Where to start?

How to Invest in a Lego Collection

Geek Culture Toys
Where to start?
Image from the Lego Google+ page.

This year, I have been slowly building my first Lego collection. My kids and GeekMom Jenny each have tubs of Lego bricks that belong to them individually. I felt left out after visiting Legoland with Jenny, so I started my own collection. When I started buying, I did a lot of research, so that I could get the most out of my investment in a fairly expensive hobby.

The first thing I needed, no argument, was bricks. There are many ways to get a bunch of bricks at once. I started with the Lego Build and Play Box. It’s a great starter set, highlighted by its large storage box, but I’ve found some cheaper options. Here is a breakdown of the average prices I could find:

884 piece Lego Education Brick Set 779384 = 6.1 cents per brick
650 piece Lego Bricks & More Builders of Tomorrow Set 6177 = 6.3 cents per brick (discontinued and no longer available, as of 11/2016)
1,000 piece Lego Build and Play Box 4630 = 11.6cents per brick
650 piece Lego Creative Building Kit 5749 = 7.1 cents per brick
1,600 piece Lego XXL Brick Box 5512 = 13.4 cents per brick (this one has been discontinued, hence its elevated price)

As you can see, the Lego Education Brick Set has some serious bang for its buck. It’s a medium size kit, with 11 sizes and 9 colors. The bricks are pretty basic, but that’s the best place to start. I get the most use out of basic shapes, because they are so versatile. Specialized pieces often have just one purpose, and don’t get used as much.

The next thing I needed was a plate. Plates are the foundation that you build your creations on. It’s possible to build on a table, but plates make the whole experience simpler and more fun. Lego makes two 10″ plates, one in green for general use, and one in blue for water scenes. Generally you can find one for about five bucks. There is also an XL gray plate, which measures 15″, but it runs around $15 right now. I own just one green plate, and it is worth its weight in gold.

Honorable mention goes to the Brick Separator. Another thing that is invaluable. Saves me so much trouble when disassembling. Though these are often included in specialty kits for free.

The last thing I needed was minifigs. There are hundreds of options. As a matter of fact, according to xkcd, there will be more minifigs in the world than people by the year 2019! Where to start then? This is definitely not a case for the basics. I wanted my minifigs to be special, ones I’d like looking at forever. Since Rory is my favorite character in Doctor Who (I mean, how could I not like a total dork with the same name as me?), I got the Series 10 Roman Commander (read: Centurion). The kids then surprised me with a pile of parts from old minifigs that they didn’t want any more. This was great because I was able to make a few that I liked, and have the ability to change things up.

After that, the sky (read: wallet) was the limit. There are so many themed kits it would take an enormous amount of money to get them all. I suggest ignoring sets like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ones, for example, because the scenes are not versatile at all. This makes me sad, because I love TMNT everything. I just don’t have room in my house for a permanent installment of Krang’s Lab, and it’s not fun (for me) to keep building the same thing over and over again.

There are a couple of exceptions. If you love one of the kits so much that it’s worth its own place in your home, buy away. GeekMom Jenny has three Lego Architecture sets that have their own shelf in her office. Also, Lego Creator sets are somewhere between free form and regular kits. Each of them makes three things officially. I love the LEGO Creator Fierce Flyer 31004, which has three official builds: an eagle, a beaver, and a scorpion.

Because Lego knows how to make geeks happy.
Because Lego knows how to make geeks happy. Image: Lego

The only rule of buying Lego products is to never buy something you won’t use. If that means you never buy basic kits because you’d prefer to build a Lego Delorean, that’s okay! Buy things you love, so you will get the most out of them.

One last thought: If you are buying for your kids, let them help pick out the pieces they want. Our kids keep a running list of which sets they might like to have. This is mostly so they know what they want to buy with monetary gifts, and so we know which sets to buy them as a surprise or as a gift.

(Kit prices are current as of 11/21/2016)

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19 thoughts on “How to Invest in a Lego Collection

  1. This is cool, I’m getting into LEGO again now my son’s passed 4. How do you organise your LEGO? My mum kept all mine, so I’ve separated out the Technic but am at a loss at what to do with the rest.

    1. I’m a little obsessive, so I use plastic baggies. Especially for the little 1×1/2 transparent blocks. I just snap them all together and then put them in a snack bag. I also have a Build and Play box (link above) which I put all standard bricks in. Anything from a 1×1 to a 2×8 go in those. The rest I organize in different ways. Some of the kits just live in the box they came in. I also use plastic bowls (Ikea has good ones) to organize small pieces while I’m building.

