Ratings and Reviews for 4494-1: Imperial Shuttle

4494-1: Imperial Shuttle

Overall Score

4.30
View Price Guide Review this Set
  • First Impression Does the set "WOW" you? 4.00
  • Unique Parts/Minifigures Unique parts? Increase resale? 2.00
  • Playability/Build Experience Is this a "FUN" set to build? 3.00
  • Value for money (NEW) "Bang for your buck"? 4.00
  • Theme Popularity Will theme help with resale? 9.00
  • Exclusivity Unique production aspects? 2.00
  • Packaging Does this set stand out? 8.00
  • Growth Potential Possibility of revenue growth? 3.00
  • Display Attributes Does this set stand out? 4.00
  • Conclusion Your final analysis.. 4.00
Review from: Grolim
Reviewed on: Jul 1, 2013
Avatar for: Grolim
Join Date: 12/10/2012
# of Reviews: 41

DIRECT LINK TO REVIEW:
View Review

MEMBER OWNS SET: YES     MEMBER HAS BUILT SET: YES


FIRST IMPRESSION | Score: 4

The Imperial Shuttle mini building set was released nine years ago in 2004.  Being a small mini build set with only 82 pieces it’s hard to achieve much of a wow factor.  Its small size means it won’t catch your eye and drag you over to it from across a room.  Its bright white coloring does help it stand out a little from the mainly grey vehicles that the Star wars theme usually offers.

The Imperial Shuttle is not a hugely iconic ship from the Star Wars universe but it does fall into a sort of second tier of vehicles, behind the X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Millennium Falcon, ISD.  Many people will still recognise it even if they are not a Star Wars fan.  Those who have a finer knowledge of the Star Wars material will definitely recognise the 3 winged ship for what it represents.  Closer inspection of the model does give a small sense of wow in that you’ll be amazed how such a small model can look very detailed given the low piece count

UNIQUE PARTS | Score: 2

There are no minifigures with this set as was the case for all mini building sets of this time.  The emphasis here is on the model itself and including a minifigure would be out of scale and not keeping with the intent of this subtheme.

Parts wise there are no rare elements on offer here that would drive value greatly.  There is a printed piece for the cockpit nose that is unique to the set but even that doesn’t seem to be commanding a premium price.  The rest of the parts are mainly white and light bluish gray, nothing to really add value here.

This set did not include additional parts so you could make up ¼ of another ship when combined with the 3 other mini building sets in the series as some others in this subtheme have done.  All 82 pieces are used in the Imperial Shuttle model. 

PLAYABILITY/BUILD EXPERIENCE | Score: 3

Building the set from the 82 pieces only takes a few minutes.  You can’t really expect an outstanding build experience for a set this small.  When building you do have to wonder a bit at the ingenuity of the designers in managing to create such an authentic looking model with so few pieces.  That is a feature of the whole mini building subtheme and is very evident here, the shuttle really does look like it’s movie based counterpart.  It still gives that small feeling of accomplishment when done, but not on the same scale as a large build might. 

The playability of the finished model is minimal.  It is pretty small so can be flown around a room easily but the small size doesn’t really lend any scale to the play time when paired with other ships or minifigures.  Combining with other mini build ships might provide some extended play.  The only real play features on the model are the hinged side wing pieces so there isn’t much to add to the fun there.  It is more of a small display piece than a functional play toy.

VALUE FOR MONEY | Score: 4

Retailing at $7 new this set was well under the standard benchmark of $0.10 per piece at $0.085.  On first glance this represents very good value for money.  One of the factors contributing to this would be no minifigures, helping keep the cost of production down.  We can compare this value to the other 16 sets in the mini-build subtheme:

Ranking 10th out of 17 on the graph, so just below average when compared to its peers on price per piece.  However, price per piece is often not a fair reflector of the production costs and subsequent pricing of a set.  If there are many large pieces present it can make the set look costly on a per piece basis but the amount of raw Lego material used can be very high, Therefore, the true value for money of the retail price may be better analysed by comparing the price based on weight.  Lets compare the 4494 Imperial Shuttle set to its mini-build peers:

Staying steady to still be 10th out of 17, which shows slightly below average value for money when compared to similar sets.  The set does have a few larger and medium pieces than most mini build sets but still not enough to make it seem good value for money. 

Parting out the set doesn’t look to be a winner either.  Buying new sets at the current market price of $17.53 and selling the parts and instructions on Bricklink for approx $13.50 plus perhaps a couple of dollars for the box certainly looks to be a loss making exercise.  Even before accounting for the time to do so along with transaction and holding costs.

THEME POPULARITY | Score: 9

The Star Wars theme is very high in terms of popularity I think only City outperforms it in sheer numbers sold.  It has to score highly for this.  Episode IV vehicles tend to be as high up on the appeal scale for investors and collectors.  Also the mini building theme did seem to be relatively popular.  There are a number of collectors who specifically collect small scale models.  This set was also a little different in that it was released as part of a wave of 4 sets that all featured two mini models each.  The mini building theme morphed into the polybag type sets from around 2004.

