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Investing In Lego Bricks For Fun But Mostly Profit

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the step-2-is-buy-lego dept.

The Almighty Buck 98

First time accepted submitter theideabulb writes "Just as stock investors have portfolios of all different sorts of stocks, Lego investors hold massive collections of Lego sets and can make annual profits that beat stocks. This article is a looking into the world of the little plastic brick that makes money for LEGO fans and a website that helps track peoples' collections to help them track their profits."

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98 comments

Um ... excuse me ... (3, Insightful)

Tim Ward (514198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42425889)

... but these people haven't made a "profit" until they have SOLD their holdings.

Who to? Other investors? What if they all sell at once?

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

eneville (745111) | about a year and a half ago | (#42425941)

I think the point here is that the collections become valuable and someone has made a value tracker for sets. The objective is not to use the toy as an investment, but if you happen to want a particular set you can use the page to locate and estimate what you should pay, or if you're selling, you can make an estimate for what you'd hope to receive for it.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426003)

I think the point here is that the collections become valuable and someone has made a value tracker for sets. The objective is not to use the toy as an investment, but if you happen to want a particular set you can use the page to locate and estimate what you should pay, or if you're selling, you can make an estimate for what you'd hope to receive for it.

direct quotes from article: " "You start to realize these are worth a lot of money," he says. "It's more of an investment." "

they're selling the idea that legos are something you can put your money into and get profit a year later from, further "And that's not an anomaly. Lego bricks, have become lucrative investments due to a confluence of bullish factors. Driving the market is the strong underlying demand for Lego bricks and sets. The toys are craved by older consumers, who now have their own money to spent on the sets rather than waiting for a birthday gift. "

they're also showing that you can take sets from two years back and sell them at double the money... though you would need to guess which sets I suppose. but the general tone is pretty bullshittishy attitude that lego sets appreciate in value better than stocks long term..

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (5, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426589)

they're selling the idea that legos are something you can put your money into and get profit a year later from, further "And that's not an anomaly. Lego bricks, have become lucrative investments due to a confluence of bullish factors. Driving the market is the strong underlying demand for Lego bricks and sets. The toys are craved by older consumers, who now have their own money to spent on the sets rather than waiting for a birthday gift. "

I hope Lego hasn't caught onto this yet. This attitude is one of the things that ruined comic books in the 90s. Publishers actually started creating comics as investment vehicles. Instead of putting an interesting story into a character's regular book, they would come up with a gimmick storyline and concoct some way to make it a #1 issue. Then they would print six different versions of #1 with a different cover on each. Some of the covers would be rarer than others. The main difference would be that they were stamped with holographic foil or some other printing gimmick -- or even more often, the variant covers were drawn by artists who were way more popular than the one who actually drew the story.

The problem with all of this, naturally, is that it meant these #1 issues were printed in massive supply. In many cases, owing to all the variant versions, there were far more of them printed than there was actual demand. Because, after all, there was a relatively small window to convince collectors to buy any particular #1 issue, given that there would be five more coming out the following month. Not surprisingly, before the end of the 90s the market had pretty much collapsed.

I remember standing in a comic book store around 1998 and a guy called up wanting to sell his comic book collection. He began rattling off all of the "interesting" and "collectible" comics in his set. The store owner cut him off. "Yeah ... yeah," he said, "Tell me this: What do they weigh? I'll give you a buck a pound for them."

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426861)

See also: baseball cards or Beanie Babies.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426931)

Yup, anything created for the sake of collecting has next to no practical appreciation value. The worst offenders are things like anniversary re-releases of various things. It does nothing but muddy the actual market for the real collectibles. No serious collector will buy a reproduction no matter how attractive or collectible they try to make it look. It almost makes you feel sorry for the people investing in these kinds of things expecting to make some sort of return later.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42428047)

Worse yet is the fact that Lego can reintroduce any of these collectible sets at any time. (Possibly owing a tied-in movie some additional revenue).

These sets are the ultimate in abandon-ware. Created for a short run, then the company moves on to some other fad, but always using the same parts.

The kids that find them under the Christmas tree could care less if its StarWars, or Dinosaurs, because they are only going to make little houses out of them, and become bored with them quickly.

Its easy to put inflated prices for particular sets on a web page, but who actually seeks these things out and spends good money on them?

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

dadioflex (854298) | about a year and a half ago | (#42428213)

Worse yet is the fact that Lego can reintroduce any of these collectible sets at any time. (Possibly owing a tied-in movie some additional revenue).

These sets are the ultimate in abandon-ware. Created for a short run, then the company moves on to some other fad, but always using the same parts.

The kids that find them under the Christmas tree could care less if its StarWars, or Dinosaurs, because they are only going to make little houses out of them, and become bored with them quickly.

Its easy to put inflated prices for particular sets on a web page, but who actually seeks these things out and spends good money on them?

I think you've managed to misunderstand how kids' brains work, the meaning of the term "abandonware" and the ultra-custom nature of modern Lego sets all in a single post.

My nephew likes Darth Maul and Lego. Hey, there's bound to be a Lego set with Maul in it, right? There is. Good luck finding it with a price tag less than five times the original RRP. Whether anyone buys them is, I agree, an entirely different manner. I got him Meccano instead.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

mianne (965568) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426977)

See also: the baseball card bubble [slate.com] of the late 1980's, then recall that Beanie Babies were also hyped as investments around the same time as those comic books. Now you've even got investing lingo subtly worked into the direct advertising for many kids' games and toys. "Gotta catch 'em all!", "special display case" etc.

