, but it is also the biggest LEGO set ever as far as piece count goes. This might have something to do with why people are regularly selling a new in box set for between $1,200 and $1,500 on eBay. Not bad for a set that had an original price tag of $299.99. Then there is the 10181 Eiffel Tower. This set debuted in October 2007. As stated earlier, it had a shelf life of almost exactly two years. It was available for purchase from your friendly neighborhood LEGO store for $199.99. My research shows that the last three new in box sets sold for $1,175, $1,199, and $1,274.95 on eBay. Once again, not a bad day's work on a $200 set. Check out the chart below with the investment data for the three large Advanced Model Buildings:
      Set NameSet #YearMSRP (US$)Current Value (US$)Pieces% Return Last 6 Months% Return Last Year% Return From RetailCAGR (%)Tower Bridge102142010$239.99$2254,2873.42%5.28%-6.45%-3.28%Taj Mahal101892008$299.99$11425,92213.03%59.68%280.7%39.68%Eiffel Tower101812007$199.99$8953,4286.32%8.25%347.4%34.94%
      The 10214 Tower Bridge, as of this writing, has not been retired as of yet and is still available from all major retailers, so the data above for the 10214 Tower Bridge is not that relative at the moment. But it does show you how similar the 10214 Tower Bridge is to the 10181 Eiffel Tower and 10189 Taj Mahal in set pieces and prices...and maybe future growth. As stated earlier, all three sets mentioned thus far are part of the Advanced Models Buildings theme. In fact, they are the ONLY three sets in the theme. The first two that have retired have appreciated very nicely, and the Tower Bridge should be no exception. The price tag might be a bit of a hurdle for some at $239.99, but please be aware that at 5.6 cents per piece, it is an exceptional value. Plus, if history is on our side here, that $240 looks like it should easily become $1,000 if you are willing to give it a couple years. This set has also been heavily discounted recently, even as low as $180, so it pays to pay attention to Brickpicker.com alerts on LEGO deals from the various major retailers.
        In conclusion, it would appear that the Tower Bridge may very well be one of the safest bets out there. There just aren't a whole lot of sets to compare it to, but I say that in the best way possible. It is a set that doesn't get a lot of attention, but don't let that fool you. The smart LEGO investor has several in their collection. People seem to love real world landmark sets that are done on a large scale. It will be interesting to see what is next in this highly successful series, but until then, ****** up a Tower Bridge while it is still available and tuck it away under your pillow, or wherever it is you keep your LEGO sets...

    • Ed Mack
      The age old question in the LEGO investment world is should I buy a "new" LEGO set, one that has no track record or growth data to examine, or should a LEGO investor look to older LEGO sets that have appreciated well, but may have their best growth days behind them?  Both have possible advantages.  The newer sets can be bought easily at a discount from the retail price and can be found in mint and sealed condition with little issues.  The older sets are proven commodities that have appreciated over several years and have shown to be investment winners.  Both have disadvantages as well.  Newer sets are an unknown commodity and a positive return on investment is not guaranteed.  Retired sets are more expensive and may be past their investment prime.  This leads us to our topic LEGO set, the 10185 Green Grocer, which, by all accounts, is considered an older and retired LEGO set.
      I usually try to recommend newer LEGO sets to LEGO investors because they are more cost effective and readily available to the buying public.  But every once in awhile, I come across an older and more expensive LEGO set that has shown positive growth and has great potential, even after being retired for years.  I wrote about one such set, the 10184 Town Plan, in another one of my Evaluation Corner articles.  Another such set is the 10185 Green Grocer.  The Green Grocer is a Modular Building and was released in 2008 for $149.99.  It has 2,352 pieces and 4 minifigures.
      Let's take a look at the LEGO.com description of the Green Grocer:
      Expand your LEGO® neighborhood or start a new one with the Green Grocer! Designed in a modular style, this colorful and lively building features a grocery store and classic apartments that can be built, rebuilt and rearranged to suit your own LEGO town. Detailed architecture includes realistic interior, courtyard access, a roof terrace and fire escape, lots of windows and doors, and much more! Build a street layout by combining Green Grocer with 10190 Market Street and 10182 Café Corner! Top 3 floors lift off to reveal inner rooms! Grocery store features a blue and white awning, cash register, bins for bread, vegetables and fruit, refrigerator and tiled floor! Apartments have lots of details like bay windows, fireplace with tools, grandfather clock and windows that open to the fire escape! Stairs lead up to the apartments and to the roof terrace! Roof terrace has chairs, umbrellas, grill and flowers! Check the mailboxes for letters! Fire escape ladders move up and down! Access the courtyard behind the building! Street features lampost, fire hydrant and light fixtures! Includes 4 townspeople minifigures, plus a cat and rat! Measures 14" (35cm) high and 10" (25cm) wide!
