(Written by William)
One of the big steps in being an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) is the point where you start buying extra sets for their parts. Some AFOLs get to this step much faster than others. It all has to do with how you played with your LEGO sets earlier in life.
As kids, some people never put the sets together according to the instructions, but rather began creating right out of the box. These people are naturals when it comes to parting out a set. Others put the sets together and almost never take them apart. For these people, the idea of parting out a LEGO set is a hard thing to grasp.
For those who can manage the feat, you should take a few things into consideration before buying half a dozen sets and pretending its Christmas. The following sections can give you a bit more perspective to the first-timer.
To Sell or Not to Sell
The biggest concern with many people when parting out a LEGO set is what they plan to do with it. This plays a big factor in what types of sets you pick out as well as how a set might be treated.
Ideally, the person selling a set is looking for rare elements to sell. Since this post is focused on the amateur, the thing you’ll need to look at is the minifigures. This is nearly always going to be the thing you can get the best price for.
This will mean you’ll probably stay away from LEGO Creator type sets that don’t feature a minifigure. However, some Creator sets will have very good pieces. Take for instance Rescue Robot set #5764. It has no minifigures but it does have a light-up brick. Honestly though, to get comfortable in selling you’ll probably want to ease into sets without minifigures at a later date.
Once you have the minifigures and their accessories, you have to figure out what to do with the rest of the set. The best way for the beginner is to sell it as an incomplete set. Just remember to point out that the minifigures and their accessories are missing. Builders love these sets since they view them as interesting part lots that allow them to anticipate what they will be getting.
Those looking to make selling a full time job should try to get in contact with some of the more successful sellers on Bricklink. Many of these sellers are fully committed to selling and form business plans; which include tracking expenditures like shipping, restocking, time for fulfilling orders, quality control, and hundreds of other small details.
Parts for You
LEGO minifigures are nice, but you can only build so much with them. Their high cost makes them a poor choice for building materials. This is where the rest of the set is important. When looking at a set with the idea of building, you must stay focused.
Many people will get distracted by the minifigures and their accessories when picking out a set. Take, for instance, all the LEGO Ninjago sets. They are packed with interesting minifigures and all manner of weapons. This is especially true with the Ninjago Spinner sets, such as Zane set #2113. The problem is most of these pieces are better off as window-dressing and decorations to finish a creation rather than to start one.
What would actually serve as a better rule of thumb is to look at the color scheme of the set. On average, a typical LEGO creation will focus its colors around three to four main choices. This does not include the accents. These colors will constitute the majority of the pieces and that’s what you want.
If you want a specific piece for a unique build, that’s what Bricklink is for. It may sound strange, but most people don’t need that one-of-a-kind piece simply because there are hundreds of thousands of ways to build the same thing with different parts.
Take for instance a roof. You can use plates with hinges, plates with clips and bars, slopes, cloth, leaves, bricks, or any combination to make something that works. These are only the most conventional and conservative ways to build roofs. The truth is expert builders gain experience when they need to create solutions when they don’t have the right pieces.
To put it in a different perspective, anyone can build anything with the right parts. A good builder can build it in the right color. A great builder can build it in the right color and with any piece. One of the best ways to practice this idea is in the LEGO Board Game Creationary set #3844.
As you can imagine, buying the largest sets will often result in the best circumstances for selling or building. Take, for instance, Hogwarts Castle set #4842. It has rare minifigures and tons of building materials. However, not everyone can afford to start on this level. Therefore, you may want to start smaller.
Some sets are great for selling, but make horrible choices for building. Ice Dragon Attack set #2260 is loaded with all types of rare elements. The only problem is that they are all made to construct a dragon and little else.
On the other end of the spectrum you have sets that are perfect for building, but stink at selling. Atlantis Treasure set #3851 has more blue plates than you can drive a sub over, but a LEGO die, one microfigure, a trident, and a handful of decorated tiles make up the majority of its rare pieces. From a build standpoint, this set is wonderful.
Of course, you can always find sets that work as a happy middle. Take, for instance, some of the Pirates of the Caribbean sets. The Mill set #4183 and The Cannibal Escape set #4182 both have a nice balance of rare pieces along with a good selection of normal building parts. With these sets you are free to go either way when parting them out.
When parting out a set you must take into consideration your end goal. For selling, you need to think about the needs and wants of others. If you’re planning to build, take a look at your needs and wants. Sometimes these paths can combine, but this is something you cannot count on.
The best advice is to be true to which ever side you feel more committed to. If you spend all your time fighting with yourself on this issue, it is bound to ruin the experience in every way possible. And most importantly, remember there is nothing telling you that you have to part out sets to be an AFOL. It is just another option. 😉