Ratings and Reviews for 9390-1: Mini Tow Truck

9390-1: Mini Tow Truck

Overall Score

7.70
View Price Guide Review this Set
  • First Impression Does the set "WOW" you? 8.00
  • Unique Parts/Minifigures Unique parts? Increase resale? 7.00
  • Playability/Build Experience Is this a "FUN" set to build? 9.00
  • Value for money (NEW) "Bang for your buck"? 9.00
  • Theme Popularity Will theme help with resale? 7.00
  • Exclusivity Unique production aspects? 6.00
  • Packaging Does this set stand out? 6.00
  • Growth Potential Possibility of revenue growth? 8.00
  • Display Attributes Does this set stand out? 9.00
  • Conclusion Your final analysis.. 8.00
Review from: eightbrick
Reviewed on: Jul 3, 2013
Avatar for: eightbrick
Join Date: 01/12/2013
# of Reviews: 36

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FIRST IMPRESSION | Score: 8

The little orange tow truck that many of you have probably seen, but never paid much attention to is dubbed by many as the "mini unimog". In fact, the set has an uncanny resemblance to its well-known brother, 8110 Unimog. The alternate instructions allow you to build a sleek racecar. And, with rare parts and a two great models, its a wonder that this gem has remained under the radar this long. The model is cute, fun, and looks like the makings of a great investment.

UNIQUE PARTS | Score: 7

The overwhelming majority of pieces included are Technic pieces, with only a couple "real bricks". But, that doesn't mean the set can't be filled with rare pieces:

  • Technic Triangle, Black (appears in 14 other sets)
  • Technic beam 4x2 Angular 90 Degrees, Bright Orange (appears in 4 other sets)
  • Technic 3M Beam, Bright Orange (exclusive)
  • Tube W/ Double 4.85, Bright Orange (appears in 13 other sets)
  • Technic Lever, 3M, Bright Orange (exclusive)

And that's just a taste of the many rare elements that make up a good chunk of the set's 136 element spread. The piece selection is small, but the interesting elements make up for it. It should be noted that "purist" brick collectors will not find many uses for the large amount of axles, beams and levers found in the set, yet if used creatively, they can enhance a creation or add functions. As with all recent technic sets, not figures are included, and the builds are not scaled to Lego minifigures. Piece selection won't be a huge factor in the set's performance.

PLAYABILITY/BUILD EXPERIENCE | Score: 9

The construction of the set's two models is spread over three small instruction booklets (two for the first model, and one for the racecar alternate). I wouldn't rank the build of the set hard by any means, especially compared to bigger Technic sets, in fact I would say it is just right difficulty to be a perfect entry set for new builders while being satisfying to experienced technic engineers. The method of construction doesn't use any really unique approaches, but the click-and-snap construction makes for a refreshing change from the normal Lego set.

It should be stressed that the set's purpose is not for play, but despite that, both the tow truck and racecar offer enough features to warrant vrooming noises. The tow truck features a moving crane winch and a steering function that argueably works just as good as the larger Unimog's. The racecar feels like a secondary model and is a bit more sparse, but nonetheless is a fun model to "ride". For a cheap Technic set, the playability is simply legendary, and rivals brick-built sets. Both the play value and fun and fresh construction will add value to the set on the aftermarket.

VALUE FOR MONEY | Score: 9

Let's look at the value of the set in comparison to some other small Technic sets, and the set's cousin, 8110 Unimog:

Set Name MSRP (US) # of Pieces Price Per Piece Weight (kg) Price Per Gram
9390 Tow Truck $11.99 136 8.82c/piece 0.2kg 5.99c/gram
9392 Quad Bike $24.99 199 12.55c/piece 0.4kg 6.24c/gram
9891 Tracked Crane $19.99 218 9.17c/piece 0.28kg 7.13c/gram
42002 Hovercraft $19.99 170 11.76c/piece 0.27kg 7.40c/gram
8110 Unimog $199.99

2048

(2047 on some databases)

9.76c/piece 3.16kg 5.53c/gram

Data from Brickset and Bricklink.

Surprisingly, in addition to all the rare pieces, the set also hosts the lowest Price Per Piece ratio out of the sets I compared it to (its even a better value in that respect than 8110), and is the second best value in Price Per Gram after the Unimog. Considering that it is the smallest set on the chart, its values are very impressive and the comparison to 8110 Unimog shows that the set has what it takes to compete with larger Technic sets. Its Price Per Piec value of 8.82c/piece is well below the welcomed "average" of 10c/piece.

Furthermore, the set is packed with value in the form of the two, well designed models. Model value is often overlooked as it isn't a tangible measurement and can't be plotted on a graph or table, but it is nonetheless important, without it, the high score in this category wouldn't be warranted.

Despite the good PPP value, I wouldn't recommend parting out the set as Technic pieces, particularly the small connection pieces, are not valuable and you would have a hard time selling off the pieces to make a profit.