      Being one of the seven “Über” popular Modular buildings is a very positive attribute of this set.  The Modular Buildings, especially the retired Modular Buildings like the 10182 Cafe Corner and 10190 Market Street, are one of the most popular LEGO themes in existence.  Along with popularity, amazing growth has been shown by all three retired Modular Buildings, especially the older 10182 Cafe Corner and 10190 Market Street, which have been around another year or so longer than the 10185 Green Grocer.  Take a look a the chart below:
      Set Name and Number (Year Released) MSRP/Retail Price (US$) Current Value (US$) 6 Month % change 1 Year % change Retail % change CAGR (%) 10182 Cafe Corner (2007) $139.99 $1,122.45 5.82% 44.14% 701.81% 51.64% 10190 Market Street (2007) $89.99 $1,069.14 10.40% 31.39% 1088.07% 64.04% 10185 Green Grocer (2008) $149.99 $562.26 2.41% 42.32% 274.86% 39.15%  
      Take a look at the two graphs below showing the strong and steady growth of the 10182 Cafe Corner and 10190 Market Street over the past 21 months:

        The growth of these three retired Modular Buildings is just amazing.  What is even more amazing is that the 10190 Market Street was a better investment than the iconic 10182 Cafe Corner.  Along with the 10179 UCS Millennium Falcon, the 10182 Cafe Corner was considered by many LEGO investors as one of the two greatest LEGO investments of all time.  The 10190 Market Street was never considered in the same league, to be quite honest, by most LEGO investors and collectors.  But with an increase of over 1000% from retail and a CAGR of 64%, there are few LEGO sets, if any, that can compare with that sort of growth.  So how does this relate to the 10185 Green Grocer and its future investment potential?  Well, for one thing, the 10185 Green Grocer was the third Modular Building released by LEGO.  It was released a year or so after the 10182 Cafe Corner and 10190 Market Street and was retired about a year or so later.  So it is possible that there could be some potential strong growth in the next year that was similar to the growth of the10182 Cafe Corner and 10190 Market Street during the same investment time period after EOL(End of Line).  Why?  Because I assuming that the LEGO “completists” will want to collect  every Modular Building set and an older and retired set like the 10185 Green Grocer is one of the seven existing Modular buildings needed to do so.  Also, the Green Grocer was retired before the huge potential of these Modular Buildings were realized, so many LEGO collectors passed on this set, but might entertain buying it now, even a high prices.  A final reason for possible interest in this set is the Green Grocer is an attractive and well done LEGO set and many AFOLs with extra disposable income would love to add it to their collection.
      The one thing that strikes me about the data is about 21 months ago, the 10182 Cafe Corner had a value of about $588 and the 10190 Market Street had a value of around $560.  The current values of those two sets are $1122 and $1069 respectively...almost DOUBLE(approximately 91%) in 21 months!  The current value of the newer 10185 Green Grocer is around $562.  If you extrapolate that type of growth to the 10185 Green Grocer in 21 months, a value of $1073 is produced.  Now, I'm not guaranteeing that if you buy a MISB 10185 Green Grocer for $600 right now that it will appreciate to $1000+ in a year and a half, but history indicates that there is still that sort of potential with the 10185 Green Grocer.  Maybe the 10185 Green Grocer will never reach that lofty price.  Maybe the 10185 Green Grocer is not as popular as the earlier Modular Buildings.  Maybe there were more Green Grocers produced and they are less rare.  Maybe the LEGO secondary market crashes.  Maybe people get tired of the Modular Buildings and buy only Ninjago sets.
      Maybe...Maybe...Maybe...Maybe the 10185 hits $1200 in 21 months...
      In conclusion, I would like to leave you with an example of a similar situation I encountered two and a half years ago.  The 10182 Cafe Corner was selling for $550-$600 for a MISB set and I did not have one.  I wondered what all the hub-bub was about with this retired LEGO set?  To me, anyway, it was a rather gaudy-looking set that was unattractive to a LEGO STAR WARS aficionado like myself.  But I took the chance and picked one up for $575 with free shipping on EBAY.  Needless to say, I have doubled my original investment.  I also bought a retired NIB(New In Box...not mint)10190 Market Street for $400 at the same time and that has exceeded my expectations as well.  I would like to think that the 10185 Green Grocer has a similar growth pattern over the next year or so.  These retired Modular Buildings are a rare commodity and getting rarer all the time and many LEGO fans want the complete set.  The 10185 Green Grocer might not hit the $1000 mark, but even if it hits the $800-$900 level in the next year, that is over 30% return on investment.  Not bad in my book...or any investor's book for that matter.

