Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lego Collectibles

People can make any Lego product collectible, but Lego has a few items that are intentionally geared toward collectors.

They first experimented with the collector's market with the Bionicle masks in the first line or two. Then they offered an exclusive train engine with a limited number of uniquely printed tiles (this might be more of a limited edition item, but collectors devoured the unique tile sets as fast as they could).

The next big collector's item was the gold chrome C3P0.

Now we have a black Mind Storms NTX and a black chrome Darth Vader.

In the case of the NTX, at least collectors can order the item for a limited time. However, the C3P0 and the Darth Vader are a different beast all together. These are not only very rare, but very difficult to get a hold of. I don't remember how the C3P0 was parcled out, but I remember the community did not like it. The black chrome Darth Vader is randomly packaged in a $40 dollar set. Multiple purchases, of course, increase your chances of "winning".

What is the point of these chrome Star Wars minifigs? If anything, the vast majority of Lego Star Wars collectors are only going to be mad at not having a fair shot at getting one. I'm all for limited editions and some hard-to-find collectibles but these items are insanely difficult to find. Just a few weeks ago I saw the C3P0 on Bricklink going for $300 at the low end. I've heard that the Darth Vader is already going for upwards of $75. Once the supplies are gone, that price will only go up.

Collectors are more than willing to pay reasonable amount of money for limited editions such as these. If Lego would produce more of them and offer them for $25-$30 on thier own website, I'm confident that they would make a profit. And, since they are willing to randomly put into production rare chrome colors, we could see an entire line of chrome minifigs. How about silver R2D2? White chrome storm troopers? Red chrome guards? Maybe some more ships with chrome highlights. And since were on the topic of collectibles, how about some trans blue ghost figures?

Maybe Lego can't sell the individual minifigures at all because of the Hasbro agreement with Lucas Arts, no problem! Just add a few bricks to each figure for a diorama pack. Lego is already doing that anyway to get around the agreement.

It just doesn't make any sense to go from the extremely common shelf items to the extremely rare chrome minifigs with nothing in between. The common collector is left to either drown in product or starve for it. Give them a fighting chance for crying out loud!

Afterall, since Lego has to make a new mold for any current part they intend to chrome over because of the added thickness that the chrome adds to the part, they might as well make a profit from the effort. Otherwise, it is just wasted time and resources squandered.

Space Police 3 (Part Three)

It's been a few weeks since the new Lego Space Police line was leaked, then announced at the Canadian Toy Fare. My emotions have since gone from a wait-and-see patience to a generic "Wow!" to my current "Meh." attitude.

I thought at first that I would surely purchase all of the new Space Police sets but I have since thought it through and decided that I will not. I may not purchase a single one.

As I have stated previously, this will be the third year in a row that we have been given a main color of white. The police ships don't even have the courtesy of a secondary color, just some trans blue highlights. The pirates vehicles are black. I've lamented already that I currently have more black parts than any other color.

So, what then is my incentive to buy any of the new Space Police line?

The aliens are cool, but I will be able to get them all from Bricklink for around $20-$30 bucks plus shipping. The trans blue canopies will be must-haves, but again, Bricklink will be far cheaper for my needs.

It's funny, because this very discussion happened several years ago at Classic-Space Forums. The question was put forth weather or not we would actually get anything new from a new space line that we weren't already getting from the rest of the Lego themes. Of course, us space fans cried, "Yes, we would get something new and even if we didn't we would buy the cool sets anyway!"

Most of that appears to have been true. But now I see why the question was put forth. For the most part, the new Space Police line offers me very little.

The current trend of Lego to include conflict-in-a-box leaves the individual models lacking in detail and density. The upcoming ships are hardly imaginative or unique (although the pirate ships are certainly more so than the police ships). A third year of white with no secondary colors. For me, this line is dead out the door.

Maybe my mood will change again when I see the sets on the shelf, after all, the toy fair selections were still in various stages of prototype.

One can hope.

