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    Brickpicker blog articles on LEGO investing, news, reviews, evaluations, discounts and more...
    • Ed Mack
      I recently wrote an article, LEGO Bubble...Fact or Fiction, in which I compared the recent Baseball Card collectible's market bubble and its subsequent bursting, to a potential LEGO investment bubble. The main point of the article was to show similarities between two comparable collectibles' markets and to question whether or not the LEGO collectible's market would crash and burn like the Baseball Card collectible's market did several years ago. While doing research for the article, I came across another very similar collectible's market that might be even more closely related to LEGO than the Baseball Card market is...the Barbie Doll collectible's market. Take a look at a very interesting article, written by Nancy Colasurdo of CNBC.com, about the Barbie Doll collectible's market and see if you can see some very clear similarities between the two...
      There are some very interesting similarities pointed out by the article between the LEGO and Barbie Doll collectible's market. The first one is the age of the two companies. The LEGO brick, as we know it currently, was launched in 1958, while the first Barbie Doll was produced in 1959. Another similarity of both markets is the importance of the box that the toys were sold in from the factory. In both cases, LEGO and Barbie Doll collectors and investors value the items that are still new and sealed in the original packaging. Known as Never Removed From Box (NRFB) in the world of Barbie Doll collecting and Mint In Sealed Box(MISB) in the LEGO world of investing, these two terms are one in the same. Regardless of whatever you would like to call them, it is the desired condition of the toy when one is collecting them for the purpose of investment. As with LEGO sets that have been opened, built and displayed and are called “used,” Barbie Doll has a similar classification called “de-boxed,” in which the Barbie Doll is removed from the packaging and displayed. By opening and displaying both LEGO sets and Barbie Dolls, the value of the collectible item decreases substantially.
      As any LEGO collector or investor can see, the values of some Barbie Dolls far exceed even the most expensive LEGO set. The 10179 UCS Millennium Falcon has sold for over $4000 on several occasions, yet that pales in comparison to vintage Barbie Dolls selling for $27,000 or more. Now, there have been large LEGO MOCs(My Own Creation) that sold for more than $30,000 on EBAY, but the conventional store sold LEGO sets have maxed out under $5000. That being said, both markets are still remarkably similar. Most Barbie Dolls on EBAY sell for less than $100, very similar to LEGO sets. In fact, both LEGO and Barbie Dolls have similar sales numbers on EBAY in relation to total auctions on a daily basis...around 200,000 listings at any given time. They are both iconic toys and have been around over 50 years and have shown excellent growth in the toy industry and interest from child and adult fans alike.
      So what's the point of this whole article and how does it really relate to LEGO collecting and investing? Well, for one thing, I wanted to point out that there were toy collectible items that were closely related to LEGO sets and bricks that weren't Baseball Cards and haven't suffered from a “speculative bubble” that burst. The Barbie Doll collectible's market is alive and strong and items can sell for top dollar, in the tens of thousands of dollars on occasion. The Barbie Doll collectible's market, like the LEGO market, deals with new and used items and box condition is of paramount importance to the value of the items being sold and there are hundreds of thousands of EBAY listings on any given day of Barbie Doll and LEGO items. These two markets have run a parallel course over the past 50 years to become two of the most known and most popular toy lines ever created. In my research for this article, I did not find any reputable or coherent mention of a Barbie Doll investment bubble and that is quite amazing considering the selling price of some of the more expensive, rare and vintage Barbie Dolls can be tens of thousands of dollars. As a strong believer in the LEGO brand and LEGO investment, I would like to think that success in a similar toy collectible's market like Barbie Dolls will translate into continued growth and success of the LEGO product line in both the primary and secondary LEGO markets and that it is possible for continued positive growth without the “speculative bubble” hanging over every LEGO investor's head.
      On a final note, I would like to point out that there is a definite influence of Barbie Dolls in the new Friends LEGO theme. For years, the LEGO brick was considered a toy that was geared towards young boys and men, but the Friends theme was developed to draw interest from young girls and women, with Barbie-like minifigures, pastel-colored LEGO bricks and sets that reminds Barbie fans of old Barbie Doll Dreamhouses and convertible Barbie cars. This Barbie Doll influence on LEGO sets has been a profit windfall for The LEGO Group, with sales of the Friends theme far “exceeding” expectations and have sold twice as many Friends sets than expected(LEGO PRESS RELEASE) over the first half of 2012. This success looks to continue, with the Friends sets being sold at full MSRP and getting hard to find in various toy departments.
      All in all, I found the article about Barbie Doll investing to be quite enlightening and very relative to the current LEGO investing and collecting market. The Barbie Doll and LEGO collectible's markets are similar in many ways and have been driving forces in the toy industry for over 50 years. I see both markets continuing on a positive growth path and while there are no guarantees in the investment world, investing in the correct Barbie Doll or LEGO set can be a very profitable endeavor...
      LEGO PRESS RELEASE: http://aboutus.lego.com/en-us/news-room/2012/august/half-year-result_2012/

    • Ed Mack
      From the most recent LEGO Press Release:
      "LEGO Ninjago, launched in 2011, maintained its success in all markets in 2012, with the ninja theme selling significantly better than expected."
      This is a statement that confounds many adult LEGO collectors and investors. Ninjas? Dragons? Snakes? Spinners? Trading Cards? What is this, Dungeons and Dragons??? Well, whatever you want to call it, the LEGO Ninjago theme is taking the LEGO world by storm. The Ninjago theme, along with another unconventional LEGO theme, the Friends theme, are producing sales that far exceed The LEGO Group's expectations. Well, that is great news for The LEGO Group, but what does that mean for the average LEGO collector and investor? Let's take a look at the Ninjago theme.
      For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ninjago theme, it is a theme based on Ninja warriors. The theme has an Asian flavor, with the Ninjago buildings and structures replicating old Japanese temples and shrines. There is a touch of fantasy mixed in, with dragons and large serpents, four armed characters and snake men minifigures. Also thrown into the mix, is a modern twist, with jet airplanes and helicopters, trucks and motorcycles. You can see why children would be interested in this theme. What makes it even more interesting to kids is activity and playability level of these sets. The LEGO designers were very intuitive incorporating a game element to this theme. The basic models use conventional LEGO pieces and building techniques, unlike Bionicle, Hero Factory and Technic themes, which use special pieces and methods of building, but there are special pieces called 'spinners' added to several sets. These spinners enable LEGO fans to battle one another in LEGO brick 'arenas.' Various minifigures and weapon combinations can be used to battle friends and family.
      Not only do some Ninjago sets have action-packed spinner pieces, these same sets offer the LEGO fans 'Battle Cards.' Some people call them 'trading' or 'playing' cards, but whatever you call them, the Ninjago Spinner sets offer another gaming-like option from a LEGO set. The Battle Cards are utilized in coordination with the spinners and enable the players to employ special weapons when their minifigures are pitted against other minifigure/spinner combos. The Battle Cards are reminiscent of the old Yu-Gi-Oh or Dungeons and Dragons cards in my opinion and everybody knows how popular those cards were. They even add an element of collecting to the Spinner sets in that children will want to collect all the cards in addition to the sets and minifigures. Along with the Spinner sets, the Ninjago theme also consists of more traditional LEGO building sets. As stated earlier, they are based on ninja themes, with a touch of fantasy and modern ideas mixed together. For our purposes here, we will break down the Ninjago theme into three major categories: Ninjago Spinners, Structures/Buildings and Creatures/Vehicles. Let's take a look at the Ninjago Spinners first...
      The basic Ninjago Spinner set consists of around 20-25 pieces, which include one minifigure, a spinner, several weapons and some Battle Cards. All the Spinners, with the exception of the Spinjitzu Starter set(2257/$19.99), listed at $9.99(US). These Ninjago characters are based on a TV show called The Masters of Spinjitzu, which can be found on the LEGO TV channel. It is a very entertaining show and basically looks like a LEGO video game. But what is nice about the TV show is that it promotes the LEGO brand among the young and creates new LEGO collectors on a daily basis. As with the entire Ninjago theme, the Spinners were launched back in 2011. That's right. 2011. If you take a look at the below chart, you will see some extraordinary returns for a theme that is so new:
      NINJAGO SPINNERSSet NameSet #Year ReleasedPiecesMSRP ($)Current Value($)% Return Last MonthCAGR(%)*:Kai21112011199.9918.280.27%82.98%Cole21122011199.9916.922.73%69.37%Zane21132011199.9916.390.99%64.06%Chopov21142011209.999.774.49%-2.2%Bonezai21152011219.997.78-4.07%-22.12%Krazi21162011229.999.93-18.41%-0.6%Cole DX21702011219.9911.8-4.68%18.12%Zane DX21712011229.9914.916.96%49.25%Nya21722011219.9922.661.43%126.83%Nuckal21732011269.9911.681.48%16.92%Kruncha21742011249.997.062.62%-29.33%Wyplash21752011239.996.6-2.37%-33.93%Sensei Wu22552011209.9914.59-8.87%46.05%Lord Garmadon22562011239.9910.36.08%3.1%Spinjitzu Starter Set225720115719.9923.2536.93%16.31%AVERAGE26.98% 
      * Average LEGO set CAGR: 10.64%
      There are some Spinners that show the typical LEGO “new set” decrease in value from discounting from primary retailers, yet the majority are showing very positive returns for two years or less on the market, a few have been around a year or less. Kai(2111), Cole(2112) and Zane(2113) all have CAGRs over 60%. The CAGR, or Compound Annual Growth Rate, can be thought of as the growth rate statistic that gets you from the initial investment value to the ending investment value if you assume that the investment has been compounding over the time period. It simplifies years of different growth percentages and gives you a single number that represents compounded growth percentage of an investment, in this case, a LEGO set. The typical LEGO set yields about 10.64%, so at 60%+ in less than two years' time, that is exceptional. Even more exceptional is the return of Spinner set 2172, Nya. This set appreciated 126% in less than two years. Wow. That's impressive. Overall, the Ninjago Spinners have yielded on average almost 27% in less than two years. The Spinners are indeed investment winners. But what about the non-Spinner Ninjago LEGO sets? Let's take a look...
      There are more traditional Ninjago building sets. These sets include the buildings and structures of the theme. They all have an Asian flair and look like old shrines and temples. Some of these sets do contain a spinner or two, but the primary idea of these sets is that they are some sort of non-movable building. If you examine the chart below, you will see the smaller sets of the group that have gone EOL have the best returns so far:
      NINJAGO STRUCTURES/BUILDINGSSet NameSet #Year ReleasedPiecesMSRP ($)Current Value($)% Return Last MonthCAGR(%)*:Mountain Shrine2254201116919.9931.73.19%58.58%Ninja Ambush22582011716.9915.33.31%118.88%Spinjitzu Dojo2504201137349.9951.895.51%3.8%Garmadon's Dark Fortress2505201151869.9997.830.76%39.78%Fire Temple250720111180119.99115.064.07%-4.11%Blacksmith Shop2508201118919.9923.54.49%17.56%Ninja Training Outpost25162011454.9913.65-2.85%173.55%Skeleton Bowling2519201137129.9925.940%-13.5%Ninja Battle Arena2520201146349.9932.08-0.47%-35.83%Venomari Shrine94402012866.9910.741.13%53.65%Spinner Battle Arena9456201241839.9948.71-2.11%21.81%Training Set9558201221919.9924.72-3.63%23.66%AVERAGE38.1%* Average LEGO set CAGR: 10.64%
      Ninja Ambush(2258) and Ninja Training Outpost(2516) have appreciated 118% and 173% respectively. Sometimes the smaller sets do very well when they are relatively new, especially when they are already retired like these two sets. Another newer small set, the Venomari Shrine(9440) has appreciated well so far to a clip of 53%. As for the larger sets, Garmadon's Dark Fortress(2505) stands out with a ~40% return from retail. The Fire Temple(2507) is a set to watch in my opinion. It is the largest of all Ninjago sets and I believe it will explode in value when it is finally retired. Overall, the Ninjago structures and buildings appreciated over 38% from retail as a group so far. That is even better than the spinners, which, as we all know, are investment winners.
      This leads us to our last classification of LEGO Ninjago sets and the most interesting in my opinion, the creatures and vehicles of the Ninjago theme. These sets are damn cool in my opinion. Dragons, snake trucks and helicopters, skull trucks, jet fighters, motorcycles, boats and mechanized monsters. Cool beans. Each one of these sets can do well after EOL, but four stand out in my opinion...the Dragon sets which include the Ice Dragon Attack(2260), Earth Dragon Defense(2509), Lightning Dragon Battle(2521) and Epic Dragon Battle(9450) sets. Take a quick glance at the chart below:
      NINJAGO CREATURES & VEHICLESSet NameSet #Year ReleasedPiecesMSRP ($)Current Value($)% Return Last MonthCAGR(%)*:Skull Motorbike2259201115714.9925.082.45%67.31%Ice Dragon Attack2260201115819.9964.672.28%223.51%Turbo Shredder2263201122329.9934.70.75%15.71%Skull Truck2506201151559.9943.072.23%-28.2%Earth Dragon Defense2509201122534.9977.8310.49%122.43%Nuckal's ATV2518201117424.9921.329.06%-14.73%Lightning Dragon Batttle2521201164579.99142.550%78.21%Kai's Blade Cycle9441201218814.9922.59-2.38%50.7%Jay's Storm Fighter9442201224224.9925.040%0.2%Rattlecopter9443201232729.99420.24%40.05%Cole's Tread Assault9444201228639.9941.54-6.67%3.88%Fangpyre'sTruck Ambush9445201245249.9939.04-12.62%-21.9%Destiny's Bounty9446201268079.9971.972.43%-10.03%Lasha's Bite Cycle9447201225024.9934.72-2.83%38.94%Samurai Mech9448201245239.9950.29-4.86%25.76%Ultra Sonic Raider9449201262279.9991.89-21.89%14.88%Epic Dragon Battle94502012915119.99139.2-11.78%16.01%Fangpyre Mech9455201225524.9943.621.02%74.75%Fangpyre Wrecking Ball9457201241549.9963.860.33%27.75%AVERAGE
      38.17%  * Average LEGO set CAGR: 10.64%
      With the exception of the newest set, Epic Dragon Battle(9450), the remaining dragon Ninjago sets have gone EOL. The Lightning Dragon Battle(2521) has appreciated over 78% in less than two years and the Earth Dragon Defense(2509) has appreciated over 122%. The Ice Dragon Attack(2260) has appreciated a whopping 223% in less than two years. That is some of the best gains I have ever seen when discussing a LEGO set...or any investment for that matter. Although these three dragon Ninjago sets have gone EOL, they have gone EOL very recently and there is still room to grow in my opinion. What is even better news is that the best of the dragon bunch, the Epic Dragon Battle(9450) is still available from primary sources for $119.99 and figures to be discounted at some point before it gets retired. This set is close to 1000 pieces and has some very unique minifigures and models. I really like the potential for that set. As for the other sets in this category, Destiny's Bounty(9446), the Rattlecopter(9443), the Ultra Sonic Raider(9450), both Mechs(9448/9455) and the Fangpyre Wrecking Ball(9497) all look very promising. Overall, as with the Ninjago structures and buildings, the Ninjago creatures and vehicles category appreciated over 38% from retail as a group so far. But the overall 38% appreciation was largely due to the Dragon sets, with only moderate increases from other sets in the category. This is not to say that these sets are poor investments. Quite the contrary. Most Ninjago sets are relatively new and still available through primary retail sources like LEGO, Amazon and Toys R' Us and some are being discounted or will be discounted, so their numbers are flat. Most of the sets I've mentioned as big gainers are recently retired sets, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that similar high returns will be seen with other Ninjago sets when they are retired.
      In conclusion, I have to say that not only are the Ninjago Spinners “investment” winners, that all the Ninjago sets are potential winners. The Ninjago theme has been ignored by the adult LEGO collectors and investors, like myself, for too long...but no more. I am here to tell you that dragons and snake men make for big-time profits in the LEGO world of investment. It is OK to buy a Spinner set and look at another adult in the face. You can explain to them that it is an investment(Good luck with that...LOL). On a serious note, these sets are just very creative and cool and I can see why kids love them. These are the types of sets a future AFOL might buy, thinking back to their youth and wishing they could have bought an Epic Dragon Battle, but couldn't at the age of 10, but can at the age of 30. What is great for the LEGO collector and investor, is that these sets are still readily available and are going up in value at the same time. That is rarely seen in the LEGO investment world. Another very important point that should be addressed is the possible retirement of the entire Ninjago theme after the 2013 calender year. Rumors are circulating through the LEGO world of the Ninjago theme heading off into the sunset in a year or so. Whether that is true or not, it will make investing in these sets a very intriguing proposition. Why? Because if the theme remains as popular as it is currently, why would The LEGO Group discontinue it and if they do choose to discontinue the Ninjago theme, how will that affect the prices of Ninjago sets on the secondary market? Prices could explode from lack of sets and too many buyers, or they could head south because of the lack of new LEGO Ninjago sets and fans losing interest and moving on to the next hot LEGO theme. Whatever the future holds, the possible end of the Ninjago theme is a year or two away and will bring much riveting debate in the meantime, but for today's LEGO investment and collecting purposes, the Ninjago theme is a winner in my book and a must buy for any LEGO fan out there...
      LEGO Press Release: http://aboutus.lego.com/en-us/news-room/2012/august/half-year-result_2012/