    • Doofy McGee
      Whether you are a wet-behind-the-ears AFOL(Adult Fan Of Lego) fresh out of the Dark Ages, or a seasoned brick veteran, there are two major classifications to consider when evaluating a good set for investment purposes: licensed franchises such as the STAR WARS and Lord Of The Rings(LOTR) themes or original LEGO series such as the City or Friends themes. There is strong evidence for either category to do well in its own right, so how do you choose?
      When looking at current values of the most successful LEGO sets that are now enjoying the sky high prices that accompany EOL(End Of Line) status, there is a good mix of licensed vs. original. The UCS(Ultimate Collector's Series) Millennium Falcon 10179 is the talk of the town these days with a Brickpicker price guide value of $2169, but let's not forget about the Cafe Corner Modular that went from $140 in 2009 to an astonishing $1,122 just a few years later. Although the Falcon boasts a higher price tag, it has not increased in value eight times(!) its original MSRP like the Cafe Corner 10182 has. I think a lot of people miss the fact that if you had purchased three Cafe Corners with the same money that it cost you to get one UCS Falcon, you would have a higher overall return on investment by over a thousand dollars.
      Another great comparison is the City themed Town Plan 10184 set vs. the Batcave 7783 set from the original Batman theme. These sets came out around the same time, and had similar enough retail prices for the sake of this discussion. Both sets now book at right around $450, and are highly sought after. City is an original LEGO theme that has enjoyed a lot of success over the years, and as we all know, Batman is a well-documented, ever-popular theme that first appeared in 1939.
      The Grand Carousel 10196 is an impressive piece of brick engineering that has an equally impressive price guide value of $816. It is part of the Miscellaneous Advanced Models series. Another set came out around the same time, had an almost identical price and piece count, but a much larger fan base. The set I speak of is the Death Star II, Set No. 10143. As I am sure you have guessed by now, it has a very similar price guide value as the Grand Carousel at $876.
      These three examples represent only a minuscule amount of data in the case of licensed vs. original. So how do you know which is the winner? Which one is the safer bet? Is there really a magic formula or concrete answer? The answer to that question is…no. Sorry to disappoint, but no. The reason there is no one clear cut favorite over the other is that all LEGO sets are high-quality, well-made, and a lot of fun. Star Wars may have a humongous following, and the Death Star is the stuff of legend, but somehow a previously unknown 3,263 piece carousel has found a way to give Darth Vader's floating fortress of foulness a run for its money.
      The difference between a Cafe Corner 10182 and a Millennium Falcon 10179 represents the difference between one LEGO collector and the next. Everybody has their own preferences and tastes. I personally would be inclined to want to build the Falcon, but let's face it, there are people out there who have never seen Star Wars and have no interest in building the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. Maybe they are an architect by trade, and would love nothing more than to spend a few hours assembling a 2,056 piece building that bares a nostalgic resemblance to the old store on the corner of the street they grew up on.

    • Doofy McGee
      The LEGO Modular Buildings series came out in 2007, and has quickly turned into every investor's dream.  The first three sets that have been retired have all skyrocketed in value in a relatively short time.  This Evaluation Corner installment will take a look at the Grand Emporium, set 10211.
      There is a lot of other great data about the Modular series that can be found in a previous Evaluation Corner article that was done on the Fire Brigade.  It does a good job of illustrating the rapid rise to power that the earlier Modular buildings have enjoyed.
      Here is the official LEGO description of the Grand Emporium:
      Welcome to the grand opening of the Grand Emporium!
      The LEGO® Modular Buildings series continues with this spectacularly detailed 3-story department store, designed in a realistic scale with lots of special building techniques and rare pieces. On the street outside, citizens carry shopping bags, send letters at the mailbox, admire the window mannequins, then cool off at the ice cream stand while a busy window washer works above. Enter through the revolving doors to discover a ground-floor clothing department, complete with a cash register, fitting room, hats, jewelry, perfume, and even a selection of spare trousers. A brick-built escalator carries customers to the second floor housewares department with glassware and golden plates for special occasions, and then it’s up to the top floor for the toy department (complete with toy house and push-scooter) with an impressive chandelier above the open atrium. Up on the roof are a billboard and skylight!