This linked article about Lego investors reeks of being bought and paid for by by current "investors" hoping to fuel a massive Lego collecting craze, and then dump their stock onto the market for huge profits and ruin yet another popular toy for the kids who'd actually benefit from actually playing with them. If this were an article about a traditional investment (Stock, mutual fund, etc.) I'd expect the SEC would be investigating it as a "pump and dump" scheme.

Perhaps the only bright spot in this is that if they successfully create a great Lego bubble, then in 10-20 years, Legos will readily be available for about $1 per pound too!

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (4, Informative)

Keith Mickunas (460655) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427063)

I think Lego is onto this. After all, if you go to their website and check out the sets they are selling now, they mark certain ones as "Exclusive" or "Hard to find". Also, most sets are sold for 2 to 2.5 years, and if they are made again they are different. It does seem that they are feeding this part of the market purposefully.

I've been collecting Star Wars sets since the big Millennium Falcon came out a few years back. I'm buying mainly OT sets and have them on display, I'm not worried about resale. In the time I've been collection I've seen two different X-Wing sets produced, and I know there was an earlier one, also one of the earlier sets was sold in two kits, one standard, one wrecked on Dagobah. Each of these sets is different, and comes with different mini-figures.

There's also been 3 or more Slave 1 sets, with one of those being Jango's. I believe the main difference between that and the other was just color. Naturally anything involving Boba goes up in value quickly, so I only own the one that was released recently.

Mini-figures is a key marker of value. Some people buy the sets, and then sell the sets and the figures separately on e-bay. It's a good way to pick up extra sets if you aren't worry about collectability and value.

A few years back Lego started producing a line of very nice modular town buildings that snap together to form a long European city style street. These are all about 3 stories, come with lots of little extras and several figures, and retail for around $200 each. One of the early ones, and this is only maybe 6 or 7 years old, now goes for about $1,000 on ebay. I've read a post from someone at Lego that says this very desirable set will never be produced again, and one reason is that the molds for some of the doors/windows doesn't exist anymore. So doing something like that certainly makes it seem like they are helping inflate the value of the sets. They even publish books detailing all the Star Wars mini-figures. Turns out they make minor changes set-to-set for even the major characters. I don't think the books mentions any value, but it's obvious the purpose is to help collectors track which figures they have.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42428241)

I remember standing in a comic book store around 1998 and a guy called up wanting to sell his comic book collection. He began rattling off all of the "interesting" and "collectible" comics in his set. The store owner cut him off. "Yeah ... yeah," he said, "Tell me this: What do they weigh? I'll give you a buck a pound for them."

This is a whole lot funnier in Comic Book Guy voice.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426087)

... but these people haven't made a "profit" until they have SOLD their holdings.

Who to? Other investors? What if they all sell at once?

Also, if I start trading in Legos do I have to send a bag of bricks to the IRS every quarter? If so can I just go by weight? Do I have to give a fair mix including some of the more desirable blocks or can I just send a bunch of the 4x4 plantar penetrators that no sane person wants near their floor?

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (5, Funny)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426097)

When you invest in real estate you have to send a portion of the land and building to the IRS every quarter. And people who invest in gold have to send gold to the IRS every quarter. And people who invest in stocks have to send a few stocks to the IRS every quarter.

So obviously yes you'd have to send some lego to the IRS every quarter.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

wulfhere (94308) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426311)

Replying to undo moderation.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (3, Funny)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426941)

What if I collect toenail clippings? Does the IRS want in on this?

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42431327)

Have you also thought of that famous joke?... Consider collecting foreskin clippings instead, it's classic.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

billcarson (2438218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426673)

As long as liquidity keeps up, that shouldn't be a problem.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

bluescrn (2120492) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427041)

As a bit of a Lego fan myself, some discontinued sets, such as some of the older large Technic sets, are very desirable, and *appear* to fetch a high price when sold as a new/sealed set. (Example: http://www.amazon.co.uk/LEGO-Technic-8421-Mobile-Crane/dp/B00097E4JW/ [amazon.co.uk] - 4 sellers wanting over £1000 for what will have been maybe £150 originally)

Not sure how many people are actually paying that price, though, when there's the option of buying used sets for a fraction of the price, or buying modern sets instead. Perhaps they are just being traded between collectors/investors, and sadly never being built and played with as intended!

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

bluescrn (2120492) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427057)

Although after posting that, I spotted that the 8421 set was available used for around £150 and new for around £300 via www.bricklink.com - so there's some Amazon-related pricing shenanigans pushing those other prices to excessive levels...

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42427169)

For the LEGO Mobile Crane, #8421, try Bricklink, http://www.bricklink.com/search.asp?itemID=55844, it's about $500 USD new and $250 USD used and complete.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42427271)

Umm, Since they are selling to other investors nothing happens to Lego, since the money is still held by investors.

Now if they all sold at once what you would see is that the supply would suddenly be flooded, this would probably not be mirrored by demand. This would drive the price down, since there would not be enough demand to match supply it's probable that most of the investors would be unable to sell. Now as everyone did manage to sell, you would see supplies dwindle. The long term price would remain the same, but the short term prices would show a severe drop. In the end your result would be a few people making a huge fortune, while others would loose an equivalent fortune. It wouldn't look good for Lego, but it wouldn't hurt them too much.

Use a little logic when you make these statements, it's not like selling stock suddenly erases the capital the stock stands for.