    • Ed Mack
      Definition of "Speculative Bubble":
      A spike in asset values within a particular industry, commodity, or asset class. A speculative bubble is usually caused by exaggerated expectations of future growth, price appreciation, or other events that could cause an increase in asset values. This drives trading volumes higher, and as more investors rally around the heightened expectation, buyers outnumber sellers, pushing prices beyond what an objective analysis of intrinsic value would suggest.
      The bubble is not completed until prices fall back down to normalized levels; this usually involves a period of steep decline in price during which most investors panic and sell out of their investments. (source: Investopedia.com)
      There is a phrase used around the various LEGO forums that puts fear into the hearts of even the most staunch LEGO investors and collectors...bubble. As in “speculative” or “investment” bubble. The remarkable run up of prices of some retired LEGO sets has some investors thinking back to the days of the Cabbage Patch Dolls, Beanies Babies and Baseball Cards, and not in a good way. In each one of those cases, a type of toy collectible hit new heights in value and popularity, only to crash and burn a few years later and leave its investors with huge inventories of useless and worthless collectible toys. Is history destined to repeat itself again with the LEGO collectible's market crashing like the Baseball Card collectible's market did several years ago? Will the value of these high-priced LEGO sets and minifigures, with years of gains behind them, be wiped out in a couple of months, or few years at the most? Some very similar and scary comparisons can be made between the explosion of LEGO set values and some of the other collectible's markets that crashed, especially the Baseball Card collectible's market.
      The Baseball Card collectible's market, unlike other flash-in-the-pan collectible's markets(Cabbage Patch dolls and Beanie Babies to name a few...), has been around a very long time(Baseball Cards have been around since the 1860s). Like LEGO sets, which have been around over 50 years themselves, Baseball Cards are an iconic collectible and childhood toy that are also collected heavily by adults. But are LEGO sets and their values bound to follow the same path that the Baseball Cards did, and if so, when will the “bubble” burst? Upon researching the topic of the collectible toy markets and the history of those markets, I found a very interesting article about the collectible Baseball Card market and its rise and fall. The article was written by Davis Jameison and was a brief synopsis of his book called Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession. I found the article to be quite interesting and eerily comparable in some ways to the current LEGO collectible's market. Let's take a look at the article and see if we can draw any useful comparisons to the modern day LEGO investing and collecting market:
      ...Very interesting article. I have read many forum posts over the years relating the Baseball Card bubble to the current LEGO situation. There are definitely some parallel points that should be acknowledged, yet there are some huge differences between both. Let's take a look at some of the similarities...
      Both markets were originally designed for children and have had a large influx of adult investors get involved later in the lifespan of the collectible. Both markets are iconic and have been in existence for 50+ years. Both markets have thousands of different variations and new ones are released on a yearly basis. Both markets have price guides that keep track of current prices and trends. Both the LEGO new collectible and secondary market and the Baseball Card new collectible and secondary market remain two of the largest and active collectors' markets in the world today. If you take a look at the EBAY auction listings for instance, there are millions of EBAY auctions for Baseball Card items on any given day in the United States. LEGO auctions in the United States are in the hundreds of thousands on a daily basis, and probably equal to that in countries across Europe and the rest of the world. Both the LEGO and Baseball Card markets rank right up there with Stamp and Coin collecting markets, which are the largest collecting markets in the world. Those are the basic similarities I see between the LEGO and Baseball Card markets. They are quite substantial, yet the differences that follow outweigh the similarities in my opinion. Let's check them out...
      While both markets have a wide range of age groups that participate in the collecting, the Baseball and Sports Memorabilia market, in general, is an adult driven business. The majority of LEGO collectors, fans, users or whatever you would like to call them...are children. By a vast majority in fact. Look at the most successful themes in the LEGO brand...Ninjago, Friends, City/Town. All are geared towards the younger crowd. While the Baseball card industry does sell a substantial amount of Baseball Cards to kids, the investing and larger portion of card sales is mainly by adults. LEGO sets are bought by all ages, but the majority of LEGO sets are still bought by children, even with the uptick in LEGO “investing” as of late. Kids don't invest. They collect LEGO sets and bricks to build bigger and better creations. Investing is the last thing on a kid's mind and it is this love of LEGO bricks that keeps the brand strong now and probably into the future as well. LEGO sets are played with and sold worldwide, in hundreds of countries. Baseball Cards are mainly an American phenomenon(Japan and a few Latin American countries notwithstanding). This point cannot be underestimated in importance. The love and interest in LEGO bricks in European countries is huge and helps build a strong base for the LEGO brand around the world. As the old saying goes, “The more the merrier,” and in this case, the more people buying and collecting LEGO sets, the better the secondary LEGO market will be after a set is retired. The LEGO Group does not release billions of sets every year like some of the Baseball Card companies did with cards and can at any time if they so choose. As a matter of fact, LEGO does a very good job of limiting sets(about 500 new releases a year) and keeping themes and ideas fresh. Lego retires sets on a frequent basis, while Baseball Card companies will release thousands of different cards yearly, with different versions for each player, watering down the market. Lego sets are just too expensive to produce and The LEGO Group doesn't want warehouses full of unsold inventory. Businesses as a whole today are much more aware of the dangers of excessive inventory and overproducing millions, or even billions, of sets(or cards with respect to the Baseball Card industry) is highly unlikely. LEGO sets are historically expensive. I have been playing with and collecting LEGO bricks for 35+ years and they have always been pricey. But that is a good thing if you are a collector/investor from a resell standpoint. There are some serious fans that buy LEGO sets and are willing to pay top dollar for quality, MISB sets, new or retired. There is value to a LEGO set. They are one of the highest quality toys you can buy. Baseball cards can be worth pennies, even new. There might be expensive old and rare Baseball cards, but the vast majority will never be worth anything more than pocket change. Heck, LEGO bricks are made of ABS(acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), which is a petroleum derivative, so it has to cost more to produce LEGO bricks over some small pieces of paper. LOL. LEGO was voted “Toy of the Century” by the Toy Retailers Association. Baseball cards are not a “toy.” Therein lies the main difference in my opinion. LEGO bricks are TOYS that can be collected. Baseball cards are pieces of cardboard that can be collected. Not to knock Baseball cards...I'm a huge NY Yankee fan and collected cards as a child, it's just that LEGO bricks have a special aura about them and are wanted and admired by all walks of life, by people from around the world. They are toys that can be used over and over and over again and enable its fans to explore their creative side. There is really no substitute for a toy such as LEGO. There are other lesser competitors, but the LEGO building brick is far superior and is loved more than ever. The LEGO Group has seen profits grow for 7 straight years, with no downturn in sight. Baseball cards on the other hand just don't have the broad support from children around the world like LEGO sets still do. Baseball Cards had their day in the sun, when Major League Baseball was the main sports draw in the nation, but that run is over. NFL Football has replaced MLB Baseball as the most popular sport in the United States and cards grew less important. It's adults that are keeping the Baseball Card business afloat, buying Mickey Mantle cards, not kids buying Derek Jeter cards. Technology has also put a dent in old hobbies like card collecting. Video games and smart phones are the new play toys for a lot of kids. But there is still a craving for people to utilize their imaginations and build something from LEGO bricks. The child LEGO collectors of today are the adult LEGO investors of tomorrow. It is this cycle that keeps The LEGO Group profitable, even in terrible economic times, and helps keep the values of LEGO sets at high levels. The reader can see why some people linked the LEGO collectible's market with the Baseball Card collectible market. These same people also worried that the LEGO market is heading towards an “investment bubble,” in the same manner as the Baseball Card collectible's market crashed several years back. While there might be some strong similarities between the two markets from a logistics point of view, from a product point of view, they are quite different animals. Baseball cards are just that, cardboard cards. There is no real “play” value to them. A collector's value, for sure, but a child won't do anything really creative with them...a house of cards, maybe? Well, we all know what children and adults can do with LEGO bricks and the “play” value of them. The play value is what makes LEGO sets valuable and keeps children buying LEGO sets. This inherent play value has also made LEGO the third largest toy manufacturer in the United States. The LEGO collectible's market is a minor piece of the entire LEGO sales pie. The majority of LEGO sets are bought by and for children, not by and for adult investors, like the Baseball Card market was and still is. Adult investors on the various LEGO forums like to believe they drive LEGO sales. They do not. Maybe a small percentage of the retired and rare sets on EBAY or Bricklink are influenced price wise by these investors, collectors and resellers, but the vast majority of new and recently retired LEGO sets prices will not be affected by speculation in the secondary LEGO market in my opinion. New LEGO set prices will continue to remain high(as they always have been), regardless of the secondary market and some minor speculation. Several thousand or even tens of thousands of amateur LEGO investors will not outweigh millions of children buying sets for non-investment reasons.
      The Baseball Card market imploded because the main buyer of Baseball Cards became adults looking to invest. The Baseball Card Manufacturers saw this shift in buyer types and proceeded to produce and sell billions of cards, flooding the market with worthless pieces of cardboard. Baseball Card sellers and collectors hoarded cases of cards, not realizing that the manufacturers were overproducing the product. POP...went the bubble. As I stated earlier, I really doubt that LEGO will ramp up set production so much that the market becomes flooded and worthless. They are better business operators than that. LEGO is very protective of its brand and does an excellent job with quality and keeping set values at a premium level. They retire sets on a regular basis and this keeps ideas and themes fresh and the secondary market ripe with new retired sets that might appreciate. If you notice, LEGO goes out of stock on various sets quite frequently on their Shop @ Home site and if they were the type of company to overproduce a product, you would never see that kind of message. They produce as needed. Some themes and sets are retired after one year due to poor sales or lack of fan interest, other themes and sets can go on for years if they are selling. LEGO adapts on the fly to the current market and trends, which is in my opinion, a very smart and successful business practice.
      Now I'm not going to lie to you, the whole idea of a LEGO “investment/speculation bubble” scares me to death. I am heavily invested in LEGO sets and any talk or rumors of one makes me wonder if it is time to sell. I invested heavily in Technology stocks(NASDAQ) years back and lost my proverbial “shirt.” It got me thinking about my own collection and the LEGO secondary market as a whole. Is there a bubble? I mean, LEGO sets have appeared to go through the roof. $2000+ for a 10179 Millennium Falcon? $1100 for a 10182 Cafe Corner or 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer? $700 for a couple of San Diego Comic Con Marvel minifigures? There has to be a “bubble”...right? Well...maybe. Let's take a look at the definition of a “speculative bubble” again:
      A spike in asset values within a particular industry, commodity, or asset class. A speculative bubble is usually caused by exaggerated expectations of future growth, price appreciation, or other events that could cause an increase in asset values. This drives trading volumes higher, and as more investors rally around the heightened expectation, buyers outnumber sellers, pushing prices beyond what an objective analysis of intrinsic value would suggest.
      The bubble is not completed until prices fall back down to normalized levels; this usually involves a period of steep decline in price during which most investors panic and sell out of their investments.
      The 10179 Millenium Falcon has “spiked” in value over the last year and a half. Same with the 10182 Cafe Corner. A ton of LEGO sets have exploded in value recently. It definitely has to be a bubble...right? Once again...maybe...or maybe not. In order to really tell if the LEGO collectible's market is in an investment bubble, we have to look at the broader view. In other words, we have to look at all LEGO sets and see if all or most of the sets are “spiking” in value in the past year or two. How do we do this? By using the mean CAGR, Compound Annual Growth Rate, for all qualified LEGO sets. In layman's terms, the CAGR can be thought of as the growth rate statistic that gets you from the initial investment value to the ending investment value if you assume that the investment has been compounding over the time period. It simplifies years of different growth percentages and gives you a single number that represents compounded growth percentage of an investment, in this case, a LEGO set. For our purposes in this discussion, when I say “qualified,” I am referring to the thousands of new and retired LEGO sets in our database that fit a certain criteria. We remove highly volatile sets like Collectible Minifigures and sets that do not have enough sales to make an accurate price guide for. We then take these thousands of sets in our database and calculate a mean, or average, CAGR value for the entire database. If we utilize the BrickPicker database and calculate the mean CAGR for July 2012 for all qualified LEGO sets, we found that the mean CAGR for those sets that qualified was approximately 10.6%. So, basically, the “average” LEGO set(which is based on thousands of LEGO sets in our database) increased in value(on an annual basis), from retail, 10.6% in July 2012. Of course, some sets appreciated better than 10.6% from retail and others less than 10.6%. Well, we know that the 10179 Millennium Falcon and 10182 Cafe Corner exploded in growth over the last several years, but is that indicative of the rest of the LEGO sets? The answer is no. The 10179 Millennium Falcon has a CAGR three times(33.4%) the LEGO CAGR norm(mean) and the 10182 Cafe Corner has a CAGR five times(50.57%) the LEGO CAGR norm(mean). They are exceptions to the rule. What about the rest of the LEGO sets? Is the CAGR “spiking” right now for most LEGO sets? Let's take a look...