      Add this classic department store to your LEGO Modular Buildings collection Grand Emporium features many authentic details Set includes 7 minifigures Measures 15" (38cm) high and 10" (25cm) wide The Grand Emporium is currently locked in a battle with the Fire Brigade as to which set will be next to retire.  Although the Fire Brigade has been around since September 2009 and is continuing its improbable three year production run, these sets are typically available for around two years.  The Grand Emporium just hit the two and a half year mark, and recently sold out on LEGO.com.  While it may end up ultimately being restocked, it always turns heads when something sells out from the original source.  There are an awful lot of Modular sets available right now, so it seems that one or even two sets should be going away by the end of 2012.  Fire Brigade and/or Grand Emporium are both great candidates to hit EOL status very soon.
      This set is in a unique position in a sense that it may be in its final days of existence, but is still widely available to those who want to grab one before they're gone.  Another fact that is worth mentioning is that this is only the second corner building to come out.  What good is a street if there is never a corner to…round it out?  There will be more demand for it because people are going to need that corner building, but very likely won't want to pay the going rate for the Cafe Corner set.
      I think that the Grand Emporium is destined for greatness, and that any serious LEGO investor would be very wise to pick one up in the next couple months.  It's very difficult to argue with the track record of the Modular buildings series.  This set should be a lock to at very least double your investment in a couple years.  From a personal standpoint, when I was first getting back in to LEGO, I had no interest in investing, but when I saw the Grand Emporium, I immediately wanted to build it.  I suspect that a lot of other people are going to experience the same feeling when they first lay eyes on it.  So whether it is for a collector, or a builder who missed the boat on this set, the price tag to obtain one is only going to go up.

    • dschooley
      As a LEGO investor and collector, there are many places where you can buy new LEGO sets.  In the United States, large retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target and Toys R Us sell massive amounts of new LEGO sets.  Great Britain has similar large retailers like Argos, Myer and Tesco.  Of course EBAY is a worldwide option for new and used LEGO sets.  That leads us to The LEGO Group and its Shop At Home(S@H) online site and brick and mortar stores.  The LEGO retail sites make up the backbone of their entire business model and is the one place that you can buy all the new LEGO sets.  But a question arises, why would a LEGO investor and collector buy directly from LEGO when they can get the same LEGO set cheaper from another large toy retailer?  One reason...the LEGO VIP Program.  Let's take a look.

      I would like to go into a short discussion about the benefits, and how best to use the LEGO VIP program.  First off, as with any purchase, you should do your research and determine what is the best deal for you.  There are times when it would be better to buy something at Walmart or another large retailer for 40% off, than buying from LEGO just to get the VIP points.  But there are advantages to the VIP program that you cannot get anywhere else.  Opportunities may arise when you can maximize your points and choose to buy from LEGO directly, instead of other retailers.
        In summary, the LEGO VIP program allows you to earn points for each dollar you spend either at a LEGO store or using LEGO Shop at Home.  You earn 1 VIP point for every dollar you spend.  For your information, this article is focused on US purchases, because of my experiences with LEGO and the program.  For every 100 VIP points you accumulate, you will earn a $5 VIP Reward towards a purchase of LEGO items.  What that means is that, if you buy a Haunted House from LEGO Shop at Home (LSAH) for $179, you earn 179 VIP Points.  This earns you one $5 VIP Reward and 79 points towards your next reward.  Now, you may use that $5 VIP Reward on your next purchase, or you can save it up and accumulate more rewards dollars.  In its basic form you are talking about a 5% discount to your LEGO purchases.  Not bad, but probably not enough to really get you to purchase from LEGO directly unless you had to.  This brings us to some of the other nuances of LEGO VIP program.  The VIP program also gives you access to exclusive sets and deals.  When you combine those sales and deals that is where you really start to maximize your LEGO VIP benefits.  Signing up for the VIP program also gives you access to the VIP emails.  I like these emails because they highlight upcoming deals or new sets that are coming out.
        Just as there are certain items that you can only purchase from LEGO, LEGO “exclusive” items, there are also VIP “exclusive” items.  If you are going to want to buy your Haunted House, then you have to buy it from LEGO as an exclusive, why not collect your VIP points for those purchases.  In addition, LEGO VIP members have access to purchase items that non-VIP members do not; for example, the 10230 Mini Modulars set.  Clearly purchasing this set is a personal decision, but you must be a VIP member to get it.  Also, VIP members have access to certain items early.  This year the 10229 Winter Village Cottage was available two weeks early to VIP members.  This could allow you to pick up a few sets early and sell them to the eager buyers.  Potentially picking up some profits. I personally cannot bear to part from my sets, so that is not a benefit to me.