Small scale short term not long term (1)

Narrowband (2602733) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427317)

I could see this working as a short term investment, rather than a long term holding. For example, there was an "ultimate collector series" millenium falcon they made (which was huge, much bigger than the set my son plays with) that sold for about $500. If I'd thought about it, I'd have realized it would sell out and that only a couple of years later, it would be worth $1800-2000, for about a 200% to 300% profit. It's not major income, but a small, short term thing that could have generated some hobby funds or something.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (1)

theideabulb (2804781) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427683)

... but these people haven't made a "profit" until they have SOLD their holdings.

Who to? Other investors? What if they all sell at once?

I think you should read some of the blog articles at the main website about this topic http://www.brickpicker.com./ [www.brickpicker.com] I think that will answer most of your questions. If you have good sets and sell all at once, i am sure you will make a nice profit.

Re:Um ... excuse me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42427909)

congratulations. you've just realised how the real stock market works.
the only difference is is dividends, where partial the profits of the company were shared out to investors

I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42425893)

Are you listening?

Plastics

There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Re:I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (1)

cvtan (752695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42425991)

I want to say TWO words to you. Beanie Babies. Think about that.

Re:I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (1)

todrules (882424) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426183)

I want to say THREE words to you. Cabbage Patch Kids. Think about that.

Re:I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426299)

I want to say FOUR words to you. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Think about that.

Re:I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426503)

I want to say FIVE words to you. But not sure which five.

Re:I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426531)

Overrated? Well consider this. I'm AC, so you're not harming anyone's karma. I also started at a score of zero. If you don't think it was funny, fine. But I think most people would consider it a waste of a mod point to lower an innocuous AC post from 0 to -1.

Re:I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (2)

PCM2 (4486) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426657)

I want to say FIVE words to you. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pogs. Think about that.

Re:I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (1)

pr0nbot (313417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426985)

I get the reference, but what I came to say is... Of all the companies that I can think of, I would say Lego is most vulnerable to a 3D printing boom. It may start with printing replacement pieces. It'd be a long slow decline though, a la CD, as I can't see 3D printers becoming ubiquitous that soon, nor can I see them being capable of producing all the pieces (transparent plastics, etc).

Re:I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42427677)

I get the reference, but what I came to say is...

Of all the companies that I can think of, I would say Lego is most vulnerable to a 3D printing boom. It may start with printing replacement pieces. It'd be a long slow decline though, a la CD, as I can't see 3D printers becoming ubiquitous that soon, nor can I see them being capable of producing all the pieces (transparent plastics, etc).

Actually Lego is pretty damn safe from 3D printing. IIRC Lego molds are broken and replaced every 1000 bricks to conform to the rigid Lego standards.

This is a huge reason why all of my 30yo Lego bricks still fit together with the satiating Lego "snap".

This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (5, Insightful)

RobinH (124750) | about a year and a half ago | (#42425949)

I'm sure it worked well when there were only a few people doing it, buying the collector's edition sets and selling them when they're no longer available, but once this kind of information about an imbalance in the market hits the news (as it just has) then you'll see a whole bunch of people pile into the market. They're all speculators. The price goes up. It's a bubble. The first people out "win" and the rest lose money. It's such a scam for them to talk about it in terms of annualized returns. That makes it sound like you can do this over and over every year. This is just market prices changing, and they tend to correct quickly. If you're thinking of getting into this market, I caution you it's a very bad idea.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426019)

That would only be a problem if there were many who RTFA.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426027)

Exactly correct. Legos are just like any other collectable. When the supply exceeds the demand, prices will plummet. That day will come soon. As the baby boomers dump their collections, either to pay for their retirement, because they are moving into smaller living quarters and don't have space or because they died and their heirs aren't interested, there will be a glut on the market of much of this stuff.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (1)

RobinH (124750) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426597)

I don't think it will take that long. Speculators will increase demand for *new sets* but it's not a precious commodity. If Lego sees more demand for a new set, they'll make sure they make more of them. It's just plastic. That will mean lots of speculators will be sitting on sets they don't really want, and there'll be a glut of them on E-Bay. That will transfer wads of cash from speculators to Lego. Possibly lots of cash from late speculators to early speculators, but that's it. People who actually want Lego to play with might be able to pick up newer sets for cheaper than retail price on E-Bay too, which would be OK.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42428777)

I don't think it will take that long. Speculators will increase demand for *new sets* but it's not a precious commodity. If Lego sees more demand for a new set, they'll make sure they make more of them. It's just plastic. That will mean lots of speculators will be sitting on sets they don't really want, and there'll be a glut of them on E-Bay. That will transfer wads of cash from speculators to Lego. Possibly lots of cash from late speculators to early speculators, but that's it. People who actually want Lego to play with might be able to pick up newer sets for cheaper than retail price on E-Bay too, which would be OK.

Here's my maths: Number of sets sold = Number of sets purchased and built + number of sets purchased as unwanted presents + number of sets purchased by speculators. By creating new sets all the time and releasing them for a short time, the company can sell lots of expensive sets to speculators. They could even have employees put sets on eBay and then buy them off each other for five times original price to keep up the appearance of speculative gains.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (3, Interesting)

skine (1524819) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426061)

I'm sure that it will work incredibly well for Lego for quite a while yet. They've found a way to increase sales.

The only question is as to whether Lego will go the way of the Beanie Babies.