      We at BrickPicker.com have been collecting market research data from eBay's Terapeak program, which is their Market Research Division, for almost a full two years. I'm not an expert financial analyst or anything close to that, but I would think that a layman such as myself can see if the LEGO collector's market is in some sort of “bubble.” Data does not lie as they say. I mean, you should see some kind of large increase in value in the mean CAGR of the average LEGO set over the past two years at some time. See what I'm getting at? Has the average LEGO set CAGR increased dramatically over the past two years? The answer is NO. Without giving away too much of our valuable and expensive data, I can tell you that the average LEGO set CAGR(~10.6%) has actually dropped 0.1% from July 2011(~10.7%) to July 2012(~10.6%). I'll repeat...DROPPED 0.1%...or basically, for all intents and purposes, remained almost the same and/or the change was negligible. If we look at the data from 19 months ago(when we started collecting the Terapeak data), we will see that the average LEGO set CAGR went up 0.2%, from ~10.4%, with a small spike around December 2011, or Christmastime, of about 1.0%. After Christmas, the prices dropped to slightly below the average and then bounced back to around average a month or two later. Basically, with the exception of the Christmas holiday, the average growth of the average LEGO set, over the course of 19 months, remained flat...with only a paltry increase of ~0.2%. Even to a non-Certified Public Accountant/Financial Analyst like myself, I can tell you that ~0.2% growth in any investment over a 19-month period hardly qualifies as a “spike” in value of that investment.
      So what does this all mean? The main questions I asked myself when I started this article were:
      Does the Baseball Card collector's market and its recent collapse in value have anything to do with the current status of the LEGO collector's market and future values? Is there a LEGO “investment/speculative” bubble at this present moment? Well, in my opinion, the answer to the first question is no. Although there are some similarities between the two collectible markets and I can see why some people will compare the two, there are some huge differences that outweigh those similarities. First off, the Baseball/Sports Memorabilia collector's market is primarily an adult driven business. What was once a business geared towards children, it has been overtaken by an older clientele and companies that overproduce cards, thus rendering a good portion of those cards...worthless. LEGO sets and bricks on the other hand are geared towards children and primarily bought by children. Although there is an adult based collectible's market in the LEGO world, it is minor in comparison to the overall profit that LEGO makes from kids. It is possible that the LEGO secondary market(eBay and sites that sell mainly retired LEGO sets) could implode, yet the primary LEGO market(LEGO, Toys 'R Us and Amazon.com and other stores that sell mainly new sets) would not...because LEGO keeps prices stable and inventories at safe levels traditionally. It's just an educated guess, but I would say if the primary LEGO market remains strong, the secondary LEGO market will follow suit. On a final note relating to the Baseball Card bubble vs. the LEGO potential bubble, let me say, as both a Baseball Card fan and LEGO fan, that LEGO as a product and collectible is far superior in my opinion. At the end of the day, Baseball Cards do little to stir the imagination of children and adults and have limited playability. It is the playability and fun factor of LEGO bricks that may enable it to be voted “Toy of the NEXT Century,” and keep values strong and consistent.
      As for the second question, “Is there a LEGO “investment/speculative” bubble at this present moment?” I'd have to say, in my most humble and non-Financial Analyst's opinion, that the answer to that question is also...no. To be quite honest with you, we were quite surprised when we ran the Terapeak numbers of the past 20 months and found that LEGO prices in the secondary market were remarkably stable. The mean CAGR for the “average” LEGO set(that is based on thousand's of qualified LEGO sets) over the course of 19 months changed very little, if at all. CAGR and LEGO set prices work hand in hand. Higher LEGO set CAGR...higher LEGO set prices, and vice versa. Prices for LEGO sets showed a combined~1.0% increase around the Christmas Holiday in 2011over the “average” industry wide CAGR value of 10.6% and dropped in January and February of 2012, yet bounced back to stable levels around 10.0-10.75% for the remainder of the months observed. I am curious to see if there is another uptick in LEGO set prices in December 2012 and a similar drop off in January and February of 2013. Regardless, it makes sense that LEGO sets go up in price around Christmas and drop off after the holidays. Sellers get premium prices when the significant others of AFOLs are scrambling to buy some rare LEGO set for that special gift for Christmas. Demand drops and money is short after the holidays, so EBAY auctions in January and February are weak.
      So now the question is, ”I pay attention to LEGO set prices and they always look like they appreciate...I mean, look at the 10179 Millennium Falcon and 10182 Cafe Corner, they exploded in growth. There must be more sets appreciating like this. Why isn't the mean CAGR going up at a higher rate?” The truth is, there are plenty of LEGO sets exploding in growth. There are also plenty of LEGO sets that are NOT. LEGO investing and collecting is not as easy as some people think. People do lose money buying and selling LEGO sets. There are hundreds, if not thousands of LEGO sets that “depreciate” on a monthly basis and this makes a site like BrickPicker.com that much more valuable to the LEGO investor and collector. We give you, the investor, various data, tools and trends that enable a person to make educated buying choices. It's up to you to figure out which sets to buy and sell. Overall, LEGO sets are a solid and stable investment at this time in my opinion. With an average annual gain of around 10% for your typical LEGO set, you can make a profit if you choose the correct sets to buy and sell them when the timing is right. I lost money on my personal Brickfolio last month. I know why. I know what I did wrong and where the trends are heading. My investing strategy will have to adapt or I will continue to lose money. On a positive note, my investments have already appreciated thousands of dollars and tripled and quadrupled over the years, but it won't last forever. I will have to scan through the data and look for the next 10182 Cafe Corner. Other, newer sets will come along and appreciate better than some older ones that have peaked. Even some older sets find a second wind and become hot commodities at a later age.
      The bottom line is, there is no LEGO “investment/speculative bubble” at this time in my opinion. The data shows stable prices and a solid collectible market over the past 19 months and there is no reason, besides a global economic meltdown or some other calamity, that it shouldn't continue. What's even more interesting, is that in the face of one of the worst worldwide recessions in recent history, the secondary LEGO collector's market has remained constant. There are no industry-wide “spikes” in values. While there are some LEGO sets that have exploded in growth, there are others that have not and have balanced out the equation to yield around 10% annually for the average MISB LEGO set. Just like stocks, some go up, some go down...it's up to the individual investor to make the right choices if you want to make money. Good luck in your quest for the next 10182 Cafe Corner...and remember, if the LEGO collectible's market does implode, people do make money investing when there is a “Bear” market. Just my final 2 cents...

    • Ed Mack
      Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the LEGO STAR WARS Ultimate Collector's Series(UCS), let me tell you how a UCS set helped create Brickpicker.com...
      Adult LEGO fans(AFOLs) often talk about their “dark ages” when referring to their LEGO collecting hobby. Basically, the term “dark ages” refer to the time a LEGO fan stops playing with LEGO bricks(usually around the age of 12-14) and when they rediscover LEGO bricks(usually when they have kids or are old enough, with enough discretionary income, to buy some expensive STAR WARS Ultimate Collector's Series LEGO set). The end of my personal “dark age” was when I purchased the 10030 UCS Star Destroyer about five years ago. My brother Jeff and I were at work one day and he showed me a picture of the 10030 off of some STAR WARS site and I said I gotta have it. It was Christmas time and I told my wife that's what I wanted for Christmas. She was like, “What the Hell is a 38-year-old man going to do with that?” I said, “Build it.” And so it began...I received the 10030 for Christmas, then continued to purchase all the UCS sets in existence at the time. I even bought the 10179 for $399.99 from Amazon.com(I should have bought more, but that's another story). Then something happened...
      We had our son Max, and my LEGO collecting took a hiatus for two years. I stopped collecting LEGO sets completely for those two years...No eBay...No Amazon...No LEGO...Nothing...Nada. Two years quickly passed and I was messing around on eBay, looking for something for my son and decided to take a look at some LEGO set auctions. What I saw left me speechless. The 10179 Millennium Falcon that I bought two years previous for $399.99, was now selling for close to a $1000.00. I started going through the various LEGO sets that I owned and saw huge gains in all the sets. I mentioned this amazing appreciation to Jeff and we started to formulate the basis of an internet LEGO Price Guide, with an emphasis on investing. The rest is history and Brickpicker.com was born. So there you have it, a couple of Ultimate Collector's Series STAR WARS sets were the spark to the BrickPicker idea. But what about all the UCS sets? Are they all investment winners or are some underachievers or even outright flops? Let's take a more in-depth look at the Ultimate Collector's Series STAR WARS sets.
      The LEGO STAR WARS Ultimate Collector's Series began back in the year 2000, with the release of the 7181 TIE Interceptor and the 7191 X-wing. Both sets were a huge change from the typical STAR WARS themed set, which began in 1999. It was the first time that LEGO designers developed a set geared to the adult LEGO collector market. I get the sense that a change took place with the LEGO company itself around the year 2000. LEGO sets in the year 2000, with the UCS sets leading the charge, became more complicated, original and just downright cool. In 2000, LEGO dropped the “System” nomenclature from the STAR WARS sets and were just known as STAR WARS sets, as if to let fans know that the STAR WARS line was to be taken seriously. The UCS models were such a breath of fresh air from the stagnant, childish line of LEGO sets that encompassed the previous 20 years(with the exception of the 3450 Statue of Liberty of course...) It was as if a light bulb went on in LEGO Corporate Headquarters and said enough already...we can build realistic looking models with LEGO bricks, cater to both the younger and older LEGO fans and make money doing it. Maybe George Lucas had something to do with the improvement in creativity and quality of the STAR WARS theme, maybe not. Regardless, it was a welcome change of pace from basic Space, Castle and City themes and the boring first year models of the STAR WARS “System” theme.
      LEGO investment and collecting is a phenomenon that has grown in popularity over the last several years. I highly doubt that in the year 2000, LEGO thought about developing a theme geared towards LEGO “investors,” but they inadvertently did. The recent amazing appreciation of the UCS 10179 Millennium Falcon and other large LEGO sets has brought much attention to the LEGO secondary market and the UCS theme in particular. The UCS theme consists of some of the largest and well known LEGO sets in existence, but does that popularity convert into successful investment sets? Do UCS sets appreciate any better than the average LEGO set(Average CAGR, Compound Annual Growth Rate, for all LEGO sets is 10.81% as of 8/7/12)? Are the STAR WARS Ultimate Collector's Series really the “ultimate” LEGO investment? Let's take a look at the 19 existing UCS sets and their investment data and BrickPicker analysis for each:
      Mean/Average CAGR = 10.81%
      7181 TIE INTERCEPTOR Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2000
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The 7181 TIE Interceptor is the oldest of the UCS sets. Released back in 2000, this set was a bold and fresh idea for The LEGO Group. A theme designed for the LEGO “collector.” The 7181 was the first of many top notch STAR WARS UCS sets, but it never really got enough love from the LEGO collectors out there. The returns on this set over a ten-year span are very close to the average LEGO set “mean” or 10.81%. The 7181 has averaged 11.0% annually over its lifespan on the secondary LEGO market. That is certainly not bad in the investment world, but for LEGO sets, it's just average. On a positive note, these sets are still reasonably priced, even MISB sets. The 7181 appreciated 15% last year, so maybe now is the time to pick one up and see stronger returns than previously seen with this set. Overall, a very nice display set that is an easy build and decent investment.
      7191 X-WING FIGHTER Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2000
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: Beautiful LEGO model. To me, this is where the LEGO designers really started doing a fantastic job with the UCS sets and in LEGO sets in general. The X-Wing is just a gorgeous display model and looks just like the real thing. No STAR WARS LEGO collection is complete unless you have this set in my opinion. Although the current MISB sets are quite pricey(in the $800 range), a used 7191 in good condition can still be bought around $300. This set has seen very strong and steady growth since EOL, around 14.0% annually, and it looks to continue. If you have a chance to buy one of these sets, new or used, do so. You won't be disappointed.   7194 YODA Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2002
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The 7194 Yoda is a set very similar to the 7181 TIE Interceptor in annual growth(CAGR) and price. Both sets sold for $100 new and both are selling around $300 currently for a MISB set. This is another set that is still affordable to the new LEGO investors out there. Although this set has not received as much support from the LEGO community as other UCS sets, it did appreciate 29% last year, so now might be a good time to pick one up. A very nice UCS set in appearance and build. Makes for a perfect shelf display. If you are a Yoda fan, this set is a must have.