  2. I’d think the Architecture kit that GeekMom blog loves would have made this list. As a kid the thing that bothered me was that I had to make a wall out of different color bricks. The architect kit is ALL WHITE!!

    If only I were independently wealthy.

  3. @Rob. There are as many systems to store Lego as there are, well, Lego parts. My sons and I store our collection in a couple of those plastic storage drawer units (sorted into 1x bricks, 2x bricks, minifigs, plates, etc.) plus a few clear plastic divided boxes for small parts. And a bin for everything else. That said, we out grew that system years ago and really need a third drawer unit. How organized want to be is inversely proportional to the amount of time you want to spend sifting through piles of Lego to find the exact piece you want.

  4. The best way to rapidly build your collection is to buy off Craigslist or at garage sales. There are many parents selling their children’s old Lego collections as the kid gets older. One or two garbage bags full of random parts will get you much farther than brand new boxes of basic brick. Just make sure to filter out the imitation brick when you get home before your kids see it; they won’t understand why you are throwing away “Legos”.

    1. This is a good way to build the collection but with a big caveat. The pieces are more than likely going to be dirty and washing LEGO is not a quick affair. I bought a bulk lot (already sorted by color) and still took me ages to root out the knock off brand bricks, chewed up, marked up, broken bricks. Some had been left assembled on a shelf and had a thick layer of dust that required hand washing with a wash cloth/tooth brush to remove. A secret I found to drying (after hours of hand drying) is to spin the bricks out in a towel then lay them out in front of a box fan for 30 minutes or so. Not trying to discourage anyone from going this route as it is a very cost effective way, just a lot of work involved that you won’t see until you have bought the lot.

  5. Ebay is also a good way to build your collection if you are willing to buy assorted pieces buy the pound. If you like knights and the castle sets the cheapest way to get a bunch of mini figs is by buying the chess set that was released a year or two ago. 28 minifigs for $50ish is a good deal when they all come with weapons and or shields.

  6. I can’t believe parents would sell their kids’ Lego sets and bricks. They last forever, and you can easily use them your entire life. Who says Legos are just for kids? I scoff at such parenting techniques.

  7. Don’t forget, buying some of those large sets on the amazon/target sales and watching for LEGO clearance at Walmart after Christmas will also build up your collection fast.

    Having separate collections is foreign to me. To each their own I guess. My kids inherited all my old bricks and have gotten lots of new ones as well and we play with them all together. Everyone in the house asks for LEGO sets as gifts. We dedicated a room to LEGO and playmobile, and block toys and picked up some great options at IKEA for storage.

    1. We like having separate collections because the kids like to build massive things in their rooms and leave them put together. This ties up pieces others would like to play with, so it’s simpler for us to have different collections. It also makes gifts more meaningful, because they ask for particular kits, which they don’t necessarily want to share.

  8. Lots of great suggestions in the article and comments. I’ll add a couple thoughts:

    I’ve never bought any of the big sets so I don’t have a huge collection. I tend to stick to vignettes and micro building as a way to make my bricks go farther. (Micro building is any scale smaller than minifig scale.)

    You can improve your collections after you’ve been at it a while with the Pick a Brick Walls at the LEGO stores including the ones at Downtown Disney. You get either a large or small container to fill for a set price. Filling the container to the corners is an art form. This is especially helpful if you need a lot of a few different pieces but they obviously don’t stock every piece. (LEGOland and the Discovery Centers also offer this service but the pricing is based on weight.)

    If you collect mini figs there’s a Reddit for trading as a way to fill in the missing spots in your collection.

  9. Great article. My 6 year old and I have been on the Lego train since he turned 4 and was able to build on his own. We’ve found some great deals on Ebay with some trusted sellers to help build up our scrap parts, and have hit the PAB Wall several times since the Lego Store opened in our town.

    The one rule I live by when buying new sets is one I picked up on another Lego blog, I never buy new sets that have a higher cost per piece than $.10. If we do, it’s for a very special set that we couldn’t get close to on our own.

    1. Yes, a dime a piece is the rule of thumb that I use. Not including minifigs though.

      Pick a brick is great, especially if your store happens to be stocking something you need. I’ve done the ebay thing as well, and with all the caveats in this thread about cleaning, etc. is a good way to bulk up your collection. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lego at a garage sale though. Maybe too many AFOLs in the Bay Area!

  10. I didn’t really like this article, especially the title. It should have been called something like “Picking the right Lego sets for your kids” or something like that. I saw it as a way to put in Amazon links.

    1. For what it’s worth I’ve just re-kindled my collection as a harkening back to my own childhood and I think this article was very useful and interesting. I don’t think there are enough of its type online.

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