Thankfully, for the rest of us, all we have to sit back and laugh until the bubble bursts, and we're able to buy mint sets cheaply in a few years time.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (1)

RobinH (124750) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426567)

Yes, Lego is definitely winning in this. Now it's true that they likely won't make another Millennium Falcon (but who really knows?) so those prices might stay high, now you're going to have collectors running in and buying all the new collector's edition Lego sets, and Lego will just make sure to make more of those sets to meet the demands of the collectors who are in it for the money (not the people who actually want to buy a set because it's cool/nostalgic/whatever). That means all future models will likely have more supply than the true demand. Either you got in early with the Millennium Falcon set, or you're late to the game like everyone else.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (1)

avandesande (143899) | about a year and a half ago | (#42434341)

Why are you comparing them to Beanie Babies? The majority of Lego sets are purchased to play with, and unlike Beanie Babies there will always be interest in buying a set even for just it's play value, so there is a floor on the price. I do agree though that if there is a mania over this that many will be burned....

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426155)

I'm sure it worked well when there were only a few people doing it, buying the collector's edition sets and selling them when they're no longer available, but once this kind of information about an imbalance in the market hits the news (as it just has) then you'll see a whole bunch of people pile into the market.

Then, too, if the copyrighted Lego bricks are not made in the US, soon it might not be possible to re-sell them [techdirt.com] , and thus they will be worthless as an investment.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (1)

Jessified (1150003) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426371)

Not to mention we are at the dawn of the age of 3D printer. If you want to make money you should "short" the bricks. Maybe you can hedge that with an option.

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (1)

Urkki (668283) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427989)

Not to mention we are at the dawn of the age of 3D printer. If you want to make money you should "short" the bricks. Maybe you can hedge that with an option.

Considering current speed of 3D printers, combined with the tolerances of Lego, we're quite a long way (I say a decade minimum) from having reasonably priced 3D printers which can produce real Lego-quality bricks, let alone counterfeits which could pass as the real thing (colors etc), never mind the unit cost of single brick.

And even if 3D printing drives Lego to bankruptcy, what do you think will happen to the prices of real Lego packets? Or even to prices of real used Lego bricks in a big bin? Are they going to go down?

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42428649)

And even if 3D printing drives Lego to bankruptcy, what do you think will happen to the prices of real Lego packets? Or even to prices of real used Lego bricks in a big bin? Are they going to go down?

Are you going to be able to tell the difference?

Re:This is basically a pump and dump scheme now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426409)

It has all the earmarks of a bubble. Even though the article acknowledges the risks, it's not a smart idea. At least some of them understand there's a risk of a market crash, mentioning that it's still of value as an amusing toy even if market won't buy them anymore. I doubt the guy with 3000+ sets is going to be able to play with them all though.

High risk, low return (5, Insightful)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a year and a half ago | (#42425997)

I think if Beanie Babies have taught me anything, it is that toy collecting is extremely volatile, and if people think they can buy something for collecting or investing, chances are, it will never increase significantly in value.

As for this article, being that it came long after many "investors" have bought their stocks, it smells oddly like just a run-of-the-mill pump-and-dump scam. Except that instead of posting it on obscure investment "advice" sites, they used the Lego brand nerd attraction to post this BS somewhere mainstream.

Re:High risk, low return (1)

605dave (722736) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426007)

I can see why people are drawing this comparison, but I don't think it applies. Beanie Babies were a fad that came and went, and Legos have been around for 40 or more years. I think Lego has proven they are not a fad. That's not to say that there isn't a danger in this strategy, only that I think there is a little more permanence to Legos than posters are giving them credit for.

Re:High risk, low return (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426033)

So were comic books and trading cards. Both existed a long time before they had their collector bubbles, and now the collector markets for both are almost dead. Even though both comics and cards continue to exist, they are worth almost nothing as short term collectables. As long term (like 50-100 years) they may increase in value.

Re:High risk, low return (1)

cob666 (656740) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426365)

I believe the collector market is dead for comics simply BECAUSE there was a collector's market. Once Marvel (and others) started releasing Limited Collector Editions it was the beginning of the end.

Re:High risk, low return (2)

davidannis (939047) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426053)

Five centuries ago people collected tulip bulbs. They became an investment and a bust followed. A century or two ago people commonly collected birds eggs. They've been around a lot longer than Legos too, but a bird egg collection today is not worth much. The postage stamp collection market is not what it once was because it is a lot cheaper to print stamps then it is to buy them. I'd not bet on Legos enduring because they've existed for 40 years.

An American moron... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426617)

" it is a lot cheaper to print stamps THEN it is to buy them"

What is it with you Americans and the word 'than'? Don't you understand that 'then' and 'that' are not the same word as the word 'than'? You fucking moron.

Re:An American moron... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426771)

I'm actually from the UK.

They'll stick around... (1)

Kenshin (43036) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427373)

The collectors market will certainly disappear, but Lego won't (unless they're foolish and bank on the collectors market.)

Parents will always buy their kids Lego, because it's a fun and creative toy with universal appeal. Your average parent doesn't give a damn about the collectability of Lego, just that it will keep their kid occupied with something constructive.

Re:High risk, low return (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426055)

Legos have been around for 40 or more years. I think Lego has proven they are not a fad.

I was brought up on generic sets some time ago. "This month's disney movie tie in" and "video game of the year" are much more faddish markets. Don't get me wrong, its a fun fad... but its still "just" a fad.

From memory I was brought up on the "city builder" sets which were approx 1 sq foot city blocks, sorta (like a fire house, etc), and I remember a very generic yet cool space ship series, and something like "expert builder" like a car with moving pistons, a working 2-speed transmission, and working rack and pinion steering. I'm sure they had faddish "original release of star wars" kits or board games that I don't remember... The danger is "investing" in something that only makes sense to a kid of 2012 and is destined for the recycle bin for a kid of 2022.