Lego vs. Secondary Markets

When most of us "older" builders began, Lego sets fresh off the shelf was are main supply of bricks. If a new set came out heavy with a particular color, we jumped on it and purchased multiple copies.

As our collections grew, we became more appreciative of Bricklink. Now, instead of having to spend hundreds of dollars for sets, heavy with parts we didn't need and light on parts we were after, we could just spend that money on parts that we wanted. This of course, placed our money on the secondary market instead of the Lego company.

Now, it is obvious that the fan community has grown leaps and bounds. That means more money for Lego right?

Well, maybe not.

Us older builders have taught the younger and newer ones that they can get a bargain from the secondary market. Need a jump start on your collection? Buy a 10 lbs lot off of Ebay. Need some wedges in a rare color? Don't spend your money on high dollar sets for two wedges at a time, just go to Bricklink and snatch up as many as you want for half the cost.

So, I wonder how much "new" money is going into the secondary market rather than the Lego company.

On the flip side, maybe Lego is still benefitting. Maybe the secondary market is seeing record sales so they in turn purchase a record amount of sets to keep their inventories full.

Just some interesting things to think about.

Caving In

I finally made a Bricklink order. I snatched up about 900 1x2 (45 degree) slopes of various colors, inverted and stud-on-top. The total came to a little over $50.

That's a HUGE order for me. My largest order in 2008 was $30 with all other two-digit prices only in the teens.

I went over my Bricklink history and discovered that there was almost a three-year gap between 2005 and 2008 where I placed absolutely NO orders. I did purchase a lot of sets off the shelf ( a lot for me anyway) including most of the ExoForce line and some other odds and ends. There was a number of Star Wars purchases in that time and Ferrari as well.

I have a sizable collection, but never seem to have what I need for a project. I don't really build large MOCs, but they aren't really that small either, I suppose.

Early on in my parts-gathering, I focused on plates and 2xn bricks. Big mistake. What I really needed was slopes. Lots of slopes and 1xn bricks.

To make things interesting, I was getting a nice selection of light grey and dark grey slopes when all of a sudden Lego decided to give us new shades of grey and discontinue the old. At the same time, I had to cut back on my Lego purchases so I never really grew a good selection of the new greys.

And, because I was conentrating on the greys back then, my other colors suffered.

Except for black. Somehow, though I wasn't trying at all, I ended up with more black than anything else, and I have no desire to build in black (or at least, minimum desire).

So, while I have a collection big enough to make many builders drool over, I simply don't have what I need to build what I want. I thought I did, but I've proven otherwise. And to make matters worse, recent build techniques recquire more bricks and slopes than ever.

Oh well, the parts are paid for, hopefully they will be enough to get me cracking. My WIPs are piling up, screeching for attention.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bricklink Temptations

The past few days I've been going through Bricklink with the intention of ordering some parts in colors that I am lacking.

The problem is that those colors are still somewhat new and so they are a little on the rare side. Also, because they are still somewhat new, lots of other builders are trying to build their rare color supplies as well. As a result, most American Bricklink stores are sorely lacking in these parts, creating a demand and causing an inflation of prices. Meanwhile, some foreign stores are swimming in these parts, which are more reasonably priced, IF you don't mind paying up to four times or more in shipping costs which, of course, would defeat the purpose of paying the cheaper price.

But I have ideas that I would very much like to build with those colors. But looking at various shopping carts that I have tabbed to compare my options, the costs are just too limiting. In some cases, only eight parts cost over $20.

To make matters worse, I'm not even sure what parts I will need or even want to use in my ideas. So I could easily find myself ordering parts that will never be used and be forced to place still more overly-expensive orders.

The proper thing to do is obvious. I MUST summon the patience to actually build the model(s) first as prototypes, THEN place orders for the actual parts in the colors I want.

In the meantime, I still have my other works-in-progress that I simply can't seem to find the motivation to complete. Maybe if I stopped watching T.V. for awhile I could do something more creative with that time.