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Considering which LEGO sets to buy?

by admin on December 20, 2010

in Shopping Tips

If you already have your heart set on a particular LEGO set, by all means buy it! However if you are new to the LEGO hobby and just wondering what makes most sense to buy, I can share with you some criteria I personally use when I go LEGO shopping. (These can also be used if you are buying LEGO for someone else.)

:arrow: WHAT IS YOUR NICHE?: If you have a somewhat limited budget, I would start with this question; what is it you like to build? LEGO Spaceships? Houses? LEGO Castles? Ships? Trains? Mosaics? Cars? Robots? Or how about life-size LEGO sculptures? Depending on the answer, I would look at the currently available LEGO sets and see what would give me the greatest amount of useful pieces in that theme.

For example, if you really like to build spaceship-type vehicles, I would recommend buying LEGO Star Wars Sets, even if you don’t really care about Star Wars per se. The Star Wars theme has a lot of pieces that can be used and reused again and again for LEGO spaceships of your own design. Suitable colors, angled plates, engine parts, streamlined windscreens, wheels, antennas, etc. – lots of pieces to work with!

Or, if you like to build castles, I would recommend picking up something from the LEGO Castle Collection. They give you wall elements, arched windows, roof pieces, and other parts that can be incorporated into your own castles.

And if you really like to build realistic city buildings, I highly recommend the limited edition LEGO sets that have been specifically targeted to adult fans of LEGO, like the #10197 LEGO Grand Emporium, or #10214 LEGO Tower Bridge. They are full of unique and useful pieces and colors for town-building. Also, they often incorporate advanced building techniques you can enjoy and learn from, not available in sets targeting younger fans.

Then there is also a special line of LEGO called LEGO Technic, full of interesting pieces for functional and realistic building of model cars, trucks, motorcycles, cranes, etc. - often with power function!

LEGO

:arrow: COLOR SELECTION: My other criteria for buying a particular LEGO set would be the colors available in the set. If I’m after gray pieces for my own building, I would look for sets that have a lot of those pieces. Even if it is in a theme I don’t really care about.

You may also consider purchasing a LEGO-bucket that only contains basic pieces in various colors. This is a great way to beef-up your stock.

:arrow: PRICE: Each LEGO set has a total piece count of the set posted on the outside of the box (usually under the set number). You can use this number to calculate if the set is a good value for your money. Just divide the price of the set with the number of pieces in the set. So, for example the Star Wars #10188 LEGO Death Star has a total piece-count of 3803. If the retail price is $400, then $400 divided by 3803 is 0.10 or 10 cents a piece.

Licensed sets like LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Harry Potter tend to go for higher prices; 10-13 cents /piece. Non-licensed sets hover between 7-10 cents a piece. So, if you can find them for less, you got a bargain! Many department stores that carry LEGO have regular sales (like around holidays or when they need to move old inventory). It is worth to wait for these sales to get the most parts for your buck! ;)

:arrow: SETS OR INDIVIDUAL PARTS?: In general it ends up being cheaper to buy LEGO sets (especially on sale), if most of the parts in that set are going to be useful for your own building style. However it is possible that you won’t find a set that really meets your needs or you only need very specific parts, not available from any one set.

This is the time to hit BrickLink and check out the availability there. You will most likely find everything you would ever need, but the prices may be higher, especially for rare parts. So you have to see what makes most sense.

LEGO itself has a PICK-A-BRICK section on their website, where you can find a decent selection of currently produced parts and buy LEGO by the piece. Also, at LEGO’s own retail stores there is a PICK-A-BRICK wall, where you can buy pieces by the cup for a flat fee. (They are called PUB-cups and come in two sizes). You can check it out here: Shop for specific LEGO bricks and elements using PICK-A-BRICK at the Official LEGO Shop!

LEGO

You may also want to check out these posts for further ideas:

Hope this helps some in your own LEGO buying excurtions! And if you have any questions, comments or tips for other readers, share it in the comment section below! ;)

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

DavidH May 3, 2011 at 10:10 PM

Thanks for the price break-down! I never knew that! This really helps!