      10018 DARTH MAUL Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2001
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The 10018 Darth Maul is one of my favorite sets, in case you haven't noticed. The finished display model is quite realistic and downright scary at times. I find that the model watches me when I walk around my office. A very tedious build, with mostly black pieces, it is worth it in the end. As an investment set, the 10018 Darth Maul is just coming into its own. The set grew 34% last year, a very impressive growth number for any investment. A MISB set is selling for well over $500 currently(more like $800+), with the used sets around $300. Although these prices are high, they are not as high as some as the other UCS sets and the 10018 is showing some big time growth as of late. If you are a Darth Maul fan like myself, maybe now is the time to pull the trigger and buy one before they appreciate any higher.
      10019 REBEL BLOCKADE RUNNER (TANTIVE IV) Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2001
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: Another of the iconic STAR WARS ships, the 10019 Rebel Blockade Runner(also known as the Tantive IV), blasted onto movies screens in the mid-70s in the first scene of the STAR WARS series. The ship itself is all engine and makes for an impressive LEGO display if viewed from the rear. Interesting design and dark red and white color scheme, this set is another beautiful display set that will contrast well with the gray 10030 Star Destroyer. The 10019 has appreciated well over the years and is selling MISB for $800+. No longer a cost effective set new, used ones are still available in the $400 range. Be careful. This set has a ton of stickers and they are getting old. Some used sets have them applied and are falling off. The 10019 returned 17% last year, so there is still solid growth if you are interested in adding one to your UCS collection.

      10026 SPECIAL EDITION NABOO STARFIGHTER Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2002
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The smallest and cheapest of the UCS STAR WARS sets, this set is not small in appreciation. Current values for a MISB set are in the $300 range and the set has been averaging over 20% growth annually since EOL. Last year alone, the set grew 29%, which is outstanding. A very small set, it is a nice change of pace from the gray and white ships of the STAR WARS UCS theme. The set is a bright yellow with very cool chrome pieces, which makes for a bold little model. An easy build and a perfect shelf piece, it is a nice addition to any LEGO collection. But the prices for a new one are a bit high for what you get, so see if you can locate a used one in good condition for around $100. Obviously, the set is still appreciating well, but with a small set such as this, who knows if that growth will continue. 10030 IMPERIAL STAR DESTROYER Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2002
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: One of the “Big Boys” of the UCS theme. The 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer is one large and in charge STAR WARS set, maybe the largest in physical size. “Impressive” is its middle name. With well over 3000 pieces, this set will be a jewel in any LEGO investor's collection. This is my favorite all time LEGO set and was the set that brought me out of my “Dark Ages.” I could not believe that you could reproduce a Star Destroyer and sell it to the public. When I saw this set, I was amazed. I was used to childish sets in the Space theme and the like and really opened my eyes to LEGO sets again. From an investor's standpoint, this set is still appreciating very, very well. Last year alone, it increased 32%. There is no getting around spending a chunk of change for this set, new or used. New, they are selling well above $1000, used...around $600. If you are fortunate enough to afford one, buy one...you will not be disappointed. 10129 REBEL SNOWSPEEDER Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2003
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The 10129 is a sharp UCS set. I really like the look of the orange and white bricks. Different look. The cockpit is top notch in this set. Nice details. This set has sky rocketed into the $800 range, but has leveled off as of late. As a matter of fact, the set actual decreased in value over the past year. This might be a warning to those still interested in buying this set as an investment...the party might be over. Then again...it might not be...LOL, what do I know? If you like the set, buy the set. It is very unique looking and is a nice addition to any collection. There are plenty of quality used 10129s, so keep an eye out for one in the $400 range. All in all, a solid UCS set in style, substance, and playability.

      10134 Y-WING ATTACK STARFIGHTER Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2004
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: A UCS set very similar in size, price and growth to the 10129 Rebel Snowspeeder. Although this set did not appreciate as well as the 10129 over the long term, it is a year younger and did appreciate 8% last year. The overall 20% annual growth is excellent and it is one of those under the radar UCS sets that get overshadowed by the flashier 7191 X-Wing and 10030 Star Destroyer. A very nice display set, as are most UCS sets, the 10134 will not overly impress anyone, but there is great detail to the set and a STAR WARS fan will approve. You might be able to find one for $300+ used and in the $500+ range MISB. Overall, another solid, non-flashy set that has had nice gains since EOL and might continue to do so, but on a reduced level in my opinion.

      10143 DEATH STAR II Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2005
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The “non-minifigure” Death Star, this set is nevertheless, still quite a sight. This is another tedious and difficult build in that it is basically all one color...gray. There are almost 3500 gray pieces. LOL. It takes some time and patience to complete this UCS model. As stated earlier, the finished product is another impressive UCS display, but this is one of the larger ones and needs some space. The 10143 Death Star II took some time to catch the eye of the LEGO collector and investor. I guess people were putting their investment dollars into the 10179 Millennium Falcon and other popular UCS sets early on, but with a 34% growth rate last year, I guess the 10143 Death Star II has found some fans. If you like the accurate version of the Death Star, then this set is for you. If you like the “diorama” Death Star, the 10188 is for you(and a better deal at this point). 10174 IMPERIAL AT-ST Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2006
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: Very underrated UCS set, but now is the time to buy one of these sets. If you look at the data, this set appreciated 49% last year. That is Cafe Corner type of numbers. It is a decent-sized set at a little over 1000 pieces and is actually quite large when completed. Although the 10174 Imperial AT-ST is never going to win a popularity contest, a smart LEGO investor and collector will see the value in this set. The prices are still very fair and you can find a used one for less than $100. I highly recommend this set as a buy before they get too pricey.

      10175 VADER'S TIE ADVANCED Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2006
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: If you thought the recent gains of the 10174 Imperial AT-ST were extraordinary, then the 10175's data will really excite you. The 10175 Vader' TIE Advanced went up 78% last year!!! That is better than Cafe Corner's numbers last year! You can see how these UCS sets explode in growth at some point after EOL. Some might take a little longer than others, but most of the sets have a value spurt at some time, you just have to figure out when that will be and buy them before they start appreciating too high to be worth investing in. As a set, the 10175 is an excellent replica of Darth Vader's ship from STAR WARS IV, The New Hope. The one issue I have with these older UCS sets is that they do not come with minifigures or are exactly to scale for them. They could be, but the designers chose against it. This set craves for Darth Vader to be sitting at the controls. Overall, this set is a great choice. Buy one now before they hit $500.    10179 MILLENNIUM FALCON Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2007
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: Here we go...What can you say about the 10179 that hasn't been said before. THE SET IS A JUGGERNAUT!!! The terms amazing, incredible, unbelievable, impressive all apply to probably the greatest LEGO set ever produced for retail. In every way, this set is a winner. The 5000+ pieces is second only to the 10189 Taj Mahal. This is the first LEGO set to reach an average MISB set price of $2000. What surprises me the most about this set is that it appreciated 58% last year. 58%!!! That's not 58% from $100 or $200. That is a 58% increase from $1300 or $1400!!! At this point, I really don't know when this set will stop its ascent, but you can argue that there is still room to increase and that a 10179 selling for $1800 is a bargain. A couple of points about the set. It's massive. It needs the proper place to be displayed or it will get destroyed. Believe me, you do not want to repair this ship if damaged. You might as well start from scratch. Another important point is that there are two versions of the 10179, a “First Edition” which included the first 10,000 sets made and a regular version. The “First Edition” comes with a numbered envelope in the box that states which set of the 10,000 it is and a letter and “Certificate of Authenticity” from LEGO stating this fact. Also, the box has a special marking indicating it is a “First Edition” 10179. Prices for the First Edition 10179 usually are $200-$300 more than a non-First Edition set. All in all, if you can afford this set, buy this set, it is that special. Who knows, the 10179 might be the first LEGO set to hit the $3000 mark this time next year...LOL.
      10186 GENERAL GRIEVOUS Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2008
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The interest in this set amazes me. Although we have seen a nice increase in value in the set in the past year, up 35%, the current value of the set is around the MSRP price of $89.99. So in other words, this set dropped 35% in value around the time of EOL. That is some pretty steep discounting for a UCS set. Now most LEGO sets see some kind of discounting around retirement time, but this set really took a hit. That being said, it is a very cool set and a decent size to boot. Once again, an excellent display set. General Grievous is a nasty character and this set does him justice. Unique to the UCS STAR WARS sets, this set is a hybrid of Technic and conventional parts in that it shares building techniques and pieces with both themes. There is even a taste of Bionicle/Hero Factory thrown in. I really like this set and foresee some really nice gains in the near future for this set. Priced at around $100 for a MISB set, it is a great set for the novice LEGO collector and investor. Pick one up, you won't be disappointed.
      10212 IMPERIAL SHUTTLE Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2010
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The 10212 Imperial Shuttle is still for sale on LEGO.com and other primary sources(Amazon, Toys 'R Us, etc..), so the data for the set is not relevant at this time. If you use the older, retired UCS sets as a guide for the current models that are still being sold in stores, you can expect to see nice gains for this set in the future. The 10212 looks to be discontinued shortly and there have been numerous discounts for this already. It is a beautiful and graceful set, that is stunning up on a shelf. First UCS set to include minifigures on a large scale. Several sets had droids previously, but they were actually part of the model and not meant to be taken out of the set. See if you can locate a discounted 10212 Imperial Shuttle for around the $200 -$220 right before EOL and you might stand to make a pretty penny in the secondary LEGO market.
      10215 OBI-WAN JEDI STARFIGHTER Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2010
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: The 10215 Obi-Wan Jedi Starfighter is suffering from severe discounting right now. The set is discontinued and might start seeing a rapid increase in values when most AFOLs realize the set is retired. This set looks cool on display, but is not a LEGO fan favorite, at least not yet. Sometimes it takes awhile for LEGO fans to come around and get interested in a LEGO set and this might be such a case. It is an interesting looking set and different from most UCS sets. The lime green bricks is a nice touch. Now is the time to pick one of these sets up. They are well less than $100 for a MISB and can double in value in a short period of time once a little buzz starts on a set. Take a chance on this colorful UCS set, I don't think you will be disappointed.
      10221 SUPER STAR DESTROYER Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2011
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: Another new UCS with no data that is relevant at this time. Beautiful set. I believe this set will do well in the secondary market, yet my gut tells me this set will not be as popular as the 10030 Star Destroyer. I could be wrong, but I really don't like the way LEGO throws in minifigures into sets like this. Call me a nudge or just anal, I really don't like when LEGO designers feel they need to toss in some out of scale minifigures to make some fans happy. There are plenty of other UCS sets that could have had minigures...7181 TIE Interceptor, 7191 X-Wing Fighter, 10129 Rebel Snowspeeder, 10134 Y-Wing Attack Starfighter, 10174 Imperial AT-ST, 10175 Vader's TIE Advanced, 102015 Obi-Wan Jedi Starfigher, yet they decide to throw them into a model that is supposed to be 19,000 meters long...LOL. Maybe they could have put some mini Star Destroyers in the hanger bays or made a separate bridge model for the minifigures. Just my two cents...All in all, it will be a very successful UCS set and I would recommend buying at least one.

      10225 R2-D2 Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2012
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: Another new UCS set with no relevant sales data as of yet. This is one set the LEGO designers did a fantastic job with. Retractable leg, rotating head, panels that remove with the interface arm and saw...WOW. Plus the UCS display plaque has a R2-D2 minifigure attached. How cool is that? Needless to say, I love this set and will buy multiples for my own collection. 10227 B-WING Year Released Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Value(US$) % Return Last Year % Return From MSRP CAGR(%) Over/Under Mean CAGR 2012
      BRICKPICKER ANALYSIS: Not released as of this date. Fantastic looking set. Another winner in my opinion. I like the B-Wing ship and think it displays better in the vertical position. Seems like there is some negative feedback on the forums about this set, but until you actually build the set, how can you really complain about it? I look forward to buying a couple for my collection.

        CONCLUSION: As a whole, the STAR WARS LEGO sets that make up the Ultimate Collector's Series are and have been solid investment choices for the LEGO collectors who have bought them. Each and every set, from the 10179 Millennium Falcon and earlier, has yielded better returns than the average 10.81% CAGR of the standard LEGO set. The newer UCS sets have not fared that well, but that is to be expected. All new LEGO sets go through a period of heavy discounting before the set goes into EOL, or retirement as some would like to call it. Even the 10179 Millennium Falcon was discounted 20% before it was retired for good. The one thing that I noticed with these UCS sets is that they take a little longer to rebound from these discounted prices than some other themes. Maybe it's because the sets are pricier than most other themes and the discounts are larger, thus taking longer to get back to the original retail price.  Whatever the reason for the delay, once the UCS sets start appreciating, they take off like the Millennium Falcon in Hyperdrive.  Now, not all UCS sets are created equal.  Some sets like the 7181 TIE Interceptor and 7194 Yoda have not exploded in growth like the 10179 Millennium Falcon or 10026 Naboo Starfighter, but they all yielded better than the average LEGO set.
      As with any sort of investment, say stocks for instance, picking the right stock(even within the same category or class), can mean a huge difference in profits and losses.  It is no different with LEGO sets.  You can see the large differences between some sets within the UCS theme.  Some appreciated well, but others exploded in growth.  Size didn't matter.  The largest(10179) and the smallest(10026) UCS sets both had the best yields, it's just that the 10179 started at a much higher price point, so the end results seemed so astronomically high in comparison.  The high original cost of these UCS sets is another reason why they appear to be such great investments.  When a $300 set averages 15%-20% annually, it doesn't take long for a set to hit $1000.  In all honesty, the UCS sets are not even close to being the theme with the best CAGR returns.  Even though on average, the UCS sets gain around 15% annually, there are many non-STAR WARS UCS based LEGO themes that  have better annual percentage yields and better percentage growth from retail, but they don't get any love because they sell for $20, instead of $2000.  As I referred to earlier, the high current prices of most of the UCS sets gives this theme a certain swagger and sexiness that other themes don't have.  Without a doubt, they are my favorite LEGO sets and these sets not only led me out of my “Dark Ages,” they also enabled LEGO to become relevant again to a lot of adults out there.  But they are not the “ultimate” investment(maybe with the exception of the 10179 Millennium Falcon) as the article title asks.  The LEGO STAR WARS Ultimate Collector Series sets are solid, above average investments that cost a lot new and sell for even more years later, if you choose to utilize them in that manner.  But it is my belief, regardless of your investment preferences, that these UCS sets are too fantastic and fun not to build, and that if you have to make a choice between keeping the UCS set sealed or building it...build it.  You won't be disappointed!
      Please Note: If you do decide to open and build your MISB UCS set, keep one thing in mind...You might lose more than 50% of the value of the set if it is unsealed and built.  Although the “used” set is still worth more than the retail price of the set in most cases, losing out on hundreds of dollars might be a hard pill to swallow.  A possible solution for the LEGO investor and collector that wants to “have a sealed set and build it too,” would be to buy a cheap “used” set that does not have a box or instructions, just the pieces.  You can always go to LEGO.com for the instructions.  Sometimes you can save more than 50% on a UCS set in this condition.  Just my final two cents...