Re:High risk, low return (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42429717)

All that stuff still exists, and you can still order assorted base plates to build your own creations on. The "Expert" sets have long been called "Technics" and includes robotics sold as "Mindstorms", and have only gotten fancier. I have two of the snazziest sets that I got back when I had more disposable income, a big red car with a 5-speed transmission with reverse and the tow truck which is one of the nicer pneumatic sets (there's also a really great crane truck...) and if I'd kept the tow truck in the box it would be worth buckets of ducats today

Re:High risk, low return (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426411)

I can see why people are drawing this comparison, but I don't think it applies. Beanie Babies were a fad that came and went, and Legos have been around for 40 or more years. I think Lego has proven they are not a fad. That's not to say that there isn't a danger in this strategy, only that I think there is a little more permanence to Legos than posters are giving them credit for.

Lego is not a fad. However, buying Lego sets and selling them for a profit is a fad. As an example, the 6000 parts Taj Mahal was for sale around £200 I believe and now people try to sell it for £1000. It's obviously not worth that as a toy, because you get equally challenging sets for £200 - why would you pay five times as much? The only ones paying that money are idiots who think it is an investment. And once you run out of idiots, the prices will drop.

Re:High risk, low return (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426611)

Lego is not a fad. However, buying Lego sets and selling them for a profit is a fad. As an example, the 6000 parts Taj Mahal was for sale around £200 I believe and now people try to sell it for £1000. It's obviously not worth that as a toy, because you get equally challenging sets for £200 - why would you pay five times as much? The only ones paying that money are idiots who think it is an investment. And once you run out of idiots, the prices will drop.

We're running out of idiots? Surprise surprise surprise.

Re:High risk, low return (1)

Stickerboy (61554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427405)

Lego is not a fad. However, buying Lego sets and selling them for a profit is a fad. As an example, the 6000 parts Taj Mahal was for sale around £200 I believe and now people try to sell it for £1000. It's obviously not worth that as a toy, because you get equally challenging sets for £200 - why would you pay five times as much? The only ones paying that money are idiots who think it is an investment. And once you run out of idiots, the prices will drop.

We're running out of idiots? Surprise surprise surprise.

Well, everything, and I do mean everything, exists in a finite supply. What's more limiting than simply the number of idiots is 1) the amount of ready-to-spend cash held by idiots and 2) the attention span of idiots before they jump at the next make-money-with-no-effort scheme.

Re:High risk, low return (1)

Urkki (668283) | about a year and a half ago | (#42428035)

We're running out of idiots? Surprise surprise surprise.

Yes. Even though idiots are a naturally renewing resource, one scammer can easily harvest money from hundreds of idiots. We may very well run out of idiots before we run out of scammers...

Re:High risk, low return (1)

theideabulb (2804781) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427901)

Lego is not a fad. However, buying Lego sets and selling them for a profit is a fad. As an example, the 6000 parts Taj Mahal was for sale around £200 I believe and now people try to sell it for £1000. It's obviously not worth that as a toy, because you get equally challenging sets for £200 - why would you pay five times as much? The only ones paying that money are idiots who think it is an investment. And once you run out of idiots, the prices will drop.

You are just another person who "thinks" you understand what's going on. You can't buy the Taj Mahal anymore. Right there makes it a collectible. Now you have people who are older and have jobs that can help them buy it. If you are a LEGO fan that always wanted this set, you will be the one willing to pay the price in order to have it. Its not really investors selling to to investors. Its investors selling to fans that can financially support it or other collectors.

Re:High risk, low return (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42428721)

You are just another person who "thinks" you understand what's going on. You can't buy the Taj Mahal anymore. Right there makes it a collectible. Now you have people who are older and have jobs that can help them buy it. If you are a LEGO fan that always wanted this set, you will be the one willing to pay the price in order to have it. Its not really investors selling to to investors. Its investors selling to fans that can financially support it or other collectors.

If you are a Lego fan who always wanted the set, you bought it when it was released. Why on earth would you want to "collect" these? That's like when the iMacs were released in five colours and there was actually an Apple advert saying "collect them all" - I hope everyone got that it was a joke.

Scarcity doesn't make it a collectible, since Lego can make a new run any time they want. The "people who are older and have jobs" had jobs last year as well when Lego was selling the set. It's not investors selling to fans, its one lot of speculators selling to another lot of speculators (plus the odd fan taking his £200 Taj Mahal apart and back in the box and taking advantage of the speculators, using the money to buy four current sets of equal size).

Re:High risk, low return (1)

CycleMan (638982) | about a year and a half ago | (#42433065)

If you are a LEGO fan that always wanted this set, you will be the one willing to pay the price in order to have it. Its not really investors selling to to investors. Its investors selling to fans that can financially support it or other collectors.

If you are a Lego fan who always wanted the set, you bought it when it was released.

Perhaps he didn't know about that set when it was released. Or perhaps she was a poor starving grad student at the time. Or perhaps ... there are a bunch of reasons why someone wants to buy things now and wasn't buying it then. There was one kid who wanted the Emerald Night Train and his parents told him to save his allowance to buy it; by the time he had saved enough, LEGO was no longer making it.

If I were to buy LEGO nowadays, I'd want more of the classic kits -- the City stuff, the Knights stuff -- and not the movie tie-ins they produce so much of nowadays. And LEGO still makes some of what I like, but things like road plates are not commonly made.

Re:High risk, low return (3, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426245)

I think if Beanie Babies have taught me anything, it is that toy collecting is extremely volatile, and if people think they can buy something for collecting or investing, chances are, it will never increase significantly in value. As for this article, being that it came long after many "investors" have bought their stocks, it smells oddly like just a run-of-the-mill pump-and-dump scam. Except that instead of posting it on obscure investment "advice" sites, they used the Lego brand nerd attraction to post this BS somewhere mainstream.