Star Wars Lego appeals to two main collector groups.  Star Wars Fans and Lego Fans.  Sets from this theme have the ability to pull in non-traditional Lego buyers who collect Star Wars toys or memorabilia.  There are a lot of them out there; Star Wars would have to be one of the most collectable franchises around the world.  Therefore this drives demand for Star Wars Lego beyond the normal Lego fan.

CAGR by Theme on Brickpicker shows Star Wars as averaging 9.27% across the theme, which is below the total Lego average of 11.36%.  However, this can be a little misleading as the theme CAGR includes sets that are still available at retail outlets which almost always have a negative return due to purchasing during specials or discounts.  If only EOL (End of Line) sets were taken into consideration this would be a lot higher I’m sure.

As a Subtheme the mini building series averages 12.21% CAGR.  Not a bad long term average at all considering the sets were all released 8-10 years ago.

EXCLUSIVITY | Score: 2

The set was not exclusive to any particular retailer.  It was on most retail shelves for a year or two after release.  Nothing much to add to potential value here.  I remember when purchasing these locally that they seemed to be a lot on the shelves so again nothing to enhance the exclusivity of the set.

PACKAGING | Score: 8

The packaging for the set is quite interesting.  These sets were the pre-cursor to polybags.  They came in a hard plastic shell case with a cardboard insert inside.  The plastic case had the imprint of a standard 2 x 4 Lego brick stamped into it.  Quite a cool little additional touch.

So not your standard cardboard and not a polybag.  Definitely different.  By my count there were only 12 sets in 2003-4 that were released in this way, all mini builds.

On the downside, the case was hard to get into.  As the types of shell cases notoriously are.  You really did need a good pair of scissors to get into them!

GROWTH POTENTIAL | Score: 3

This set has had a CAGR of 10.76% over the nine years since its release.  That’s below the average growth rate for the mini-build subtheme of 12.21%.  This represents a return of 151% on initial investment (ROI) if you bought one at retail (or 2.5 times retail price if you prefer that measure).  I think at this stage it may be useful to compare the set to the other sets in the mini build subtheme:

Ranking 13th out of 17 puts our set below the average for the subtheme.  I was a little surprised with this result as I expected the Imperial Shuttle as it’s fairly well known to be above some of the lesser known models such as the Podracers and AT-TE.

A 10.7% investment return over a decently long period is still good and you’d be pleased if you could get that kind of return in a bank (though obviously a bank poses a far lower risk profile that investing in a Lego set, especially this one).  If you have some in the corner of a wardrobe you might be tempted to hold onto them if returns were to continue at that rate.  However, lets take a look at the more recent performance of the price for this set using the information available going back 2 years on Brickpicker:

Well that’s a very interesting picture!  Prices for new in box sets sold on US Ebay have taken a bit of a dip over the last year and are now below the level they were 2 years ago.  In fact the value for the set has dropped more than 14% in the last year.  Comparing to the average for all 17 mini-build sets from the subtheme it can be seen that this trend is replicated across the range.  Our 4494 set has followed the trend of that average, with a sharper dip 6 months ago, but has now come back up to be right in line with it.

One major reason for this flat recent price growth could be the 20016 polybag mini-build set from 2010.  That set was a Brickmaster Exclusive set so it is a little rarer but there is no doubt its release has taken some demand off our subject 4494 set. 

The recent flat growth does mean the evidence points to a future for this set of continued flat or very low growth.  It may pick up a little but I wouldn’t envisage growth returning to the 10% levels.  Returns of perhaps 2-4% or less seem more realistic.  This may be underpinned a little if the new Star Wars movies help fuel demand for Star Wars Lego in general and this set may get more of a boost if we specifically see another Imperial Shuttle in action in the new trilogy.

DISPLAY QUALITY | Score: 4

The display attributes of small mini scale built sets have both positive and negative potential aspects.  Displaying this set next to normal sized sets or large minifigures scale models will put this one in the shade.  It will be completely lost and out of place.  However, putting them on their own shelf or display cabinet together does create a good display piece.  Having such a small footprint means you can display many ships from the Star Wars universe all together easily.  There are plenty of collectors who do just that. 

This particular set does stand out a little due to the white coloring.   The distinctive 3 large wings give it a bit more impact as well, the set looks a bit larger than the low piece count would suggest.  There is also merit in marvelling at what can be achieved by the designers with such a small number of Lego elements.  Having a larger piece count than some of the other mini builds does help lend a bit of size and detail to the model compared to the others.

CONCLUSION & FINAL ANALYSIS | Score: 4

It’s been an interesting look at a small mini scale build released almost a decade ago during the beginnings of Star Wars Lego’s rise to greatness.  Sets of this size are often overlooked by investors in favour of the better known flashier big models that are the stars of the Lego investment world.  But smart investors know that there are solid profits to be made in small sets if you are willing to put in the hard graft (making sure you properly account for all those transaction costs of course).

It would recommend avoiding investing in this set currently and liquidating any stock you may have on hand.  Its growth has been stymied due to a remake and an overall drop in demand for the subtheme and its future growth looks certain to be pushed lower than its historical average suggests.  The Imperial Shuttle will no longer transport you to profits.