    • Ed Mack
      The definition of Larceny is as follows:
      Anyone who steals, or with intent to defraud obtains by a false pretense, or whoever unlawfully, and with intent to steal or embezzle, converts, or secretes with intent to convert, the property of another … whether such property is or is not in his possession at the time of such conversion or secreting, shall be guilty of larceny. … (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 266, § 30(1)).
      As Bob Dylan once wrote, “The times are a changin'.”  The term “larceny” and LEGO in the same sentence?  What is the world coming to?  Well, truth be told, I'm surprised it took this long for the crooks and scam artists of the world to infiltrate the innocent world of LEGO bricks.  LEGO sets and bricks are valuable toys and are highly collectible, making them targets of the con men/women out there.  I've been buying and investing in LEGO sets and bricks for years and have bought thousands of sets, from hundreds of sellers from around the world...and I've been ripped off numerous times.  I'm here today to share some of these stories with you and others I have come across in my journeys.  It is my wish that you learn from my experiences and prevent future monetary and time loss for yourselves.
      Let's take a look at a couple of recent stories about con men who utilized LEGO sets in their scams.  Although the following stories are not from my personal experiences, they are a good way to illustrate how far and to what lengths crooks will go to make money involving LEGO sets and bricks:
      In another related story of a “second LEGO bar-code switch scam”:
      As you can see, these two characters got very creative in their LEGO scams.  But even with technical and unique approach to making a fast buck, their greed led to their ultimate downfall.  But most LEGO scams are not this elaborate, but they might be more prevalent.  One such common scam is called “drop shipping.”  Drop shipping is an auction site scam that occurs quite frequently to buyers on eBay and similar sites.  A crooked seller will list the “deal of a century” for an expensive LEGO set on the auction site.  The set will be $100+ in value and currently available from primary sources, like LEGO, Target, Walmart, etc...in order to maximize profits.  A set similar to a 10214 Tower Bridge or 10188 Death Star would be perfect candidates for this scam.  Basically, the con artist would sell a $400 10188 Death Star for $300-$350 as a Buy it Now.  Potential buyers would snap up these sets in droves.  The listing will look legit with photos and a generic description of the LEGO set.  The sale will be consummated through Pay Pal and the buyer will receive a brand new 10188 Death Star a couple of days later from LEGO or another large chain store.  The buyer will be happy, leave positive feedback and the cycle continues.
      But wait...I said the LEGO set came from LEGO or another store?  Yes.  Basically the shady seller will use stolen credit card information to purchase the LEGO sets online and send them directly to your door.  The original listing will be from one person and the item will be shipped from another.  The addresses never correlate, but the buyer is happy because they got the new set, at a great price and won't bother looking at the receipt in most instances.  There was no reason to think the item was stolen or acquired through fraudulent means.  The seller will do this multiple times, to multiple buyers, over a short time span, so that the person that the stolen credit card information was taken from, will not realize there was any extra charges put on the credit card for weeks to come.  The unethical seller will even have a legit PayPal account to receive your “clean” money and eBay account, with positive feedback.  The seller can easily make thousands of dollars off of a week's worth of fraudulent transactions.
      So you now may ask, “Why do I care?  I got my MISB 10188 Death Star for $300!  LEGO and eBay make lots of money.  I deserve a break!”  Well, for one, LEGO is getting smart to these practices.  They are starting to question orders in which the billing and shipping orders are different.  But even more importantly, they are freezing the LEGO accounts and MVP memberships of customers who received the questionable goods(if sold by LEGO).  How do I know this?  It happened to me.  I bought a 10223 Kingdoms Joust for $105 from an eBay seller.  It was a nice deal, but nothing special because I had to pay shipping costs also.  Regardless, it was a couple of dollars cheaper than the current lowest retail price, which belonged to LEGO, so I pulled the trigger and purchased it.  The 10223 Kingdoms Joust arrived in a brand new LEGO shipping box, with a LEGO receipt in it.  I really didn't know about the scam at the time, so I really didn't even bother looking at the receipt.  Mind you, I have thousands of LEGO sets and the UPS truck is stopping by my house on a daily basis, so unless the LEGO set is damaged in some way, I usually just put the box away.  Several weeks later I go to place an order with LEGO and the LEGO Shop website says to call LEGO customer service.  After a half hour on the phone with the LEGO representative, my name was cleared and my account was restored.  I had to submit proof that someone else sold me the 10223 Kingdom's Joust and submitted the eBay transaction data.
      LEGO has begun a campaign to warn LEGO fans of such practices and want the LEGO community to pay attention and report such irregular and questionable activities.  They are putting the onus on LEGO buyers and are using the suspension of LEGO accounts as a wake-up call and warning to buyers that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  eBay is also doing its share to stop drop shipping.  eBay is not immediately paying new sellers or sellers with low feedback scores money until an item is received and positive feedback is given.  There is also a time delay in hopes that fraudulent credit card use can be traced back to the criminal.  These are positive steps and I believe they are making a difference.  I have not seen any sorts of crazy deals from sellers lately on eBay, so I hope it is working.  It is up to the LEGO buyer to keep an eye on this unscrupulous behavior and report it to the proper authorities.
      Drop shipping is not the only method the deviants use to rip off the LEGO buyer.  I'll call the next shady scheme, “The Shill Set.”  Basically, a dishonest eBay seller will list a high ticket item, like a $1500-$2000 10179 Millennium Falcon, sell it at a great price, collect the PayPal payment, obtain shipping tracking numbers, submit tracking numbers to eBay and buyer and NEVER SEND THE LEGO SET!  This has happened twice to me.  In both cases, a large and expensive set was bought, paid for and never sent.  In both cases, generic photos of the LEGO sets were used.  In both cases, the seller had decent feedback(more than 15 sales, but less than 50, which is usually enough to get paid immediately by PayPal).  This is the type of scam that takes some experience with the eBay system and some planning.  The shady seller needs to build up some positive feedback before pulling off this scheme.  They must set up a valid PayPal account, which requires a valid bank account.  It is all pretty risky, but the payoff can be thousands of dollars once again.  If they pull this scam off, five to ten times in a month, they stand to make $5000-$10,000 or more.
      You may ask, “How can they get away with this?”  Well, they use the eBay system to their benefit.  First, they use generic industry photos of the item which are readily supplied by eBay themselves, instead of actual photos.  Second, they say the item will ship days after the auction and give some date two weeks in the future in which the item is to be received, thus giving them weeks to pull off additional scams.  And last...they use eBay's customer service and problem reporting system against them.  eBay wants a buyer and seller to work things out on their own and always want each to give the other some 'time' to respond to issues and concerns.  You, as the buyer, might know there is an issue, but once you contact eBay customer service, they put time restrictions of when you can and cannot open a case against a seller, thus giving the crooked seller even more time to take advantage of innocent LEGO buyers.  All in all, a con man might get a month or more after the initial transaction to sucker in other buyers.  Now, mind you, eBay does an excellent job of refunding your money after a case is opened, but you still are without the LEGO set and maybe passed on other great deals while you were waiting for this set to arrive.  Also, the aggravation of filling out case reports and time wasted is another issue for the buyer.  Two things a buyer can do to prevent this “shill” scam from occurring to them would be to ask for actual pictures of the LEGO set being sold and only buying from eBay sellers with 100+ feedback(or if less feedback, make sure other high ticket items were sold and received positive feedback).  These two simple preventative measures can make your life as a LEGO buyer much easier.
      So far we have seen some major ways to defraud the LEGO-buying public.  How about some smaller scams that people need to look out for?  The first simple scam is when eBay or Bricklink sellers will list a set as “new” and remove the minifigures, thus making profit from the minifigure sales and from listing the item as new.  The box is new, the pieces are new, the instuctions are new, yet the shady seller will remove the minifigures and put in real small print somewhere in the listing that the minifigures were removed.  This is just deception at its finest.  I don't know about you, but when something is “new,” it means unopened and untouched, with all the pieces.  These slick sellers really get me angry because I blame myself for not thoroughly reading the “entire” listing.  How can I complain to eBay, when the seller actually has the notation written in the listing?  Just be leery of all listings and make sure you read everything so you don't get any surprises later.
      Keeping with the crooked eBay and Bricklink seller theme, be wary of shipping charges.  This is another deceptive practice that the unscrupulous seller will use to make a quick buck off of inexperienced LEGO buyers.  Simply put, the seller will list an item at a fantastic price, say a MISB 10030 Star Destroyer for $300(Buy it now).  The buyer will say, “WOW, great deal!” and buy it immediately.  What they fail to realize is that the shipping charges were $400.  Ouch...It happens all the time and it has happened to me more than once I'm afraid to admit.  Once again, you can report the item and seller, but it takes weeks to come to any sort of resolution.  Some deceptive selling practices also take place on lower priced items.  A $10 small item with a $25 shipping fee is a very common site.  I report these sellers as much as I can, but a LEGO buyer needs to pay attention and read all the fine print before hitting that Buy It Now button.  If is sounds too good to be true, then I would move on to the next buying option.
      A couple more of the simple LEGO scams frequently found on LEGO auction sites would be the mislabeling of non-LEGO sets and poor descriptions of real LEGO sets to mislead potential buyers, in order to increase profits.  Scan the LEGO auctions on eBay and you will find countless non-LEGO sets listed as and/or with LEGO sets.  These inferior products look like LEGO sets and to the layman, are LEGO sets...until the buyer sees them in person and realizes they were ripped off.  The sellers that list these as LEGO sets are plentiful and should be banned.  Buyers need to be aware of these sub-par building toys.  Another common shady practice is the incorrect and deceptive description of LEGO sets by crooked sellers.  As stated earlier, some sellers will remove minifigures and list the LEGO set as new.  Some characters will list a set that was built as new or new in box.  What?  Seriously.  The set was built and these con men will try and make a couple of extra dollars and say that the set was for display purposes and is “like new.”  Come on.  But it's done, every day.  Please read listings carefully.  Look for actual photos.  Protect yourself and your investment dollars.
      This leads us to the last of the larcenous LEGO schemes.  This one involves the buying of LEGO sets from a large chain department store such as Walmart or Target, carefully removing the seals on the boxes and then skimming some parts from the complete set.  The box is then resealed and returned to the store.  The crooked seller will then resell the parts or minifigures on eBay or Bricklink and make a quick buck, with no investment.  This is probably the hardest theft or deceptive act a buyer or retailer has to deal with.  There is no way to tell if a set was opened, until it was actually built.  This could be weeks or months after a set has been returned and in most cases, the new owner of the set will just contact LEGO for replacement parts.  This type of deception can also happen with older, sealed sets.  For example, if a rare and retired set is sealed and some thief wants to remove valuable minifigures from say...a 10123 Cloud City set, and reseal them, how will a buyer know?  They wouldn't, unless of course the new buyer would break the seals and open the box, which they won't for fear of losing value on that highly collectible set.  It's a Catch 22.  On one hand, check the set and lose value or don't and never know what you bought.  The best suggestion I have for you is to use quality sources to buy LEGO sets.  Only buy from eBay and Bricklink sellers that have great feedback and numerous positive sales.  As for buying from the local Walmart or Target, avoid any sets that look tampered with.  If you do get stuck with a lemon, you can always return it. 
      Well, that's about most of the major LEGO scams I know of.  Times are tough.  The worldwide economy is in bad shape.  Unemployment is high.  The criminals and shysters of the world have discovered that LEGO sets are a valuable commodity and are easily used to make a quick profit through unscrupulous means.  Some of these crooks might be good people at heart, but tough times force them to do things they wouldn't normally do to put food on the table.  Regardless of their reasons, LEGO investors and collectors need to protect themselves.  Take your time and be thorough when reading listings.  Read the fine print.  Look at the shipping charges.  Buy from reputable sellers that have great feedback.  Ask questions and look for real photos of the item.  Look for tampered boxes.  And most of all...if the price seems too cheap, it might be a scam.  I hope this helps some people avoid issues I have encountered over the years.  Please, if you see something that looks fishy, report the listing or item to eBay, LEGO or whatever source you are buying from.  It might just save another LEGO fan like yourself some future monetary loss and aggravation...