The real problem with the strategy is not someone trying to run a pump and dump but that there is no liquidity in the LEGO market. Just because a set went for $400 on Amazon doesn't mean your set is worth that; you still have to find a willing buyer at that price. There is simply too little volume to accurately assess value. Add to that the limited size of the collector's market and it's not a real scalable solution - just because LEGO sells xx sets at $100 and a year later a few are sold at $200 doesn't mean the rest could be sold at $200.

Finally, returns should not be calculated based on a few sales and the estimated value of the rest of the sets; rather look at the actual cash received less outflows for insurance / storage/ etc. divided by the invested capital. Compare that ROI to other investments and see if the potential is worth the risk.

Sure, you can make a few bucks off of LEGO, especially for high end limited editions, but it's not a strategy that would work for any sizable portfolio. When you add in the risk of LEGO deciding to reissue a piece or continue to make it so there is no secondary market and the risk/reward ratio may not be so favorable.

Ruining it for the kids in the name of greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426011)

Lego regularly release themed sets, they're not around for a huge amount of time. These people buy them all up as soon as they're out preventing children from discovering them until they're all gone. Kids don't sit monitoring websites for product releases, they see something a friend may have and get into it, they then get excited and try to find out more about them, see the product on Lego's site, and then get upset it's no longer available except for triple the price on ebay or amazon affiliate stores. Net result, parents says "sorry kid".

Re:Ruining it for the kids in the name of greed (2)

wulfhere (94308) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426351)

I tend to agree with you. I had similar problems when my kids got into the Marvel Super Hero Squad figures, which were aimed at younger children. I was excited because it seemed like a great way to introduce my kids into something awesome, but some figures were impossible to find, unless you went online and paid 2-5 times the retail price from collectors.

We've had similar problems with other toys. For my money, these guys are asshats.

Re:Ruining it for the kids in the name of greed (1)

Smauler (915644) | about a year and a half ago | (#42428193)

No... the asshats are the corporations that sell limited numbers to try to pump the 2nd hand price to get their product in the news. There is _no_ reason why the corporation just cannot produce more, if there is demand.

Re:Ruining it for the kids in the name of greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426613)

Lego regularly release themed sets, they're not around for a huge amount of time. These people buy them all up as soon as they're out preventing children from discovering them until they're all gone. Kids don't sit monitoring websites for product releases, they see something a friend may have and get into it, they then get excited and try to find out more about them, see the product on Lego's site, and then get upset it's no longer available except for triple the price on ebay or amazon affiliate stores. Net result, parents says "sorry kid".

What we need is for greed to come to the rescue. Some Chinese company should make identical rip-offs of all these toys, and then sell them online, destroying the idiots' market.

Editing (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426015)

This article has several spelling and grammar errors. It could use some editing. Call me an elitist, but I distrust the veracity of sources that can't get the language right.

Re:Editing (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426815)

This article has several spelling and grammar errors. It could use some editing. Call me an elitist, but I distrust the veracity of sources that can't get the language right.

Some articles are obviously posted 'on the fly' from a mobile. One tipoff is seeing a period. where it doesn't belong.

NOT a commodity (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426023)

"These things are gold," Jeff says.

A huge mistake in that comparison.

Gold is produced by a zillion miners all over the world at a more or less long term stable labor cost

Gold can be repurposed / recycled / remanufactured pretty much infinitely

Gold at least fundamentally has a long term "drain" to the market in industrial processes and electronic connectors, etc, and a medium term "drain" as in give a girl a piece of gold jewelry and it "probably" won't be melted down for a lifetime or at least a little while anyway. So the market has both a source and a drain (no gate, so its not a FET (sorry)) and its got both short liquid traders and long term non-liquid owners. Those combined make a stable long term market.

Lego is the opposite of all of those characteristics of gold. For example, nothing stopping Lego Inc from buying short futures on the price of the classic millennium falcon, and shipping a million $50 made-in-china clones imploding the price, making serious bank off the futures and selling new identical sets to all the suckers.

He is correct that lego from an inflation standpoint is an adequate stand in for any other generic commodity. It is, fundamentally, a refined petroleum product. Made out of oil, shipped by oil... So on a long term basis should track oil, more or less. The imaginary govt propaganda inflation numbers don't count energy prices in order to keep the figures low... no great surprise that an oil surrogate product is rising in price faster than the propaganda inflation number. For a very small time investor its a pretty good commodity oil surrogate, can anyone think of a better one? Better as in a more "pure" surrogate or higher weight/volume cost density?

Re:NOT a commodity (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426073)

"These things are gold," Jeff says.

A huge mistake in that comparison.

But a fairly reasonable metaphor (as far as Jeff's opinion goes), which is all it is.

Re:NOT a commodity (1)

theideabulb (2804781) | about a year and a half ago | (#42427673)

"These things are gold," Jeff says.

A huge mistake in that comparison.

But a fairly reasonable metaphor (as far as Jeff's opinion goes), which is all it is.

Good point that many people probably just don't get. Its amazing when people take things out of context.

Re:NOT a commodity (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426135)

He is correct that lego from an inflation standpoint is an adequate stand in for any other generic commodity. It is, fundamentally, a refined petroleum product. Made out of oil, shipped by oil... So on a long term basis should track oil, more or less. The imaginary govt propaganda inflation numbers don't count energy prices in order to keep the figures low... no great surprise that an oil surrogate product is rising in price faster than the propaganda inflation number. For a very small time investor its a pretty good commodity oil surrogate, can anyone think of a better one? Better as in a more "pure" surrogate or higher weight/volume cost density?