        Now we have talked about the basic program and exclusive purchases where you would want or have to use the program.  Let’s talk about how to maximize your VIP point accumulation.  If you want to really get the most VIP points from your purchase, then you want to buy items when they earn the 50 VIP “bonus” points or better yet “double” points!  Double points and bonus points can be earned a couple of ways.  Every month LEGO has deals for VIP members where sets are listed as bonus points where you earn an additional 50 VIP points for the purchase.  You can find these deals by looking at your LEGO VIP account and looking for Promotions.  As a bonus VIP point example, if set 6868 Hulk’s Helicarrier Breakout is earning 50 bonus points, then, when you purchase the set for $49, you earn 99 VIP points instead of 49.  This is a bigger advantage on some sets than others clearly, but it can add up.  When you start getting double points, things really start to add up.  That Haunted House we were talking about earlier, if you are getting double points for your purchase, it is worth 358 VIP points.  That means $15 in VIP rewards.  OK, I understand that we are still just looking at 10% off, but the article is about how to maximize your VIP points, not to convince you to pass up the 40% off sale at Walmart.  Double points are even better for earning VIP rewards.  To earn double points LEGO has different monthly deals that you can take advantage of, they also give double points for all collection purchases, and certain times of the year they offer double points on all purchases.  I try to strategically make my purchases from LEGO to take advantage of these offers.  I used the double points on all sets this summer when I picked up my Monster Fighter and The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) collections.  An example of a collection is the LOTR collection that contains all seven of the sets out at the time.  The way LEGO grouped the collection gave you the Shelob Attacks set free, and it earns you 705 VIP points.  Now you are talking a $20 set free and $35 in VIP rewards.

      You might think at this point that we have discussed all the ways to maximize your purchases, but there is actually one more consideration.  LEGO also likes to splash in free shipping here and there for purchases over $75.  I think they are very strategic about this.  For instance, when they release a number of new sets, they sometimes have a double points promotion, but not free shipping.  All the eager buyers bought their stuff early. If you are patient you may see a free shipping offer start in the middle of the month.  Double points and free shipping is the way to go if you can get it from LEGO.  In the chart below I have tried to provide an example of the graduated benefits of a purchase of the Haunted House.  Clearly highlighting the sweet spot of double points and free shipping.  
      CaseSet CostShippingTotal CostVIP PointsRewardsBase Case$179.00$15.00$194.00179$5 plus 79 Points50 Bonus Point Case$179.00$15.00$194.00229$10 plus 29 PointsDouble Points$179.00$15.00$194.00358$15 plus 58 pointsDouble Points & Free Shipping$179.00$0.00$179.00358$15 plus 58 points 
        I hope this helps with your understanding of the LEGO VIP program and how to maximize your rewards.  One final way to maximize the VIP points is to look at the LEGO Sales and Deals and combine them with some VIP points and free shipping options.  Some great specials can be found at times, so it pays to check daily.  I personally like to save up my VIP rewards and get those sets that are more expensive.  That is who I got my first Super Star Destroyer with just VIP Rewards and more recently my Death Star for $100 and VIP rewards.  It is almost like getting free sets to me.  How much do I have to sell the Super Star Destroyer for to make a profit?  Not much.  

    • stephen_rockefeller
      You called in sick to work, hang out in the room closest to the front door, you turn down the volume on the TV. What are you waiting for? You are waiting for that package to arrive one of the three big carriers, USPS(United States Postal Service), UPS(United Parcel Service) or FEDEX(Federal Express). What is in that package? The LEGO set that you ordered a few days ago. You have tracked it online at least 50 times since you placed the order so you know where it came from, where it has been and more or less when it will arrive. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK!!! The moment you have been waiting for, it is finally here! You scribble your name on the little hand held scanner handed to you by the carrier and slam the door in his/her face because you are in a hurry to rip open the box to unveil your newest treasure. Your happiness quickly becomes sadness. In your best Darth Vader Episode III voice you yell Noooooooooooooooooo! Your LEGO Box that was inside looks like it has been kicked around more times than a soccer ball during the World Cup. If you have been in the LEGO game for more than a few minutes, this has happened to you, if it hasn’t I am here to bet my entire collection that it will eventually. This is especially traumatic when you demand your LEGO box in pristine condition. These people(me) are usually new to LEGO investing and I am told that the need for a pristine box will eventually subside. Here are some tips to increase your chances of receiving your set in acceptable condition.
