Monday, January 26, 2009

Lego as a Collectible?

Nannan did a write-up for The Brother's Brick about how to break even on your Lego purchases by selling minifigs. He pointed out that this can only work if you sell the Lego Star Wars minifigs, because the other Lego minifigs are not really worth anything.

Lego dabbled with the collectibility of their product when they launched the Bionicle line. The first year was all about the Bionicle masks. Young collectors went insane over them. Lego answered the fantiscism by making sure collectors had to jump through some very imposing hoops to get them all. There were even masks molded in metal and masks that came with shoes. At the time the Pokemon meme "Gotta catch 'em all" was alive and well.

Lego slowly decreased the collectible nature of the Bionicle line until all that is left now are generic sets that fit within a theme. Sure, you can still "collect" them, but there is really no challenge in it.

Since then, the most collectible element Lego has introduced into their brand would have to be the gold chrome C3PO. There were other short-lived excercises, such as a train engine in which a specific number of online buyers would receive a unique numbered tile. Otherwise, Lego collectors have to settle for limited edition sets. Somewhat more challenging if you happen to live in the wrong region.

But, what if Lego were to embrace the collector's market?

A part of me has always wanted to see Lego do so. Another part of me remembers my experiences as a Hotwheels collector and shudders at the thought.

Collectors can be ruthless. Some collectors absolutely MUST have as many of an item as they can afford (it's strange, but some Hotwheels collectors have dozens of the same car and graphic with no intention of selling). Other collectors are desperate to complete their collection at all costs. Then there are those who stand to make a financial profit from the collector's market. In the case of Hotwheels collectibles, some of the collectors who meet in the toy aisle actually get into fist fights over the toys. I've never seen it happen, but I remember from time to time other collectors breathing down my neck as they scoured the shelves from behind me, possibly hoping to spot a hot item before I did. It never happend, but what if it had? Would they have pushed me aside? What I grabbed it first? Some collectors are not above yanking items out of other people's carts or hands and literally running to the check-out lane.

Yet, I did manage to build a Hotwheels collection that I am proud of. I have some rare items that could sell for a pretty penny if I was so inclined. Of course, what I consider a pretty penny might not fit your own idea.

One thing that collectors do for a toy product is to keep the product moving off of the shelves. I've recently read about a black chrome Darth Vader that could be randomly inserted into a Lego set. Be prepared to pay high dollar for that set on the secondary market as the collectors and scalpers clear the shelves as quickly as their money will allow.

My idea of a Lego collectible would be rare minifigs, rare minifig accessories, or rare color molds packaged randomly in a side line. Say, for instance, a pack of minifigs that might only be sold for six months (or less) in which the space fig has a special trans-color visor, the town person has a uninque hair mold, the construction worker has a unique tool...

Maybe there could be a points system where you collect UPC codes (or "tokens" with computer generated numbers) and mail them in or log their numbers online for limited promotionals.

How about the action/adventure lines including limited characters. For instance, the Agents line might have a series of minifig packs with assorted villains and heroes but each one has a limited production run and the packs change out characters every 2-3 months. Or Lego could include additional characters in the sets for a limited time then remove the extras later in the production run.

People who just want to build do not need to be affected. The limited items would only appeal to collectors and the secondary market. Do it right, and there is only profit.

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