    • Ed Mack
      Bigger is better...Isn't that the saying? Big LEGO sets get all the love, especially when it comes to the investing and secondary LEGO market. What's not to love about a 5000 piece 10179 Millennium Falcon or 10189 Taj Mahal and their returns? I'll tell you what's not to love...their current prices. These large iconic LEGO sets sell more than a lot of cars do. In other words, thousands of dollars. Not every LEGO collector and investor is a well-to-do AFOL, that has thousands of dollars of discretionary income to spend on big ticket LEGO sets like the new Modular Buildings or STAR WARS Ultimate Collector's Series sets. So what does a novice LEGO investor, with limited means, do? Can a person invest in smaller, more cost efficient LEGO sets and still see positive returns on their money? I believe the answer is a resounding...YES! And there are many options to do this. Let's take a look at one...
      In one of my earlier articles, I spoke about LEGO STAR WARS Mini Building Sets and their investment returns and potential. These small and affordable polybag sets appreciated nicely in the secondary LEGO market, and still do. I have another suggestion for the budget conscious LEGO investor...LEGO “Battle Packs.” The “Battle Pack” is a very small LEGO set, usually less than 100 pieces. It frequently contains four or more minifigures that are theme related. They are called “Army Builders” by some, due to the fact the Battle Packs have a large number of minifigures for the set size and that they are based on warriors or soldiers of some sort. LEGO fans and collectors will buy boxes and boxes of these sets to build their own “Clone Armies” or legions of Knights in shining armor. The STAR WARS and Castle themes make up most of the Battle Pack population. They are usually less than $15(US) and can be found for less than $10 a set on auction sites like EBAY, especially if you buy in bulk or lots. But as with any sort of investments, there are good ones and bad ones, even within the same LEGO theme or category. Let's take a look at the 20 LEGO Battle Packs that have been released since 2007.
      Before we take a look at each individual Battle Pack, let's take a quick peek at some statistical data for the 20 Battle Packs. Besides the set name and number, pieces, minifigure and MSRP data, we also included the percentage growth from retail and the set's CAGR value. The CAGR value, which is known as Compound Annual Growth Rate is explained further here. In layman's terms, the CAGR can be thought of as the growth rate statistic that gets you from the initial investment value to the ending investment value if you assume that the investment has been compounding over the time period. It simplifies years of different growth percentages and gives you a single number that represents compounded growth percentage of an investment, in this case, a LEGO set. The average, or mean, CAGR for the thousands of LEGO sets in the Brickpicker database is 12.81%. If a set falls above this number, it appreciates better than the standard LEGO set. If a set falls below this number, it appreciates worse than the standard LEGO set. Either way, any set that has a CAGR near 12.81% is a solid investment choice in today's finance and investment world. Let's examine the chart below, then I will break down each set with a description from LEGO.com and my investment analysis:
      Set Name Year Released Pieces Minifigs MSRP (US$) Current Value (US$) Total % +/- Retail Compound Annual Growth Rate (%) % Above or Below Average(Mean) CAGR (12.81%) 7654 Droids 2007 107 7 $9.99 $29.00 191% 23.82% 11.01% 7655 Clone Trooper 2007 58 4 $9.99 $38.00 278% 30.49% 17.68% 852271 Knight's 2008 35 5 $14.99 $35.00 168% 27.98% 15.17% 852272 Skeleton's 2008 43 5 $14.99 $35.00 167% 27.87% 15.06% 8014 Clone Walker 2009 72 4 $11.99 $24.00 96% 25.16% 12.35% 8015 Assassin Droid 2009 94 5 $11.99 $14.00 43% 12.57% -0.24% 852701 Troll Warrior 2009 36 5 $14.99 $34.00 128% 31.53% 18.72% 852702 Dwarf Warrior 2009 45 5 $14.99 $37.00 147% 35.13% 22.32% 852747 Pirates 2009 37 4 $14.99 $18.00 17% 5.44% -7.37% 8083 Rebel Trooper 2010 79 4 $11.99 $13.00 11% 5.32% -7.49% 8084 Snow Trooper 2010 74 4 $11.99 $12.00 3% 1.49% -11.32% 852921 Kingdoms #1 2010 18 5 $14.99 $26.00 76% 32.81% 20% 852922 Kingdoms #2 2010 17 5 $14.99 $23.00 54% 24% 11.19% 7913 Clone Trooper 2011 85 4 $11.99 $14.00 21% 20.27% 7.46% 7914 Mandalorian 2011 68 4 $11.99 $14.00 13% 12.84% 0.03% 853176 Skeleton Mummy 2011 29 3 $14.99 $9.00 -43% -43.16% -55.97% 853219 POTC 2011 30 5 $14.99 $14.00 -4% -4.07% -16.88% 853301 Alien Conquest 2011 31 5 $14.99 $14.00 -9% -9.14% -21.95% 9488 Elite Clone Trooper/ Commando Droid 2012 98 4 $11.99 $14.00 10% 9.93% -2.88% 9489 Endor Rebel Trooper/ Imperial Trooper 2012 77 4 $11.99 $12.00 -11% -10.55% -13.04% *Numbers in green indicate LEGO sets that appreciate better than the Mean CAGR(12.81%).
      *Numbers in gray indicate LEGO sets that appreciate approximately the same as the Mean CAGR(12.81%).
      *Numbers in red indicate LEGO sets the appreciate below the MEAN CAGR(12.81%).
      7654 Droids Battle Pack : The Trade Federation is on the march! Send your Separatist forces into battle against the Republic with a droid transport carrier and 'hovering' STAP vehicle, complete with a full squad of armed and combat-ready battle droids. Set includes four Battle Droid and three Super Battle Droid minifigures! Build your own army and stage a battle against the #7655 Clone Troopers Battle Pack!
      7655 Clone Trooper Battle Pack : The Clone Wars are on! When the Separatists attack, the Republic fights back with its legions of Clone Troopers. Build your army with an assortment of battle-ready troopers, complete with a blaster turret and speeder bike! Set includes Shock Trooper, Star Corps Trooper and two Clone Trooper minifigures. Build your own army and stage a battle against the #7654 Droids Battle Pack!
      852271 Knights Battle Pack : Whether you're building your LEGO Castle army or defending the kingdom from evil skeleton warriors, these brave knights are here to save the day. Includes five heroic minifigures equipped with lots of different weapons, shields and armor!
      852272 Skeleton Battle Pack : Knights of LEGO Castle beware -- the skeleton warriors have brought reinforcements! Build up your skeleton army with this set of five skeleton minifigures. Includes five different evil skeletons equipped with plenty of weapons, armor and gear, plus a creepy spider!
      8014 Clone Walker Battle Pack : As the Clone Wars rage across the galaxy, the Republic army advances across the battlefields of hundreds of planets. Build up your army with the Clone Walker, a tough two-man vehicle with poseable legs and flick-firing missiles! Includes two Clone Troopers, Clone Gunner, Clone Commander and ARC trooper gear! Build your army and add #8015 Assassin Droids Battle Pack for even more fun! Measures over 3.5" (8cm) tall!  
      8015 Assassin Droid Battle Pack : Programmed for stealth and destruction, Assassin Droids are used by gangsters, smugglers and crooks on every planet from Coruscant to Tatooine. Build up your own army of these silent, skilled and sneaky droids and send them out with their flick-missile-firing speeder on secret missions all across the galaxy! Includes three Assassin Droid and two Elite Assassin Droid minifigures and two flick fire missiles! Build your army and add #8014 Clone Walker Battle Pack for even more fun! Measures 8" (20cm) long  
      852701 Troll Warrior Battle Pack : Build up your LEGO Castle army with the Troll Warrior Battle Pack! Set includes three fierce troll soldiers and two elite warriors to challenge your knightly forces, plus helmets, shields, plenty of weapons and even a rat.
      852702 Dwarf Warrior Battle Pack : When the trolls attack, the fearless dwarfs stand ready! Build up your LEGO Castle army with these five mighty dwarf warriors with helmets, shields, weapons, mining equipment, ore and a blazing torch to light the way through underground caverns.
      852747 Pirates Battle Pack : The Pirates and the Soldiers face off in an epic battle for the treasure map and the treasure chest it leads to! Who will win? Who will lose? Who does that silly monkey belong to? Only you can decide the fate of the greatest battle the oceans have ever seen! Set includes 4 LEGO Pirates minifigures, a monkey, and a treasure box.  
      8083 Rebel Trooper Battle Pack : Help the Rebels defend their base on Hoth! Set comes with three Rebel foot soldiers, a Rebel pilot and a Rebel transport craft.
      8084 Snowtrooper Battle Pack : Defeat the Rebels with Imperial might! Set comes with 2 Snowtroopers, AT-AT Driver and Imperial Officer.
      852921 Kingdoms Battle Pack 1 : Set of 5 Knight minifigures are ready to go into battle to defend the realm against all enemies. Engage the Knights against the Dragon Knights in battle for complete medieval fun! Includes 5 authentic Knight minifigures Knights are equipped with swords, shields, helmets and more Set up mock battles against the Dragon Knights!  
      852922 Kingdoms Battle Pack 2 : Set of 5 fully armed Dragon minifigures are armed and ready for mock battle. Engage the Dragons against the Knight Battle Pack for massive medieval mayhem! Includes 5 authentic minifigures Dragon knights are equipped with full battle gear: swords, shields, helmets and more Create your own battle for the kingdom!  
      7913 Clone Trooper Battle Pack : Unleash the might of the clone army against the Mandalorians! As the Clone Wars rage across the galaxy, the Army of the Republic faces a powerful new enemy- the Mandalorians! Build up your crack team of clone troopers with the BARC speeder, the all-new ARF clone trooper, 2 new bomb squad clone troopers and the new clone commander minifigures.  
      7914 Mandalorian Battle Pack : Fight off the clone troopers with the Mandalorian Army! A new force has entered Clone Wars on the side of the Separatists - the Mandalorians! Build up your Mandalorian Army and take the battle to the Clone Army with Mandalorian assassin and 3 Mandalorian trooper minifigures, each with their own unique weapon.  
      853176 Skeleton Mummy Battle Pack : Battle the Pharaohs posse for the treasure! Set contains one Flying Mummy and two Mummy Warriors,a sarcophagus, jewels, snakes and a couple of scorpions.  
      853219 Pirates of the Caribbean Battle Pack : All hands on deck for a battle on the high seas! Wage a pirate war or set out for a treasure-packed adventure with 5 salty scalawags from the LEGO® Brand Pirates of the Caribbean™ building sets. Act out your favorite scenes from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean™: On Stranger Tides film. A great gift for any LEGO Brand Pirates of the Caribbean fan.
      853301 Alien Conquest Battle Pack : Stage an outer space attack with the LEGO® Alien Conquest Battle Pack! The aliens have landed! Battle the outer space intruders and defend the earthling with 5 minifigures and accessories from the LEGO® Alien Conquest building sets. A great gift for any LEGO Alien Conquest fan.
      9488 Elite Clone Trooper and Commando Droid Battle Pack : Bombard the Separatist forces with the Republic artillery cannon! The Separatists have sent a new droid enemy to attack the forces of the Republic, but the clone army’s elite troopers have a new weapon of their own: the powerful Republic artillery cannon! With elevating turret and flick missile, those clankers will be running for cover! Includes 4 minifigures: ARC trooper, ARF trooper and 2 new enemy Commando Droids.
      9489 Endor Rebel Trooper and Imperial Trooper Battle Pack : Surprise the Imperial troops at the Battle of Endor! Recreate the battle of Endor™ from Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi with this fantastic new battle pack. Help the Endor Rebel troopers launch a surprise attack on the Imperial forces from the secret Rebel hideout. Includes 4 minifigures: Stormtrooper, Scout Trooper and 2 Endor Rebel Troopers.
      CONCLUSION: So there you have it, the 20 LEGO Battle Packs that have been released to date. As the reader can see, there are some winners and a few losers in the LEGO investment game. Surprisingly, it looks like the Castle and Kingdoms Battle Packs are the top of the food chain, even beating out the STAR WARS Battle Packs when it comes to the CAGR data. I would imagine in the gross sales department, direct from LEGO or other primary markets, the STAR WARS Battle Packs outsell all other themes by vast quantities. But as far as appreciation and investment growth go, the Castle and Kingdoms Battle Packs are the best. As for the rest of the Battle Pack themes, although they might be creative and fun, they are not valued as 'investment' sets.
      There is one issue that needs to be addressed before I conclude this anthology(LOL). The topic concerns making money from Battle Packs by “parting” out a set and reselling the pieces for more than the set was bought for. This is a very common and effective practice among the STAR WARS Battle Packs. For example, little Eddie eBayer buys a discounted Clone Trooper Battle Pack for $10. He opens the box and resells the four Clone Troopers for $3.50 apiece(which is approximately the going rate on EBAY or Bricklink). Eddie then takes the remaining pieces and sells them for $1 on his Bricklink store. So, at the bare minimum, Eddie “parts” out his Clone Battle Pack for $15 makes a 50% profit. This is on a small scale and taxes and commissions to EBAY and Bricklink are not accounted for, but you can see that there is profit to be made if you are creative and willing to put in a little effort. Multiply this by 10, 20 or 30 and you can make some serious cash. There are a boatload of these Clone Trooper lots and minifigures for sale on EBAY that sell every day, so this system works.
      I'm going to wrap this story up now...It has gotten way too big for such small LEGO sets. But I guess that's the point. LEGO collectors and investors can make big money off of small investments like the LEGO Battle Packs, especially in multiples. Just like picking the right stocks, picking the right LEGO Battle Packs will make or break the investment. Knights, Trolls and Clone Troopers are good investments...Pirates and Aliens are not. The “parting” out system is a winner for those who want to put a little more effort into an investment and don't have the time for it to appreciate. LEGO investment on a small scale is a possibility and the LEGO Battle Packs are a good example of this. Once again, LEGO sets of all shapes, sizes and costs continue to impress me as a worthwhile investment and with small sets like the LEGO Battle Packs, there are enough options to cater to all walks of life...

