You may have seen the article a few years ago claiming that LEGO was a better financial investment than either stock market shares or gold. In case you didn’t, here it is:
In this article the Telegraph shows that LEGO sets increased in value by 12% per year, significantly outperforming the FTSE 100. Newer limited-run sets boasted an even more incredible 36% jump. This means that if you invested in a bunch of LEGO sets a few years ago you could resell them at a tidy profit today. Clearly some people are making a lot of money buying and then reselling LEGO!
The one main catch is that the set you resell needs to be in pristine condition to make it possible for a profit. If it’s even moderately worn or (even worse) not quite complete, the resale value may be less than you paid. That still makes LEGO a good hobby – if you can get back most of your money after you’re done – but no longer an actual investment.
Clearly the optimal strategy is to speculate which new sets are likely to be in demand, buy them, and store them unopened. Then a few years down the line you can unload them to rabid fans both old and new.
You can be sure that the next time LEGO releases something like a big Millennium Falcon set, many LEGO scalpers will try to snap them up with the express goal of reselling them later. It’s one of the reasons that some retailers and LEGO itself will limit the quantities from time to time, so that people who actually want to buy a set for themselves can get one, rather than nefarious types snapping up all the stock before fans can get them.
That’s not what this article is about, however. I’m not suggesting that you seriously start investing in LEGO to become rich. I think the practice of scalping, in particular, is pretty bad for fans and I don’t approve of it. No, this article is about getting the most for sets that you already own and what to do when you buy new sets to ensure they don’t lose too much value.
Pick a Winner
The demand for various sets waxes and wanes over time. Unless you’re selling your set because you need money urgently (probably to buy more LEGO), it’s worth being picky about when to put a set up for sale. If you no longer want a set, put it aside and watch the going price for similar sets on sites like eBay. If they are selling for an amount you’re happy with, then pull the trigger. Just don’t feel forced to sell at the current market price.
Piece by Piece
Building on the previous point, make sure that you wouldn’t be making more money simply by selling the set in pieces. To get a rough idea, take the going price for your set and divide it by the number of pieces. Then compare what you’re getting per-piece to the going price of separate bricks. It may be that selling a set piecemeal is more profitable. Although, of course, it could take much longer; it’s up to you whether the hassle is worth it in the end.
Buy It Cheap
Not all sets are the target of scalpers, and sometimes before buying it’s worth waiting for a sale on a set you have your eye on. This makes it much more likely that you’ll get your money back, even if you resell for a little less than the MSRP. The beauty of the internet and places like Bricklink and eBay is that someone out there will eventually want the set you have, even if it’s not the Millenium Falcon or something famous.
Keep it All
This is one of the most fundamental things to do. Don’t throw anything other than shrinkwrap away. Most importantly, preserve the box! A torn or significantly damaged box can really sour a buyer’s opinion of the whole set. Take a knife and carefully break the seal on the cardboard box. Keep the instructions and other paper doodads. If you can claim “complete in box”, you’re in with a shot to preserve the value of the set.
Keep it Clean
I’ve written an article on this site on how to both preserve and restore your LEGO bricks, so I’m not going to repeat any of the actual advice here. Just know that you should follow it and try to keep your blocks as close to their original condition as possible. Any visible aging or damage to a significant number of blocks could damage the value. If the piece in question is not a unique one, you could even swap it out for something in better shape. There’s honestly no real way the buyer could know.
It Pays to Advertise
Take great pictures of the set, preferably assembled. Since the buyer is likely to be very interested in the condition of the specific set you want to sell, be sure to use pictures of the actual product that’s in your possession. In this age of YouTube, it’s also worth grabbing your smartphone and making a quick video where you go over the parts and show the condition of the bricks in general. This will give you a distinct advantage over other sellers who are too lazy to address questions and doubts from potential buyers.
Give the Right Details
Although a good shot of the front of the box will provide the most important info to a buyer, you need to make sure you have the descriptive info written down in the advertisement for your set. This includes the set number, especially when there have been multiple releases of a similar set. Note the condition of the bricks. Note the age of the set both in terms of the release year and the year you bought it. Also say something about how you took care of the LEGO and how it was used. It may seem a little dumb, but this will make prospective buyers more confident and perhaps more willing to pay your price.
Another good technique is to highball your price. Decide which price you really want and then add 10% to that figure. If a buyer wants to haggle you can give them the 10% “discount” and both of you will feel like you got a good deal.
You may also consider simply trading your current set for another seller’s set that you want. This makes sense if you were going to use the money to buy new LEGO anyway. Often you can get more value for your set this way. If the other person really wants your set, it may even be possible to trade up!
Finally, you may even consider putting a set up for auction if you have the luxury. If it’s a popular set, you end up getting buyers to compete with each other to push up the price, which is a great position to be in. Just make sure you set the reserve price high enough that you’ll still make what you want or there’s no sale.