      First, let’s start with the carriers themselves. I understand that you are at the mercy of the retailer as you cannot choose the carrier, it is chosen by the retailer. The two most commonly used are UPS and USPS. Unfortunately, the best carrier in my opinion is FED EX, and it is the carrier least often used by the major online retailers. There seems to be some debate whether the LEGO box is damaged prior to being shipped or damaged while in transit. Sometimes there are clues as to where it happened, but nothing concrete. In my opinion, most of the time the damage happens during transit, I have no evidence, just my gut feeling.
      The major online retailers overall do an OK job at packing the sets. I have had sets ranging from arriving in the brown outer box from the LEGO factory, to a set arriving in a box 6 times bigger than the actual set with absolutely no packing materials inside. Here is a list of the 4 major LEGO retailers and tips. Keep in mind that these are suggestions.
      Amazon: Sign up for Amazon Prime, the main advantage is that you get free two-day shipping on all items you order, the less time it takes from warehouse to your house, is less time it is bouncing around in the back of a carrier's truck. Prime does cost an annual fee, around 100 bucks, but if you order a lot from Amazon, it will pay for itself in no time. In fact, many times, you will receive the item in one day if ordered early in the morning. Only buy from Amazon direct. If your item is damaged when it arrives, they will work with you very diligently, they pay for return shipping and will usually send you out a new item before you even send the damaged one back. Dealing with private sellers can be a hassle sometimes and there is always the chance of getting scammed in some way or another. Amazon does guarantee every purchase, even those from third-party sellers, but sometimes it takes a bit longer to work out an exchange/refund.
      Toys R Us: Despite their markup, Toys R Us has always been a popular choice for LEGO sets, mainly because of their great selection and also because of the promotions they run on a regular basis, Buy 2 Get 1 Free, Buy One Get One 40%/50% off, free shipping, etc... All sets seem to be packed differently so it is hard to tell how they will arrive, but I've had good success on most occasions with Toys R Us. The best bet(not a popular one) would be to choose expedited or next day delivery usually which comes by FEDEX. It will take money from the overall profit of your set, but if you choose the right ones, it shouldn’t hurt you too bad. Of course, there is always the option of actually picking the LEGO set up at local Toys R Us location, but not all LEGO sets are available in the local stores, so that might not be an viable alternative.
      S@H(LEGO SHOP AT HOME): This is the store on the LEGO website that is usually the best bet when it comes to condition of the box. They do a good job overall and seem to take more pride in handling and shipping that other retailers. They usually don't over pack LEGO sets and many times ship boxes individually in large, pre-fit shipping boxes. Larger sets like the 10179 Millennium Falcon and 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer came this way. This is not shipping related, but make sure you sign up for the VIP program if you chose to buy your LEGO sets from S@H, because you get 5% back to be used on later purchases. It is free to do so and it pretty much equals the cost of shipping, if free shipping is not available at the time.
      eBay: While not considered a primary retailer like Amazon or S@H, I felt I should include them because eBay is where you can find great deals and also where you can get majorly scammed if you aren’t careful. This is where you get all those LEGO sets that have hit EOL(End of Line...or in layman's terms, retired) and you just never got around to getting it while it was on store shelves. There are a variety of sellers on eBay, from large primary retailers like Toys R Us to small Mom and Pop sellers, selling one or two items at a time. You see the best and worst of people on eBay, so be very careful when buying sets on eBay. Always look at the sellers feedback, I spend hours looking on eBay for steals on LEGO sets, a lot of that time is looking at seller's feedback. Look for the top-rated sellers, getting this distinction from eBay does not come easy, a seller has to make hundreds to thousands of high-rated transactions, including outstanding shipping ratings before they can be included in this group. Always ask for more pictures of the item if you are unsure or cannot tell the condition of the box from the pictures provided. Always email seller prior to purchasing and explain that you are a collector/investor and the condition of the box is a factor. You can ask for expedited shipping and usually the seller will not have a problem in accommodating your request because you will be the one paying for the shipping. The best way I have found to get a set in the condition you want it is to buy from a collector who shares the same love for LEGO that you do.
      Speaking of eBay sellers and in some cases, sellers from the popular LEGO parts site, Bricklink.com, there is one request that you should make of them when buying any MISB LEGO set...”Please place the LEGO box in an outer shipping box!” You don't know how many times I have received MISB LEGO sets wrapped only in brown shipping paper. The sets are wrapped carefully and neatly in brown, thin paper in most cases, but get easily crushed by Postal workers(USPS is the main shipper for eBay items). The inexperienced seller assumes the LEGO box will be fine with just the brown paper protection, but 99% of the time, the LEGO box arrives damaged when shipped in this way. Tell the sellers that you are a collector and box quality is important and to please ship the LEGO box within a proper-sized outer shipping box. Most sellers will do this with few issues.