THEME POPULARITY | Score: 7

The Technic theme is often dismissed by investors who would rather sink their capital into brick-built sets. However, Technic is undeniably popular; the line has been going strong since 1977, making it one of the longest-living themes around. Keeping that fact in mind forgives the theme's below average CAGR at 9.43%, as usually the longer a theme is around, the lower its CAGR gets. Think of it this way: the theme has been around for 22 years more than Star Wars (considered by many as the gem of Lego investing), and still has a better CAGR average than it. That is no small feat. Overall, the Technic theme offers longevity and the assurance of few investing failures.

EXCLUSIVITY | Score: 6

The set is not a Lego or retailer exclusive, and is still widely available at all stores that carry the Technic line (not all stores that carry Lego have Technic sets). As of the writing of this review, it has been available for over a year, so retirement is in the forseeable future (small Technic sets usually have 1-2 year release periods). Exclusitivity for the set is average, and won't affect the set's aftermarket value significantly.

PACKAGING | Score: 6

Unfortunately, the boxes of Technic sets are trapped between the sophisticated looks of the packaging of the Architecture theme, and the regular, high contrast boxes of Lego sets. The result is a dark, mildly techy and sophisticated set featuring the main tow truck model that is appealing, but won't stand out. Being a smaller set, it features the punch-hole opening method, which will prevent box tampering. As with all Lego boxes, the set is vunerable to shelf wear and tear, and isn't the most convienent item to ship.

GROWTH POTENTIAL | Score: 8

In order to predict the investment potential of this set, we have to look at the performance of past Technic sets, the set itself, and what could go wrong. We will start out with a chart outlining the performance of similar Technic sets thus far (chart info taken on 3/7/2013):

Set Name Year Released # of Pieces MSRP (US) Current Value (US) CAGR
9390 Tow Truck 2012 136 $11.99 $17.87 49.09%
9391 Tracked Crane 2012 218  $19.99 $27.11 35.62%
9392 Quad Bike 2012 199 $24.99 $29.13 16.57% 
42002 Hovercraft 2013 170 $19.99 $27.36 36.87%
8045 Mini Telehandler 2010 117 $10.99 $20.00 22.09%
8259 Mini Bulldozer  2009 117  $9.99  $25.33  26.19% 
8291 Dirt Bike 2008 248  $24.99  $57.27  18.04% 
8110 Unimog 2011 2048 $199.99  $181.24 -4.8%

 Data from Brickpicker.

The chart clearly depicts that the most recent small size Technic sets have performed extraordinarily well, with CAGRs ranging from 17% to the 49% that 9390 is currently enjoying. While most of these Technic sets are seeing only a couple sales per month, the target audience is obviously dedicated enough to pay high aftermarket prices. While some would consider the Tow Truck's stellar perfomance thus far as preliminary hype, it hasn't significantly declined since its release and is currently on an upward trend.

The main model is fantastic, with the secondary creation just adding bonus points. An interesting factor to watch in the next couple months will be looking at how the performance of the set's big brother, 8110, compares to the perfomance of this set. The popularity of the full-size Unimog will no doubt help propell the value of  9390 forward, reeling in customers and collectors. The set itself is fantastic, but being a Technic set, is unlikely to appeal to part collectors.

I can't forsee many problems for this set in its near investment future. Unless the large Unimog fails on the aftermarket (the most likely cause of such an event would be saturation as the set has become a mainstream investment from an "indie" theme) and drags 9390 down with it, almost nothing will cause a drop in value for the set. A long release period may harm growth, but the set is quite under the radar, so won't be affected too much by such an event.

The Verdict

Taking into account the above factors, I'm predicting the set will have a five year CAGR of 25%. While it is profitable right now as a quick flip, if you wait the full five years and it grows at 25%, it will be valued at $36.59 at the end of that period, over 3 times the retail value. The set is just so unique and brilliantly executed that I am doubtful that anything will slow its growth substantially. It's similarity to 8110 will only add to its profits. Forget broken down cars, this tow truck will reel in plentiful profits!

 

DISPLAY QUALITY | Score: 9

Despite its small size, the set offers fantastic display value and is the perfect definition of a desktop model; the mini Unimog is spiked with pockets of high-contrast orange, and true to the Technic theme's tagline, it "looks like the real thing". I find the hood is especially impressive, how it was integrated into the cab and the rest of the vehicle. The little movable features such as the crane and steering will reward friends or coworkers who come in for a closer look, which considering the stunning aethstetics of the model, is a high possibility. The model appears cute, athletic, and powerful all at the same time, and the inclusion of a second model, the racecar is just an added bonus. For $11.99, you can't get much better in terms of display.

CONCLUSION & FINAL ANALYSIS | Score: 8

9390 Tow Truck has already shown off its power; earning it a CAGR many times higher than its larger brother, 8110 Unimog, in just a year. The set has avoided the investing limelight for all its retail life, sitting in the shadow of the Unimog, but with two amazing and functional models, is set to be the surprise winner of the 2012 year. As the Technic theme is often avoided by Lego investors, the set is also a great way to diversify. Small is powerful, and 9390 Tow Truck has waited in the shadows long enough. It's time for it to take the Lego investing world by storm. And trust me, you will want a couple (dozen?) copies when it does.