    • Ed Mack
      BrickPicker.com was designed and created with the LEGO investor and collector in mind. Through the use of eBay's Terapeak data, we have given the LEGO enthusiast current prices and growth trends of various new and retired sets. We try to keep our information and data fresh and accurate and give the LEGO investors and collectors out there tools in which to make smart LEGO purchases. One such new investment tool we have included in our LEGO set data is called the CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate. It can be found on the top right hand corner of the Set Guide page:

      The compound annual growth rate, also known as CAGR, is a formula that is applied to an investment(in our case, a LEGO set) to help determine the investment's annual smoothed* return. The final percentage that you get upon calculating the compound annual growth rate is a smoothed rate of return that shows the positive or negative growth of your investment over a specified period of time.
      The CAGR can be used by LEGO investors and collectors to understand what an investment has historically yielded on a yearly basis. Obviously, this formula can’t predict what the future yields of a particular investment(LEGO set) will be, but it can be used as a barometer to gauge the investment's future viability within the market. This number can also be used to calculate an investment's average growth rate over several years.
      The formula for calculating the compound annual growth rate of an investment uses the number of years in an investment period and the nth root of a growth rate’s total percentage. The formula is fairly straight-forward.
      Using this formula, we can create an example of a compound annual growth rate based on an amazing fictitious LEGO set. As we research the LEGO set, we see that it has solid annual growth and is probably worth purchasing. In the year 2009 our amazing LEGO set had a beginning value of $100.00 after it was discontinued (EOL...End of Line). In 2010 the set jumped to $120.00. Then in 2011 the set ended at $150.00 and by 2012 was a hefty $250.00 for a MISB set. If we place these numbers into our formula, it will look something like this:
      The amazing LEGO set that we purchased back in 2009 had an annual return rate of 35.72%. Not bad!
      Using the CAGR formula allows us to take an investment's measure by eliminating the volatility, or the up-and-down changes that occur during the fiscal year. Overall, this gives us a much better impression of how the investment is actually performing than if we looked at it month-by-month or even week-by-week. CAGR is especially helpful when you are making decisions on long-term investments.
      One very common use of the compound annual growth rate of investments is to compare two potential investments side-by-side. For our purposes, two or more LEGO sets can be compared to one another. This allows you to get a feel for how they are performing over a long period of time and make educated buying decisions. This formula can also be used to determine the growth of various LEGO sets within your own personal LEGO collection and help you decide which sets are keepers and which sets are heading to EBAY to be sold.
      You may ask, “Why do we need to know data like this, these are just LEGO sets, not some stocks or bonds?” Well, while it is true that the topic of interest on this site is LEGO bricks, those popular little plastic toys, it is also true that when discussing these said LEGO bricks, the terms money, worth, price, evaluation and investing are also used in correlation with LEGO sets and bricks. LEGO sets and bricks are just the medium, or commodity, we are interested in. Just like other investors use stocks, bonds, gold, oil or whatever to buy and sell for a profit, a good majority of BrickPicker members want to make money from their “toys” and are curious as to their LEGO collection's current value and future prospects.
      The CAGR is a useful tool for the LEGO investor and collector because it levels the playing field when comparing LEGO sets. It takes into consideration the investment years and time frame a set has been on the primary and secondary LEGO markets. It also accounts for compounding, which other data does not. While the CAGR number in itself is not an exact number on a yearly basis(in that it does not total up exact annual growth rates and find an average), it is a very useful guide when looking at how LEGO sets compare to one another in annual % growth(or in some cases, non-growth). Regardless of popularity, theme or set size, the CAGR formula converts some basic data(MSRP at release, current price, investment years) for LEGO sets into ONE simple number that can easily be compared to other sets, thus enabling the LEGO investor and collector to make educated LEGO purchases. I hope you find it useful...
      * The term "smoothed" in finance and accounting circles means to remove “peaks and valleys” from data and results
      We would like to give a special thank you to one of our users TheBrickMeister (aka Brad) for enlightening us to this type of calculation. It's very valuable information that will go a long way to making the site better and more information for all of our users.

    • Ed Mack
      Very impressive name for a LEGO set! But does the set itself live up to its 'grandiose' name? Also, will the set, after it is retired, appreciate like a Mercedes-Benz or will a YUGO come to mind when you think of this set's investment potential? Let's take a look...
      The LEGO Technic theme was launched back in 1977. It was one of the first 'themes' of LEGO. Along with the Space and Castle themes of the mid-1970s, the Technic line helped introduce LEGO bricks to AFOLs such as myself. One set in particular, the 853 Car Chassis, got me hooked on LEGO bricks. This set was spectacular. It had moving engine pistons, working steering, two speed transmission, and an independent rear suspension. For a LEGO set in 1977, that was one impressive design. Over the years, the Technic theme took a back seat to much more popular themes. The STAR WARS, Bionicles, and Town themes...just to name a few, overshadowed the Technic theme in popularity and exposure. But if you take a closer look at the Technic theme, you find a group of sets that are well designed, creative, and accurate in appearance, use and playability. Technic bricks have been used in standard LEGO sets, to bring unique and necessary design elements, where standard bricks were insufficient. I am a huge fan of Technic sets, yet I even ignore them, but should I? Are these sets worth 'investing' your LEGO allowance on? Let's take a look at the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400, the biggest and most expensive Technic set ever created.
      Here is what Lego.com says about the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400:
      Take on any tough task with the high-tech Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 400!
      No job is too big for the multi-purpose Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 400! Featuring a pneumatically powered, articulated crane with working grabber and a recovery winch on the front – this mechanical monster is driven by LEGO® Power Functions. The high-tech design features working steering, 4-wheel drive and suspension, a gear block for extreme ground clearance and a detailed engine with moving pistons. Rebuild the crane and winch into a huge snow plow.
      Features pneumatically-powered, articulated crane with working grabber and winch powered by LEGO® Power Functions Includes a gear block for added ground clearance on any terrain Maneuver over anything with realistic steering, 4-wheel drive and suspension Watch the detailed engine go to work with moving pistons! Rebuild into a Snow Plow! Blast through any weather with the powerful Snow Plow! Measures over 19” (48cm) long and 12” (30cm) high Sounds like a quite an impressive LEGO set. I'll tell you how impressive it is from a build and appearance standpoint...It has FIVE instruction manuals. Heck...it weighs close to 10 pounds. But will this “Flagship” of the LEGO Technic theme be impressive on the secondary LEGO market, such as EBAY, when it heads into retirement, or in LEGO vernacular, EOL(End of Line)? Does size really matter? Let's take a look at some comparable retired LEGO Technic sets to see if that helps give insight to future appreciation of the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400.
      When comparing LEGO sets for future appreciation potential, theme and piece count are the two main categories I use to differentiate from other LEGO sets. The 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400 is the largest 'Technic' set ever created for sale to the public, so I tried to locate the four largest Technic sets that were released over the past several years and came up with these four: 8421 Mobile Crane, 8285 Tow Truck, 8258 Crane Truck and the 8275 Motorized Bulldozer. These sets range in piece size from 1384 to 1884 pieces, slightly smaller than the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400's 2048 pieces. From an appearance, build, and playability standpoint, they are all very similar. Big models, motorized functions, tons of pieces...these sets are the “Big Bad Boys” of LEGO Technic sets (Let's call them the BBB sets for future reference.). Take a look at the chart below of these four super-sized Technic sets:
        Year Released Investment Age (from year released to now) Pieces MSRP (US$) Current Average Price (US$) % Change From MSRP % Change Last Year Average % Increase Per Year
      8421 Mobile Crane 2005 7 years 1884 $149.99 $458 206% 11% 17.29%
      8285 Tow Truck 2006 6 years 1877 $119.99 $464 287% 15% 25.28%
      8258 Crane Truck 2009 3 years 1877 $149.99 $218 45% 17% 13.27%
      8275 Motorized Bulldozer 2007 5 years 1384 $149.99 $438 192% 19% 23.9%     5.25 years1       182.5%2   21.41%3  
      1. Average Investment Time(from release to now)
      2. Average Total Percent Increase, from release to now, for all four BBB sets.
      3. Average Yearly Percent Increase for all four BBB sets.
        The chart above illustrates what the BBB sets' MSRPs (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) were when released. It also shows their current average price according to www.BrickPicker.com. Also on the chart, the BBB sets' % increase from MSRP, % increase in the past year and the average % increase per year. Both individual set data and group totals are shown. The first thing that stands out in my mind is that all four comparable BBB sets have “increased” in value, over both the short term(one year) and long term(3-7 years). If you take into consideration the investment age of the BBB sets(LEGO set release date to now) when calculating the Average % Increase Per Year for all four BBB sets, you come up with an annual 21.41% increase per year. Now, this is an average annual return for all four BBB sets. Individually, the 8258 Crane Truck comes in on the low side with only a 13.27% annual increase from MSRP. On the high side, the 8285 Tow Truck comes in around 25.28% as an annual increase. Now the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400 is the largest of all the LEGO Technic sets, so I'm going to make an educated guess and say that it will appreciate towards the higher end of the spectrum.
      Past performance is no indicator of future results, but if you were to extrapolate the future appreciation data for the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400 using the Average % Increase Per Year of 21.41% and the MSRP of $199.00, you might be able to conclude that the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400 will appreciate $42.60 in the first year after EOL. Of course, this is just all guesswork and there are no guarantees of anything, but the one continuing trend I see in LEGO investment data is that “big” sets appreciate quicker and higher than most mid sized to smaller LEGO sets. That being said, with bigger being better, it would not be surprising to see an annual increase similar to the 8285 Tow Truck's, or an annual increase of approximately 25.28%. This would result in an increase of $50.56 in the first year after EOL. That would be quite a nice bump up in value for a MISB 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400 and I know of few other investments, if any, that can possibly match that.
      So, in conclusion, I have to say that I was impressed with the BBB LEGO sets and their % returns over the last several years. These sets definitely “fly under the radar” when it comes to discussions among LEGO collectors and investors. A set like the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400, which compares favorably with the BBB sets, is one impressive set in all categories...pieces, playability, accuracy, building techniques, display qualities, etc., yet I don't read about this set on any of the major LEGO forums or blogs. Well, I'm here to break that trend and tell you that the 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400 should be included on any serious LEGO collector or investor's “must buy list.” Although it is a little pricey at $199.99(US), sometimes you have to spend big to reap larger profits later on. If you are tired of STAR WARS and Modular Building LEGO sets and want to diversify your LEGO collection and possibly make a few dollars in the process, buy a 8110 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG U400. In this case, bigger is better...

    • timinchicago
      As a casual LEGO collector, I always keep an eye out for sets that are worth investing in. Obviously, the intention and goal of LEGO investing is ultimately to make a profit. Therefore, it is crucial for the casual investor to maximize their investment dollar which is usually achieved only after a set is retired, or in LEGO parlance, reached its end of life (EOL). It is no secret that the single biggest factor in LEGO investing and set appreciation is EOL. In simplest terms, no EOL, no profit.
      For the LEGO investor, nothing is more eagerly anticipated and perhaps simultaneously dreaded than the three letters: EOL. For many casual LEGO investors, EOL comes far too fast and for others far too late. Many times EOL comes quite unexpectedly. One day a set is seemingly there and the next it is “Out of Stock” or “Call for Availability.” Neither is good if you are the LEGO investor on the outside looking in. There are many EOL theories and prognosticators to be found online with varying claims of purported LEGO sources and inside information. Amidst all the speculation one thing is sure: Unless you work for The LEGO Group (TLG) and have actual product life cycle knowledge, it is all just pure speculation and educated guesses. Regardless of this fact, it is nevertheless fun and potentially profitable to engage in this activity. Virtually every LEGO investor does it. Historically, TLG uses a maddeningly and infinitely flexible two-year EOL rule1 where many sets see their production run end. I like to sum up the phenomenon with three main EOL categories or scenarios which I call: exception, perception, and deception.
      Missing out on a great LEGO set is a gut-wrenching feeling that happens all too often for the casual LEGO investor. The two-year rule is nothing more than a vague LEGO barometer for when a set might go EOL. As with almost every rule there are exceptions...in this case many exceptions! Attempting to identify a bright line EOL rule is a true fool’s errand. The following examples are but a few exceptions to the LEGO two-year EOL rule. The first and perhaps most extreme EOL exception would be the Holiday Train set (10173). It was available for only one meager holiday season in 2006 and then poof. The original RRP in 2006 was $89 and today it is valued at upwards of $3002. Granted this was a special occasion set, but still that short a lifespan is a tough pill to swallow if you had any hope of acquiring it. Another notable exception set that many casual investors may have missed out on is the Trade Federation MTT (7662) which was released in late 2007 for $99 and went EOL in late 2008 with just a little over one year in production. The value of this set today is nearly $400, which is a whopping 285% increase. One other lofty example of an EOL set exception to the two-year rule is the VW Beetle (10187) released in 2008 and reached EOL status in December of 2009 for a total lifespan of less than 20 months. The original RRP was $119 and the current value today is listed at about $350, a nearly 200% increase. Unfortunately, there are many more sets that fit into the exception category, like Market Street (10190) and Grand Carousel (10196) to name just two. Both of which make me feel like kicking myself for missing! These exceptions to the EOL rule highlight the perils and pitfalls of LEGO investing, and any investors that snatched up these exceptions to the two-year EOL rule were very fortunate indeed.
      So we looked at a few exceptions to the two-year EOL guideline, now on to the bulk of the rule. It stands to reason that a rule should have a large number of examples that support it. In other words, for exceptions to exist, there must be a collective perception of what is supposed to happen. There are numerous examples of the two-year EOL rule that, if observed, still allowed casual investors to make a tidy profit. A favorite set of mine that falls into this category is The Eiffel Tower (10181). Released in late 2007 and going EOL in late 2009, this set is a great example of an almost exact two-year production run. The original RRP for The Eiffel Tower was $199. The current value now stands at an impressively tall $850, which translates to a not too shabby 326% increase. Another fine example of a great investment set with a routine two year production life is Jabba’s Sail Barge (6210). This awesome set was released in 2006 with a modest RRP of $75. Today this set typically commands a price exceeding $400 which equates to a 445% increase on investment. Perhaps the Holy Grail of the LEGO Modular world and the best example of the two-year production life cycle was set 10182 Café Corner. Café Corner lasted a full two years from 2007 to 2009. The mind boggling original bargain RRP of $139 has now ballooned to a staggering $1,136, for a 700%+ increase in value! Other notable sets that fall squarely within the two-year EOL sweet spot are the Taj Mahal (10189); the Green Grocer (10185); The Millennium Falcon (10179); Vader’s TIE Advanced (10175) and loads more. It is hard to claim any surprise or generate much sympathy for missing out on any set that stuck around for at least two years. Two years represents the common perception of the average LEGO production lifespan and is often the determining factor when facing an investment purchase of different sets: Go for the set that is the furthest along in its production run and you are usually safe. That is unless you are the victim of LEGO deception.
      LEGO deception is nothing more than those sets that have outlived their welcome for the casual investor yet simply refuse to die a natural death. That is not to say that the general public agrees with that sentiment; in fact, they obviously do not or else these sets would not still be hanging around years after their debuts. A perfect example of EOL deception is the Medieval Market Village (10193). This set came out in 2008 and is still available today. Currently LEGO Shop at Home (S&H) lists this set as not being available until August of this year. Does this mean it is finally nearing EOL? The two-year EOL rule would dictate this result but this set seems to have some strong legs and remains very popular. It may still have some life left in it. The original RRP of $99 is still an outstanding deal. The current value is listed at about $92 which is a 6% decrease from RRP. Interestingly, the value of this set has actually increased 6% over the last month. It seems like investors might start to realize some modest gains in the next six months if it does end up going EOL this summer or fall. Another set that is still available long past the two year EOL rule is the Fire Brigade (10197). This set was released in September 2009 and was thought to be a likely candidate for EOL at Christmas 2011! As of today it is still going strong with no signs of letting up, even after the release of the Modular Town Hall (10224) in March. There has been much speculation surrounding the Modular theme and how many different active sets it can support at any given time. For several weeks this spring most major outlets did not have the Fire Brigade in stock, including S@H and Amazon. This led to a small bubble in value that has since popped and has now returned to near original RRP. Finally, one cannot ignore the biggest and most extreme example of LEGO EOL deception: The Death Star (10188). For many casual LEGO investors it was this set that brought them out of their Dark Ages. So it is somewhat ironic that this set is still available four years later! In fact, it is still a LEGO best seller on Amazon, even with a massive RRP of $399. Unfortunately, the current value is “just” $383 (It is probably selling under RRP due to sales from Toys 'R Us BOGO and reselling these sets on EBAY auctions for less than RRP) and certainly does not mirror the impressive fire power of the real and fully operational Death Star it so wonderfully emulates.
      Many factors play a role in applying the LEGO two year EOL guideline. Certainly popularity, profit, theme and price all help to dictate the lifespan of a specific set and each one of those factors could be analyzed in great detail. For most casual LEGO investors, that is just not particularly practical or productive. For now, it is best to keep an eye out for sets that are nearing the two year mark and use your best LEGO judgment. One point that should be made though is that many LEGO sets, large and small, get discounted substantially right before EOL and you have to be very vigilant in your quest for these deals. The bottom line is, if you really want a set, buy the set. Don't risk reaching EOL and losing the set to higher secondary market prices in order to save a couple of dollars. As with any investment, there is a large element of chance involved, but that's the fun part, right? Jump too early and you may sit around with many large boxes in every room of your home and lose out on future sales and deals. Wait too long, looking for that big discount, and you will only wish you had many large boxes in every room of your home. Guess the EOL correctly and you can buy that LEGO set below MSRP and sell it two years later for triple the MSRP. As they say, “Timing is everything.”  
      1 All time frames discussed here are nothing more than approximations as TLG does not provide much transparency into the EOL process or actual production end dates.
      2 All values are for new sets and in US dollars and taken from Brickpicker.com.

