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Advice on parting out LEGO sets

(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. 😉

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Inger June 2, 2011, 2:43 AM

    Hey guys,
    Another wonderful article thank-you.
    How do you consistently come up with such great ideas?

    • admin June 2, 2011, 10:24 AM

      Inger, like your new avatar! 😉
      William is an excellent writer, and now Sarah is also spreading her writing-wings! Between the two of them they could easily write a book…or two…or three…! 😛
      I hope they will answer your question about their muse in more detail. Will? Sarah? You there?

      • Sarah June 2, 2011, 9:14 PM

        My muse is similar to Will’s as I write from my experiences. I’m very focused on the social aspects of LEGO so I have lots of stories to tell from my interactions with LEGO itself and LEGO fans.

        As for writings books, I know it’s possible – there’s just not enough time in a day! LOL! 😉

    • Will June 2, 2011, 9:09 PM

      Thanks for the comment!

      Most of my ideas come from my experiences. A lot of them have to do with whatever I’m currently doing with my local club. Some come from the study of the sets that my wife and I buy. And still others, just come from my own tinkering with LEGO.

      As for the quantity of different topics, I think that comes from my freelance writing background and the learned versatility that comes from it.

      Plus it doesn’t hurt that I have a degree in Communications. On the whole, I simply write on whatever is interesting to me at that point. And I encourage everyone to do the same. 😀

  • Tito June 2, 2011, 11:44 AM

    I never had a problem parting out sets, but I do know people who do. I can’t relate at all, but hey, it is okay to be different! I will let them read your post. I think it may bridge the gap. 😉

    • Will June 2, 2011, 9:12 PM

      Thanks for the comment!

      Spending time with my local group has showed me that there’s a lot of different perspectives out there. And I found that it’s good to point out these basic thoughts since it’s surprising how many of these things are taken for granted, yet people still have vastly different views on the topic.

      I, myself, don’t have a problem parting out a set as long as I have a completed version of the set sitting somewhere safely. 😀

      But thanks for sharing your comment to show people how some people handle this topic.

  • Giza June 3, 2011, 1:27 PM

    Good advice on what sects to select! The creator sets are quite nice for parting out for yourself. And the sets with lots of minifigs are great for selling. Sell the figs and keep the parts. YOu can get free or almost free sets this way! 😉

    • Will June 5, 2011, 2:06 PM

      Both of those are very good points and they’re available options for anyone in the world. In fact, the only thing that might work better for people to get parts would involve having an official LEGO store or the amusement park near their home. Since this is rarely an option and since local toy stores have sales on LEGO products, even the most hard-core LEGO fans will end up doing the same thing.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • waverider June 5, 2011, 11:08 AM

    Good points and advise! Just wondering which games do you guys like the best? I have been looking at creationary. Is it any good? How about the others?

    • Will June 5, 2011, 2:11 PM

      For most of the games that are out there, you can find my reviews on them here:

      As for my thoughts on Creationary, it is one of the most innovative games that really highlights LEGO’s potential. However, I have found that certain people will easily get frustrated with the game due to creative issues.

      Of the ones I’ve played so far (which is every one I have written a review of), Harry Potter is both the best as far as design and enjoyment. It’s mechanically creative and easy to learn, but still still very challenging.

      For the games I haven’t played, LEGO has recently introduced the Heroica line which spans over 4 games that seem to work modularly with each other. I have very high hopes for these adventure games. I currently have one, but have not had the time to put it together and play it.

      Hope this helps, and thanks for commenting.

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