An oil ETF? I suspect the commissions are lower than the storage costs of keeping cardboard boxes in mint condition.

Re:NOT a commodity (2)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about a year and a half ago | (#42433037)

Lego don't even need to short the classic sets. If people are willing to pay these extreme prices for the sets it means that they are in demand. It makes sense for a company to produce and sell products which are in demand.

It's different this time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426035)

It's LEGOs ffs. How cool is that?

Re:It's different this time! (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426077)

Actually it's "LEGO," mass noun, ffs.

Re:It's different this time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426689)

Actually it's "LEGO moulded plastic textured construction blocks (R) TM patent pending etc" thank you very much.

I never understood why trademark law requires that the company police their customers to make sure they use the name the right way or they lose their trademark. I should be able to "Google it" without Google's army of lawyers breaking a sweat.

Re:It's different this time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42431773)

Easy way to remember this...

A sheep. Some sheep.
LEGO. Some LEGO.

you know the best part of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426047)

because you're selling used items, the profits are untraceable! no taxes! take that 1%ers!!!!!!

Possible profits. Certain risk. (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426131)

This is the same as other collectibles like Beenie Babies or Magic: The Gathering cards. Yes you can make money at it but it is a tiny market and carries a lot of risk, particularly inventory risk, liquidity risk, and demand risk. It's one thing to buy Legos at wholesale and sell at retail. It is quite a lot more difficult to make money trading on volatility and relative scarcity. Furthermore this only works if there is a relatively small number of people doing it who have knowledge of the market that is not widely known. If it becomes a Beenie Baby craze, people will jump in and turn it into a bubble that will inevitably pop.

Toy Trains, art and paperwork (1)

grumling (94709) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426257)

Toy trains are a much better long term investment. People have been trading them since Lionel started producing them, and today's manufacturers understand that limited editions can sell new for huge margins as long as they keep them truly limited, with documentation to back up how many are made, etc. That's the key. The only way the secondary sales market will survive is if the manufacturers get their piece of the action too. I don't see where Lego is really doing that, except for the crazy-expensive kits that are just for show in the stores.

It's a lot like the art market, where signed numbered prints are the only ones that have any value. There's nothing stopping artists from cranking out millions of prints, but they understand that the secondary market wants scarcity.

One word: Barbies (5, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426293)

Barbies apparently do appreciate in time, but it's because they intentionally manufacture limited runs/editions. Not so Legos: if something is selling well, they make more of them. You can still buy brad new Death Star kits.

My sister used to buy Barbies for my niece, and I came to visit once, and there were these boxes of barbies over her bed. She had never been allowed to take them out and play with them. hat day, I immediately went down to the store, bought several + outfits, and ripped them all open, stuffed them in a cardboard box so nothing remained of the original wrapping, and brought them over to my niece so she could finally play with the damn things. To this day, I am her favorite uncle.

It's OK to invest in toys for known to be limited runs (i.e. generally not Legos, whose meaning for "Limited Edition" is "sold only at the Lego store and one or two other chains, not everywhere"), but don't torture your kids with the things, that's all I've got to say.

Speculation (1)

bigdavex (155746) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426349)

You invest in something that can create wealth.
You speculate in something whose market value might change.

LEGO sealed off in a tub doesn't produce wealth. Speculating in the LEGO market isn't investing.

LEGO does have value, because it is fun and educational, but only in the quantities that you are actually using.

If you use toys for collecting your a moron. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426379)

Yes its true a lot of toys can be sold for a profit later on. Like say some transformers you paid 50 bucks for in the 80s are now worth 200 bucks, thats a good profit. But is it really worth buy every toy, waiting 30 years or more in the hopes you can turn your 50 dollars into 200 dollars? That is a incredibly poor investment if it takes you 30 years to earn 150 dollars.

Then you have things like beanie babies that were on fire and sold for mad money and suddenly one day they arent worth shit and no one cares about them anymore. If you invested in them, especially at above msrp you screwed yourself.

Bottom line is if you use toys as investments youre stupid. You should buy toys because you enjoy them, not because you hope they might one day send your kids to college (unless you have a 1 in a billion toy or just a insanely large collection it wont send your kids to college). Its a bad investment. Investing in rare earth metals, old graded comic books, a good chunk of money in a bank with a good interest rate and so are are far more dependable and will net you more money for your time.

Image Comics and Wal-Mart (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426461)

Reminds me of when Image Comics release all those #1 issues. A $1.95 issue was instantly $10 (or more) for no supply-and-demand reason. And then I walked into Wal-Mart and saw bags of mint condition #1 issues for less than cover price, all over the place. So much for scarcity. Image Comics had sold a lot of their print run to Wal-Mart, who thought a four-issue mini-series would come out in four months, not two years. Suddenly, after the #1 issues had all been grabbed up by speculators, Wal-Mart finally bagged up all four issues of those first mini-series from Image Comics and flooded their stores with cheap #1 issues. The comics industry has never recovered from the speculator implosion that came after that. Word to the wise!

Wait. What? All you play with is the Box?! (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426481)

They're saying the "sets" of Lego become valuable.... So, the damned cardboard box? I mean, let's say I have many sets of Legos: I see a new rare "set" I don't have, so I just use the other sets to create the same thing that's in the rare Lego set. Now, if that collection of parts didn't just increase in value to become as valuable as the rare set, then what these folks are investing in isn't Lego it's Lego Packaging.