    • Mos_Eisley
      Editor's Note: Here is another great article written by one of our members, Mos_Eisley. This article covers an issue that many collectors face and answers questions for those that are just starting their LEGO collections. Mos_Eisley received 500 BrickPoints for having this article published on the site. -Jeff
      So you’ve decided to enter the dark and alluring world of LEGO investing. Soon you’ll be scouring the internet every day for all the best deals, stopping at every Target and Walmart (maybe a Toys ‘R Us here and there if you’re feeling lucky) you pass in the hopes of finding some great clearance discounts, and explaining to your significant other that this is not weird. But once you pick up all these great finds, what do you do with them? It doesn’t take long before a collection of MISB LEGO sets can become overwhelming:

      I’ll get into specific storage ideas later, but first a little background on my experiences so far. When I first started dabbling in LEGO investing, I was able to hide my prizes away in a spare closet. It didn’t take long though before the sets became too much for the closet and started to spill out into the spare bedroom. While I thought it was awesome to have a room littered with sets, not everyone else in the house agreed. I soon realized that if I was going to continue doing this, I was going to need a better solution. After filling the closet and the rafters above the garage, I knew my only option was to get a storage unit. Obviously, renting a storage unit can really start to add up, so for most, making room somewhere in your house is a better option. Since I didn’t have any other choice, I found a nice, clean storage facility near my house and got myself an inside, 5’x10’ unit.
      This was really nice. Now, every time I made a purchase, I just stopped by the unit and unloaded the sets. No more mess at home. For about two years I was able to contain everything very tightly packed in the 5’x10’ space. During this time I wasn’t selling any of my sets and it was time to expand again. I moved everything into another storage facility, using a 10’x10’ space this time. Once again, this was able to contain my collection for another two years. After this one was filled, I got an additional 5’x10’ unit to hold the overflow.
      At this point, I felt that I had too many sets, too much money tied up and that it was time to start selling some of the collection. I had done a really poor job of keeping my sets organized. In an effort to maximize storage space, I had just packed everything into the unit from wall to wall and floor to ceiling so there was no way of getting to the sets in the back rows. I rented a 10’x20’ space and methodically moved everything from the smaller units into the larger unit. Although slightly more organized, I still had never invested in any type of shelving for storing my sets. I simply stacked the sets as tightly and as high as I could again:

      After selling about half of my collection, I decided it was time to store everything properly. I invested in eleven metal racks from The Home Depot and I have been very happy with the results. My 10’x 20’ is now filling up, even with my inventory stacked all the way to the ceiling, but at least most sets are relatively easy to access.
      The point of all this is to understand that storing MISB LEGO sets takes a lot of space. Putting away a few sets here and there isn’t an issue, but if you really want to buy a lot of sets, you will need a lot of space to store them all. Not to mention quite a bit of time, patience and money.
      That’s a cute story, but how should I store my sets? Let’s take a look at some options:
      1) JUST THE SET
      Whether you’re storing your sets in a closet, cabinet, basement, attic or storage unit, simply take your sets and stack them on shelves, floors, or anywhere else you can find room for them. This is the least expensive method and it requires the least amount of space. Standing your sets like books is the safest method for protecting the boxes, and it also looks cool to see all those sets lined up like a LEGO set library:

      LEGO boxes aren’t very sturdy, so when you start piling them on top of each other, the bottom box(es) will eventually collapse, which can lead to also damaging the boxes at the top of the stack if they go tumbling to the floor. A Chrome C-3PO vanishes every time someone stacks their investment sets in this manner:

      If you have no choice and need to stack your sets unprotected, be sure to create an overlapping stack as if you were building with bricks:

      Stacking like this will better protect the boxes and allow you to stack higher with less chance of your stack eventually crushing the lower boxes and tipping over. Regardless of how you store unprotected sets, try to avoid stacking them against walls and consider putting acid-free kraft paper between sets and/or any walls. Over time, the boxes can begin to stick to the walls and each other. You’ll want the sets close together though because bricks will settle at the bottom of the box when standing on edge. This pressure can cause the boxes to bow and the seals to sometimes break loose if there is space around the box.
      The main problem with this method is that your sets are unprotected from dust and damage. The more you have to move the sets, the more shelf wear and other damage you are bound to cause to the boxes, potentially lowering your eventual return. Sure, a damaged, retired set will still fetch a fine price, but collectors will appreciate and pay for the chance of getting a pristine box.
      PROS: inexpensive, easy, space-saving, you can actually see all your sets
      CONS: no protection for your investment, stacking limitations
      When I first started collecting for investment, this is how I stored my sets. When LEGO ships sets to stores, they come in cartons that usually have multiples of the same set. How many sets these shipping cartons contain depends on the set’s box size. Battle packs arrive in cartons of eight. Huge sets like 10188 Death Star and 10179 Millennium Falcon come one per carton. Sets like 7965 Millennium Falcon and 4184 Black Pearl come in shipping cartons that contain two sets. 7785 Arkham Asylum and 6210 Jabba’s Sail Barge came in cartons that had three sets inside:

      There are many more sizes. These boxes are great because they are the exact size of the various sets you will want to store in them. Two 2507 Fire Temples can be safely stored in a carton that takes up nearly an identical amount of space as the two sets would take if they sat unprotected on a shelf. Not only are the sets more protected in general, but now you can safely stack more sets on top of these sets without having to worry about crushing them. Still use caution when stacking though because although LEGO ships sets in these containers, they aren’t necessarily the strongest boxes around. An overlapping stack of sets in their original shipping cartons is far more stable than the same stack of unprotected sets.
      Not everyone has access to these shipping cartons, and not all sizes are ideally stored in their original cartons. I don’t want to deal with five or six small cartons of battle packs. Instead, I’ve found that the medium moving boxes from The Home Depot are perfect for storing 54 battles packs:

      Using these moving boxes, you can easily and safely store and move a lot of sets at a time. The Home Depot has several sizes, but I find the medium ($1.12 each) and large ($1.36 each) to be the most useful. You can fill them up with quite a few of the medium and smaller sized sets, throw them in a closet and not have to worry about your sets being damaged the next time you need to move them. For extra protection, you can wrap each set in acid-free craft paper or bubble wrap when you place them in the moving box to reduce any possible damage from the sets sticking or rubbing against each other. Depending on the weather in your area, you may want to enclose each set in plastic to protect against humidity, regardless of which storage method you choose. Using moving boxes is a great way to go. For less than $2.00, you can easily protect many of your investments. Since LEGO sets vary in size, you won’t always perfectly fill the moving box, which means you are taking up a little more space than you might if you just had your sets stacked in the same space. However, using moving boxes will allow you to utilize vertical space that you can’t safely do with just the sets alone. Be sure to label the contents of your boxes so that you don’t have to dig through all of them to find the set you want!
      PROS: better protection of sets, less expensive, easy, allows for vertical stacking
      CONS: can take up a little more space, can’t see your sets
      I feel this is the absolute safest method for storing sets for investment. Although it is by far the most expensive and space consuming, I feel it is worth it to not only properly protect the sets, but also have them ready to ship:

      As I said earlier, I used the second method when I first started storing sets. The first year I did a lot of selling, I found myself spending way too much time each night packaging orders. Since most sets were expensive and sold individually, I figured I may as well have the sets stored so that they were ready to ship. After switching to this method, the next time I sold it was a much better experience. I was getting the same amount of orders processed in less than half the time.
      There are many sources for shipping boxes. My first shipping boxes came from boxes that were going to be thrown away at various stores. These were free. That’s about the only good thing I can say about them. They were often a little (or very) dirty, smelly, damaged, and you never knew exactly what sizes you might get. Shipping in boxes that aren’t the right size can cost you extra in postage and packing supplies, and possibly damage the sets if you don’t properly package them.
      If you plan on shipping using the U.S. Postal Service, they provide free Priority Mail shipping boxes. Since most sets weigh more than 13 ounces, you will have to ship via Priority Mail, so you may as well use their free boxes. They come in various sizes that will work well with smaller sets like 9471 Uruk-hai Army, 4866 The Knight Bus and 7869 Battle For Geonosis:

      Once you start getting into the larger sets, you’ll need to find another source for boxes. Uline.com is one of the best. They have just about every size you could ever need. I usually get three different sizes from them and these hold most of the sets I save.
      19”x 12”x 3” ($1.06) – perfect for the $50-$60 sets that come in boxes like 6212 X-wing Fighter and 7628 Peril in Peru 20”x 16”x 4” ($1.46) – great for $75-$120 sets like 10219 Maersk Train and 6210 Jabba’s Sail Barge 24”x 16”x 4” ($1.29) – ideal for $100-$150 sets with boxes the size of 8038 The Battle of Endor and 10217 Diagon Alley There are a couple other sizes I use as well, but this article is probably too long already! All the above boxes are sold in quantity minimums of 25. The more you buy of each size, the lower the prices, but you must buy in bundles of 25. You’ll notice that the smaller 20”x 16”x 4” box above is more expensive than the 24”x 16”x 4”. You can buy the cheaper 24” box and keep/ship those smaller sets in them, but for me I don’t want to waste the extra 4” of shipping box when I don’t have to.
      The individually boxed method is great, but probably not for everyone. Buying lots of shipping boxes gets expensive. You’ll eventually get the money back when you sell the sets, but in the meantime you have money tied up in shipping boxes that you could have invested in more sets. The shipping boxes are also not the exact size of the sets, so there is usually a fair amount of wasted space around the sets. Generally, two sets individually boxed take up about as much space as three of the same set without any protection. However, my ultimate goal is to provide future buyers with sets that are in near perfect condition so it is worth it to me to lose some space and investment money. Like the above method, consider using acid-free craft paper, bubble wrap or plastic to protect the sets inside the boxes. Make sure to label the contents!
      PROS: best protection of sets, can stack higher, sets are ready to ship
      CONS: expensive, takes up a lot of space, can’t see your sets
      I currently use a mix of methods two and three. Eventually I will use all three, having one of each set out for display, but right now I just don’t have the space for it. I like method three for the protection it gives sets and the fact that I can easily and quickly ship sets when the time comes for it. I like method two because it allows for a better use of space. I also individually box sets, then put them in the moving boxes so that I am able to safely stack sets higher than I could otherwise:

      Regardless of which method you use, you will probably need some sort of shelving system eventually. Most stores like Walmart, Kmart, Lowes, The Home Depot and IKEA have many shelving options. I like these two that are available at The Home Depot:

      The plastic one on the left is only $26.87 and the metal one on the right is $83.97. I chose the metal one since it’s a little sturdier and has easily adjusted shelves to maximize space. There are plenty of options between these price ranges, and more expensive ones.
      For long term storage of sets, make sure to consider the weather where you will be storing them. LEGO bricks shouldn’t be stored in extreme temperatures. If your garage or attic will get below freezing or extremely hot, keep your sets in the climate controlled areas of your home. ABS plastic can handle temperatures from -4 to 176 ºF but that doesn’t mean that stickers in the sets and seals on the boxes will like those temperatures. Humidity can also cause damage to boxes and instructions, cause stickers to peel, seals to come loose, and various other problems if the sets contain metal or wiring. If humidity is an issue where you live, you should try to store your sets in air tight plastic bags if possible. If you keep your sets out, direct sunlight will cause fading to the box art.
      One final recommendation is to keep your sets away from exterior brick walls and off the ground or floor! You probably won’t be experiencing really high flood waters, so just a few inches should do. If you keep your sets on the floor, boxed or not, and any kind of moisture comes in contact with them, you are going to lose a lot of value. You’ll likely have to open the set to find out what condition your instructions, stickers and parts are in.
      LEGO investing is a fun, but expensive endeavor. Be sure to protect your investments!

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