(Written by Mark H. Avery)
Am I the only adult fan of LEGO who is on a budget? Am I the only parent who has to have a constraint on my children’s presents? I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see what kind of LEGO city one could build these days with a budget of $500 or even $1,000. For this exercise, I will assume that I would be starting from scratch, owning no LEGO sets at all. I’ll also assume that I can purchase LEGO sets at 20% off the regular list price, which brings the total value of the sets to about $620 ($620 – 20% = $496) and $1,240 ($1,240 – 20% = $992). I’m also limiting myself to sets that I can currently buy at major retailers like Target and Wal-Mart, as well as at official LEGO stores and the Online LEGO Shop.
BUILDING A LEGO CITY – FIRST ROUND PICK OF SETS
Let’s start with the basics. Every town needs and every child wants a police station around, a fire station and a hospital. You should be able to get these around $250 total. The #60215 LEGO City Fire Station is $70, and the #60204 LEGO City Hospital is $100 at full price. As far as police stations, I would go with a standard station like the #60141 LEGO City Police Station for $100, not something like jungle police, forest police, or air police. (And no, I wouldn’t spend $100 on the #60216 LEGO City Fire Brigade.) The above-mentioned three big sets would also give me several vehicles and a medivac helicopter. At full price (hopefully, we can do better), the total price so far is $270.
Depending on what kind of deals I can get, and if I have some money left, I might buy the #60212 LEGO City Barbecue Burn Out at $10 (see below) to have an already designed mini-scene. (The vehicle design from this same set could be used in another color as a utility repair truck of some kind.)
Next, I’d add a few LEGO Creator sets. Let’s start with a couple of houses. The #31080 LEGO Creator Modular Winter Vacation ($35) might be a good place to begin. It is no longer available directly from LEGO, but you can purchase it through Amazon or via local shops. The #31081 LEGO Creator Modular Skate House ($40) is another option. Neither is what I really want in a house but both are at decent price points, and I could rebuild them a little to make them look more like a conventional house. I like the colors of the #41369 LEGO Friends Mia’s House, but $70 for a house seems expensive, especially since I can’t use the three mini-doll figures, and even the animals are not really compatible with Lego City. So, I probably wouldn’t purchase this set. The #31078 LEGO Creator Treehouse Treasures ($30) is a tempting set – if I remove the tree parts and convert the structure into a regular house. Depending on which sets I end up getting and at what price, the total for some basic houses should be around $75.
Now, let’s add the #31097 LEGO Creator Townhouse Pet Shop & Café ($80), which is the big LEGO Creator 3-in-1 building currently available. This would probably be the biggest building in my proposed town. I’d probably also add the #31077 LEGO Creator Modular Sweet Surprises ($40) to add some color and have the beginnings of a real shopping district. The #41344 LEGO Friends Andrea’s Accessories Store ($30), and #41362 LEGO Friends Heartlake City Supermarket ($30) are other smaller stores that are good choices and might fit the budget. I’m budgeting around $140 for stores, so at full price, we are at $485 total.
BUILDING A LEGO CITY – THE TRIMMINGS
I’d be very tempted to buy one of the LEGO City People Packs, perhaps the #60202 LEGO City People Pack Outdoor Adventures (see below). The set goes for $40 but seems to be available on sale these days from several retailers. Fourteen adults and child minifig can help populate my town and add a little action.
I would certainly buy at least one generic LEGO Classic brick box to have pieces to build an original building and to have random pieces available for extra walls and street furniture. The #11005 LEGO Classic Creative Fun set (see below) with 900 pieces for $40 is probably the best price per piece of the lot.
Here’s the one place where I might feel the need to “cheat” a bit and head over to Bricklink.com to buy some windows and doors, both for houses and stores. The LEGO Classic sets have a paucity of windows, so let’s say I spend $40 for them on Bricklink. So far, we are at $120 for trimmings, which brings me to about $610. I’d probably add a #10700 LEGO Green Baseplate for $8 apiece. (I might even consider cutting it to spread out the green space between all the buildings.) So, now I reached the limit of my budget of $620. Again, the actual spending should be $500, as I’m looking to get these sets at a 20% discount.
I wouldn’t bother with road plates with a smaller budget like this. I’d probably use manila or grey folders and draw roads on them. As you can see, with this budget, and with taking advantage of holiday discounts, I should be able to build a nice town for both display and play.