Even the newer sets with different shaped pieces for space ship cockpits or different colors or with little magnets they had several different sets all made of the same pieces. A number of not-valuable partial sets could be made into a "rare" set. It seems to me these fools are ignoring what even makes Lego interesting, and are instead valuing the damn boxes like any other toy collectors are wont to do, e.g., with figurines.

Suddenly, "Investing in Toys with Pristine Packaging" sounds a lot less desirable. Now, if they actually got together hacker-space style and charged entry to a giant evolving Lego city you could build in, THAT might be an interesting way to make money with a huge Lego collection...

Re:Wait. What? All you play with is the Box?! (1)

Liquidrage (640463) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426539)

It's the unique pieces per set, that you're undervaluing even though you kinda mentioned them, combined with availability, that makes the set go up in price. LEGO has done a very good job (from their point of view) of making pieces unique. You can even buy a single pack of a unique LEGO figure for about $3 retail, but which one you get is a mystery (unless you read the bumps on the bottom of the packet which is a PITA) and some are worth more than others. So it's not the box at all, it's about the unique pieces that only exist in a certain set. I have a 5 year old and my wife has become a LEGO addict after buying him his first lego sets. Right now we have the $150 Pet Shop on order and it should be here next week. And that, btw is retail price and IIRC comes out to about 6 cents per brick so it's a nice set. In a year it will easily be $200+ set, which it sells for right now at a few places, and it sold out in many places and was one set lego not allowed in brick and mortar stores.

Shipping Costs (1)

KalvinB (205500) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426649)

I bought a Toy Story Lego train set for $50. Two of them actually, when Walmart had them steeply discounted. My daughter has one she can play with. One is still in the box. They're now selling for $83 on Amazon at minimum. I tried selling it once, got to UPS who wanted $30 to ship it, and promptly cancelled the sale. Amazon charged the customer only a few dollars for shipping.

Sure the price has gone up (or rather, stayed steady since the original price was around $80) but shipping costs make it so that the only one making any money on it is the shipping company.

Not much of an investment when the "gain" will go to shipping it to the buyer.

Re:Shipping Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42433233)

Your problem was trying to ship UPS.. USPS parcel post is the low cost way to go.

Just wait till the re-issues... (1)

cianduffy (742890) | about a year and a half ago | (#42426785)

Lego have re-issued sets before, including large/expensive ones, as a "Legends" line. There's also been adhoc re-issues of sets other than the Legends line. All it takes is Lego to do the same again with the few sets that are being ridiculously hoarded and traded at obscene prices for some people (Those who bought early) being left with no gains and some (those who bought in older sets late) being left hugely out of pocket. The more they push it as an investment idea, the more Lego may realise there's demand for the sets to be reissued.

I'm at around 500% average. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42426797)

I bought guns and every time the president opens his mouth they spike in value. Best president ever as he's going to let me pay my medical bills without some tax collector sticking a gun in your face.
Something I paid $800 for is going for $2,500 now. One I paid $65 for as 'broken' is now worth $3,000.

You need to have him threaten to ban Legos.

Oh, yea when one of the food blatherers like Eemrill tell your grrrrl that she can cook food in cast iron that'll make his dick hard and her tits perky then cast iron skillets go from scrap metal to $700

I tried this years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42427275)

My plan was to find the mothers whose kids have moved out and selling the toys, then I'd pick out the valuable stuff. The problem was that there were enough other people doing the same thing the profit margins were low enough to not be worthwhile. Now I just buy the ones I want to play with.

Advertisement (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42428337)

I would bet the entire "article" was created for LEGO. They're on an advertising blitz because they have competition now.

Sure they have franchises. But the Barbie sets are not made by LEGO. Since the patents expired and the lawsuits have been lost, there's lots of competition. Perhaps this will lead to the availability of large boxes of bricks rather that just trademarked sets...

Beat the stock market? Big deal. (2)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year and a half ago | (#42429647)

My cotton t-shirt beat the stock market. Most of the non-perishable food items in my pantry beat the stock market. Gold and silver clearly beat the stock market (I am looking at long stretches of time, I never sell). I mean beating the stock market today is not a problem, because the only reason that the stock market is going in the direction that it is going is inflation. People are pushed into the stock market, into the bond market, into housing, all of this is done by the governments today manipulating the currency supply.

Beating these things is easy simply with items that don't make it into the official (reversed engineered to fit the propaganda) inflation calculation formulas.

Re:Beat the stock market? Big deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42432771)

Beating these things is easy simply with items that don't make it into the official (reversed engineered to fit the propaganda) inflation calculation formulas.

Ah, but that assumes you are a productive person, who can produce, build real wealth, and then trade your wealth for those items. But as you have told us (on your other account), there's a huge productivity disparity. Most people are not productive people. They're all lazy collectivist leeches voting for bread and circuses, remember?

So that means most people actually can't acquire those items that beat the stock market. So it's actually hard to beat the stock market. If it was easy, then everybody would be able to start a productive businesses, instead of leeching and stealing and living off debt they can't repay.

You're not beating the stock market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42433763)

(I am looking at long stretches of time, I never sell)

Selling is the only way to actually make money on the stock market, everything else done on the market is speculation. If you never sell, you have invested but never made any money. I'm sorry that your dogma has caused you to fail to grasp even this most basic economic concept.

Lots of comparisons here... (1)

sdsucks (1161899) | about a year and a half ago | (#42430199)

BUT, unlike things like Beanie Babies or Barbies, Lego kits can usually be parted out for a reasonable return. There is a value to them beyond just speculation by collectors.

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