      Speaking of retailer shipping, this leads us to a few tips about shipping LEGO sets from a seller's point of view(eBay and Bricklink sellers):
      As stated earlier, use a properly sized outer shipping box to ship every LEGO set. The USPS Flat Rate Boxes are excellent choices for small boxes. ULINE is another choice for larger boxes. I like to reuse old Amazon or LEGO shipping boxes to ship a LEGO box. Wrap the LEGO box in bubble wrap, then use shipping peanuts or newspaper to pack the LEGO set within the shipping box. Newspaper seems to work better IMO and is a lot cleaner. Take pictures of the LEGO set before packaging, within the box and after when the box is sealed. This helps protect you from unscrupulous buyers and careless shippers. Use the proper type of shipping tape on the outer box and don't be cheap about it. Include a receipt within the box, notifying the buyer who sent the LEGO set and to thank them for their purchase. This is a nice touch and helps improve communication and feedback. I like to use the USPS as a shipping company. They offer the best deals. The Flat Rate Boxes are a fantastic value. In closing I would like to say that there are many other places to purchase LEGO sets online and some of the tips I gave can be applied, as they are not only for the stores I mentioned. Most seasoned veterans in the game will find most of this article ‘’common knowledge.” This article was meant for LEGO investment novices to use a reference point when searching for their potential purchases. Personally, I demand my boxes(for now) in pristine condition. I only purchase in store, which allows me to hand pick the box I want and guarantee me the perfect box for my investment. There are issues with buying in store though. Number one, I cannot buy an older retired LEGO set in a Walmart or Toys R Us. Also, I might miss out on some fantastic on-line sales. Finally, I miss out on not paying state sales tax(in the US) if the LEGO set is bought from a retailer from another state. Do I pay retail all the time? Yes, unless there is a sale in a retail brick and mortar store. Do I miss all the big on-line sales? Yes. I am OK with that though because I know that the sets I do choose will make me money and I believe that a MISB LEGO set is worth more than a damaged LEGO set that was discounted. Bottom line is that getting a set shipped to my house is a crap shoot……and I don’t play craps.
      Editor's Note: Here is another great article written by one of our members, stephen_rockefeller. Stephen also received 500 BrickPoints for having this article published on the site. Thanks for writing a great article that I am sure is beneficial knowledge to many of our members! -Jeff

    • yodaman5556
      You are browsing in the construction toys aisle of your local retail or toy store. You carefully look at the three main choices of building blocks: LEGO, Mega Bloks and KRE-O. You can’t decide which one to buy for your children –they all look the same on their boxes. This article outlines the advantages & disadvantages found in both LEGO products and inexpensive alternatives so that you can choose what’s best for you.
      At the moment there are many alternatives to LEGO bricks on the market, the two main ones being Mega Bloks and KRE-O.
      Mega Bloks, a Canadian company, was called “Ritvik Toys” when it started in 1967 and later changed its name to Mega Bloks in 2002. It quickly became one of the main players in the building blocks industry. Mega Bloks, over the years, have created everything from Smurfs to dragons in their products. Mega Brands (includes Mega Bloks, Mega Puzzles, Board Dudes and Rose Art) currently has over 1000 employees. There are four different types of Mega Bloks’ bricks:
      Maxi size, introduced in 1985, is intended for very young children. The blocks feature slightly rounded corners and edges and have tall rounded studs. Mini size, introduced in 1989, is designed for toddlers and preschoolers. The bricks, like Maxi size, have slightly rounded edges and corners. Mini size bricks are the same size as LEGO DUPLO bricks. Micro size, introduced in 1991, has sharp edges and corners and is for experienced builders. This size is the same size as ordinary LEGO bricks. Nano building system, introduced in 2004, is the smallest of all of the bricks that Mega Bloks have made and is not compatible with any other type of plastic bricks. The LEGO Group has filed many lawsuits against Mega Bloks for the use of “their” studs and tubes construction system. LEGO believes that this is a violation of its trademarks, but most of their lawsuits have been unsuccessful.
      Possibly after seeing the success of LEGO's girl orientated theme, Friends, Mega Bloks have decided to launch new “Barbie” and “Hot Wheels” (both by Mattel) themed sets next year (2013).