BUILDING A LEGO CITY – DOUBLING THE BUDGET
What happens if I can double my budget to $1,000 ($1,240)? I’d probably consider spending some money on more baseplates and maybe even some road plates. Let’s see how it goes. But what sets should I add?
The #41365 LEGO Friends Emma’s Art Studio ($25) would add another nice store (see above). Maybe I’d consider buying two and either combine them or change some colors and features on the second one, using the LEGO Classic bricks I already purchased in the first round.
The #60232 LEGO City Garage Center at $50 is a LEGO Juniors (now called LEGO 4+) set, but a gas station and car wash would help round out my town and give me three more vehicles (see above). So would the #60220 LEGO City Garbage Truck at $20. So far, that’s $95 for three sets. Then, I would look at some big (at least for me) sets.
The #60200 LEGO City Capital City set at $150 would be tempting. It would give me two buildings, a kiosk, a construction site, and six vehicles, amongst other things. In addition, (if not instead), the new #60233 LEGO City Donut Shop at $90 is a good deal. A toy store and donut shop to add to my shopping area, a construction crane, and four vehicles, including a TV news crew. (I would try to build a little TV headquarters/studio for them with some LEGO Classic set bricks.)
I also really like the new #60203 LEGO City Ski Resort and its colors at $90. I’d have to figure out how to transform it from a winter set to a non-seasonal city set. The rescue base would probably become another house while the sports shop would remain a store. Those three big sets would cost $330 at full price, so we are at $425 total.
For my last $175 or so, I’d probably concentrate on smaller sets. The #41332 LEGO Friends Emma’s Art Stand ($20) from last year could be a nice part of a street or park scene (no longer available directly from LEGO, but you can get it on Amazon). I’ve always liked the #60150 LEGO City Pizza Van ($20). Then there’s the #60239 LEGO City Police Patrol Car ($10). The black and yellow #60219 LEGO City Construction Loader ($10) would add to my construction site. That’s $60 very quickly.
There was a Target exclusive last year; the #40358 LEGO City Bean There, Donut That set. At $20, I thought it was expensive, reduced to $15 it wasn’t bad: four people, a dog, a bicycle, and a little building. It was recently on closeout at $7.50. At this price, I’d buy two for my proposed city.
There are a few other small sets I could add. There’s the #40170 LEGO City Accessory Set ($10) with would give me another bicycle, a fountain, some signs, and a little toll booth. Then there’s the #30364 LEGO City Popcorn Cart, available at Wal-Mart stores for $5.
Still, a few bucks left? Either I’d buy another LEGO Classic box, or I would head back to Bricklink.com for some small trees, bushes, and flowers. Alternatively, I’d purchase a few #40310 LEGO-xtra Botanical Accessories set, although I consider them overpriced. And, if I would have lived near a LEGO store, I’d see what they had on the Pick-A-Brick wall.
BUILDING A LEGO CITY – CONCLUSION
There you have it. No LEGO Creator Expert Modular Buildings, no amusement park, no trains, no airport, spaceport, or seaport. Just a nice, straightforward little town with government services (police, fire, hospital, garbage collection), a nice collection of stores, a gas station, and a few houses. I’d also have about twenty vehicles and a rather nice collection of city minifigures. No, it’s not what some people are showing off on YouTube when they share their LEGO city, but it also doesn’t cost thousands of dollars. It’s a town a kid could enjoy playing with for hours and an adult can enjoy displaying. All within a reasonable budget! Now, if someone wanted to give me a very generous holiday present, a LEGO City train (passenger or freight, I’m not picky) with some extra tracks to circle my town, that would be the icing on the cake.
I should point out that I have not purchased most of these sets for my town – because I already have similar sets from previous years. But some, like the #60233 LEGO City Donut Shop and the #60203 LEGO City Ski Resort is certainly on my shopping list.
What do you think? What would you buy if you were starting a little LEGO city? Did I miss any of your favorites? Your comments are always appreciated!
And you might also like to check out my previous posts:
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 1 (introduction)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 2 (building a large LEGO city)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 3 (rebuilding the city)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 4 (LEGO city layout)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 5 (LEGO set purchases)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 6 (LEGO city transportation)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 7 (model railroading)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 8 (LEGO company interactions)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 9 (LEGO shopping)
- On the LEGO Trail: Visiting LEGO Train Shows
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 10 (collecting LEGO catalogs)
- My Top Ten LEGO Regrets – What Are Yours?
- Learning From Model Train Layouts – Part 1
- Learning From Model Train Layouts – Part 2