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FrenchToast May 10, 2011 at 8:23 PM

Same here! That is a really great pointer!

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SPMom May 30, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Most of these principles are also true when shopping for kids. They are often attracted to the box art, or the size of the box (bigger the better), or because their friends have it without considering if they even really like to build such sets.
So it is worth to have a little discussion wiht them to identify what it is they really want.
Great post, btw! :)

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admin June 1, 2011 at 8:29 PM

Great points! Yes, I have also found that the box-art is a big draw for kids! Thanks for sharing! :)

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Kings December 28, 2011 at 11:47 PM

Thanks for this, I myself found myself being drawn to the boxart of london escape, bought it and wished I could take it back!

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admin December 29, 2011 at 1:03 PM

Kings, yes boxes can be deceiving! When I’m considering buying LEGO I either buy a set that I’m totally in love with (after seeing it in person or checking out online pictures of the actual set), or I buy sets for the parts.

If I buy the set because I like the look of it, I will still consider how it fits into the themes I currently like, and also what is the play-value of the sets. For example, even though I love the look of the Modular buildings, I don’t own any of them. Their play-value is kinda low, and I don’t have room to display them. Although they do have excellent pieces and great building techniques! So at some point (when I get a bigger house) I will consider them again, but not now.

On the other hand I just bought the Alien Conquest Earth Defense, because I totally love this set! The play-value is extremely high (several sets in one!), building it is really fun and it looks very cool. I’m planning to keep it together and expand on it. I also bought the Mill Village Raid for parts. The colors in this set are gorgeous! So, even if you are not a castle-fan but you would have good use of tan and brown parts, this is a great set to get.

So, best is to have a clear idea before heading over to the LEGO store of what is it you want and what is your budget, because once you are in front of those shelves and the boxes start talking to you, you are in a very week position – unless you have a strong streategy. Don’t ask me how I know… ;)

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Konstantin May 22, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Where can I buy Lego sets without the minifigs?

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admin May 22, 2012 at 9:35 PM

Konstantin, if you would like to purchase LEGO sets without minifigs your best bet would be BrickLink and eBay. Both are excellent places to buy partial sets like that. BrickLink is better if you are looking for something very specific (like an older set, or specific parts), as sellers there are all LEGO fans and are very careful and knowledgeable about their merchandise. eBay is a bit hit or miss, but if you do a little reseach you can find excellent deals. Hope this helps some. If you give me more specifics of what you are looking for (current sets? older sets? parts?), I can be a bit more helpful as well, but you can use the above info as a starting point. ;)

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Konstantin May 23, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Thank you for good advice!

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Håkan, Sweden October 11, 2012 at 6:04 PM

You can also buy sets with minifigs and sell the minifigs off separately at BrickLink, EBay etc. There’s a rather high demand for minifigs especially, and that should be able to reduce your costs somewhat.

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admin October 14, 2012 at 9:32 AM

Yes, that’s what I do too, but that is a more advanced technique that requires some knowledge and research. Articles in this section are for those who are new to the hobby. But, yeah, it is a great technique I also use to fund the hobby. ;)

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K July 31, 2013 at 12:47 AM

Like this one, this would go in LEGO 101. Regards!

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admin July 31, 2013 at 9:16 AM

It is under the Beginner Guide: Shopping Tips section. All gategories are available fro the left-hand side-bar. ;)

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Grammy December 7, 2013 at 11:39 AM

friend game me a big Lego truck with on the back basically a cement mixer shaped container full of large Lego’s her kids had many years ago. Can I add to these with the Duplo Lego’s? are the large and Duplo compatible?

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admin December 7, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Grammy, is what your friend gave you LEGO Quatro elements? Otherwise it is usually Duplo that is considered “large LEGO”. Also, it is possible that what your friend gave you is not LEGO brand. There are several other brands that make LEGO-like construction toys. Since I’m not sure what you have I can’t say for sure that the pieces will be compatible with LEGO products. I would suggest that you give it a try and see it yourself if they are compatible.

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