      KRE-O is manufactured by Oxford, a Korean company, and marketed by toys and board games company Hasbro. KRE-O, unlike Mega Bloks, is relatively new to the industry and includes sets based on the recently released films Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Battleship, which were both based on Hasbro’s toys. KRE-O, which means “I create” in Latin, keeps growing in popularity ever since it launched in June 2011. KRE-O’s human figures are called Kreons, and look for the most part like LEGO minifigures. A third line of sets have been confirmed and will be based on the 2009 revival of Star Trek and a new 2013 sequel are to be released in the future.
      Although brands such as Mega Bloks and KRE-O are seen as alternatives or copies, people still buy them simply because of the fact that they are the cheaper than good quality LEGO bricks. Plus, if a child has collected a lot of LEGO sets, then the kid’s parents buy him Mega Bloks sets, the bricks from the clone sets will still be compatible with official LEGO bricks. Many young children wouldn’t know the difference between LEGO and clones, so parents usually buy Mega Bloks and other copies, that look like LEGO, but are actually worth much less money.
      Parents buy clones for their children because they are inexpensive, but there are also many disadvantages of buying non-LEGO building blocks/bricks. Many of the bricks that are included in Mega Bloks or KRE-O sets are of poor quality and do not go together well. Some builders combine clone bricks with LEGO bricks in their models; however, their creations are usually mismatched with dull coloured and loosely connected Mega Bloks and LEGO bricks. Mega Bloks is also known for having a substandard website (compared with LEGO.com) and limited support for builders.

      Official LEGO products, on the other hand, are of great quality and are very durable. The LEGO Group has a team of designers that invent well-designed sets that children will eventually play with. One of the advantages of buying LEGO sets is that they don’t usually devalue in price, as there are many people willing to buy second-hand LEGO on auction websites such as eBay, etc. Another good thing about LEGO is that they have the rights to many exciting themes (such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, DC & Marvel Super Heroes, etc.), which have produce rare bricks and sets. LEGO also have an awesome website (LEGO.com) that boasts downloadable building instructions, games, video, an online shop, and many more exciting things. There are also lots of devoted LEGO fans, who connect with each other through the internet in forums and fan groups. Mega Bloks, unlike LEGO, has little fans and is practically ignored by LEGO enthusiasts.
      Another great advantage of buying the different kinds of LEGO bricks (Quatro, DUPLO, Normal Bricks, TECHNIC, etc.) is that they all click into each other. DUPLO bricks slot nicely into Quatro bricks, Normal Bricks click on underneath DUPLO bricks and so on.
      There are also two things that LEGO has, but Mega Bloks doesn’t. These two things are the TECHNIC building system and Mindstorms. TECHNIC uses beams and pins (instead of bricks) to build models. Some TECHNIC sets even come with electronic motors, lights and remote controls. These electronics are part of a sub-theme called “Power Functions” and they make TECHNIC vehicles & machines run. One other thing that Mega Bloks and KRE-O don’t have is a robotics system. The LEGO Group has created Mindstorms, a theme in which builders create a model out of LEGO TECHNIC elements then add the Mindstorms NXT brick (the robot’s “control centre”), three motors, and four sensors (which can provide information about obstructions, different colours, etc.). This makes a fully-fledged robot that can be programmed by using the included software on a computer. You can even make it move in the direction you want using an app on your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.
      The main drawback with LEGO products is the cost. The LEGO Group prides itself on having strict product control, which generates exceptional products. With good quality comes higher prices, and that’s generally why numerous parents go for the less expensive option(s) when it comes to construction bricks/blocks for their kids. But as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. It doesn't take long for children to get frustrated with inferior quality bricks from KRE-O or Mega Bloks and toss them in the trash.
      If you are planning on buying some construction toys for your children, my recommendation is to find out (if you haven’t already) what suits your child and buy that product. If you don’t know what is best for your kids, then I suggest going with good quality LEGO –even though it may cost more, it’ll last longer and is (in my opinion) better overall. Also, from the standpoint of collecting and investing, the LEGO brick is far and away the brick to pick. LEGO investing has exploded over the past several years has become the toy of choice for not only children, but adult collectors and investors as well. All in all, LEGO is the way to go in my opinion.
      What kind of building toy do you and your children prefer? What type do you have the most of in your home? Share your opinion in the comments below.
      This is a guest post by Nathan (a.k.a. Yodaman5556), who is a blogger, a Star Wars and LOTR fan, KFOL (kid fan of LEGO) and all-round LEGO fanatic. He enjoys spending afternoons experimenting (and building) with LEGO bricks. He blogs about LEGO news, information and rumours on his website, BrickExtra.

      We Thank Nathan for taking the time to write this excellent article and have also awarded him 500 BrickPoints! Please check out his website BrickExtra, he does a great job covering LEGO.

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