Do you have tubs of old Lego packed away in your attic or basement? Lego — the same word in both singular and plural form, as Adult Fans of Lego (AFOL) are apt to remind you — might be more valuable than you think. In fact, a 2015 Time article stated Lego collecting is a better investment than gold.
The most expensive individual Lego ever auctioned was a 14-karat gold brick, which sold in a January 2017 Catawiki auction for $19,793. Lego gave 2x4 gold bricks to select business partners between 1979 and 1981, and fewer than ten of the bricks are believed to exist today. Since they’re incredibly rare, gold bricks might be the most valuable Lego, but they were never commercially-sold — so the chances you have one are slim-to-none.
The most valuable Lego set sold to consumers is the 2007 Star Wars Millennium Falcon (10179), which originally retailed for around $500 and has since sold on the secondary market for more than $5,600.
That value dropped to between $1,000 and $2,500 after Lego released a new Millennium Falcon (7965) in 2017, according to Wayne Hussey, a member of the SEattle Area Lego Users Group (SEALUG) and director of BrickCon, an annual Lego Users Group conference held in Seattle. Hussey says the value of a given Lego is driven by rarity and desire. You can find out how much your Legos are worth (and where to sell them) in the Ultimate Lego Selling Guide.
Different buyers value Lego differently, and each has their own thematic interests; thus, there is no “holy grail” every collector agrees on. Some of the most expensive Lego recently sold on Ebay include:
These figures don’t represent the highest prices ever paid for Lego, but are indicative of current Lego values based on private market sales.
Ryan Hafer, owner of Perry, Michigan-based The Plastic Brick, the largest retailer of used and out-of-production Lego sets, says Lego values can be directly impacted by the company’s decisions. Lego can create rarity by changing its annual product lineup, but it can also dilute the market.
“When value spikes on something because people are very interested in it, Lego tends to notice and reissue a similar set,” says Hafer. “A good example of this is the Star Wars Republic Gunship (7676). For a time we were selling the set for nearly $500, but then Lego issued the Republic Gunship (75021) and prices immediately started to back down.”
Lego are sold in four primary categories: collections, sets, parts, and minifigures (which have their own subcategories, like Technic and Scala).
“I don’t think there is a definitive rule on what are the most popular Lego products, but in general I would say the rank goes set, minifigure, then parts,” says Hafer. “In reality, all three of those things are tied together. A set generally comes with a higher price tag, but is greatly affected by any special minifigures it might contain.”
What makes Lego valuable?
Buyers have various reasons for why might be interested in a particular Lego, and a Lego’s value is whatever someone will pay for it. Still, there are certain characteristics that tend to make some Lego more valuable than others.
Apart from rarity and desire, Lego values are influenced by:
Lego are either new or used, and there are variations of a “new” designation, like “sealed in box” or “sealed in damaged box,” says Hussey. A set can only be considered new if it has never been put together.
Other factors that affect condition include:
· Play-wear and scratches
· Stress marks from bending
· Loose hinges
· Frayed fabric
· Stretched rubber bands
· Deteriorated stickers
· Teeth marks and other damage
· If the parts are clean or dirty
· Debris, such as pieces of Crayons, Hot Wheels, buttons, or other non-building toys mixed in with a collection
A set can be incomplete even if it’s considered new. A complete set should include all the original parts, as well as the box, instructions, parts bags, stickers and sticker sheets, and minifigures.
Interestingly, you might be able to make more money by separating minifigures before you sell.
“Many sellers will separate the minifigures, sell them, and then sell the remainder of the set at a large discount,” says Hussey. “Often, this increases the amount of money a seller can obtain for a particular set.”
Theme or franchise
Many collectors are interested in Lego featuring specific themes, or those from certain franchises. Star Wars Lego are among the most collectible, as are famous landmarks like the Taj Mahal and the Statue of Liberty.
Distribution and production
Distribution and production contribute to rarity, which influences value. Hafer says Lego can be grouped into three categories: mass distributed, Lego exclusive distributed, and limited production.
General price ranges based on distribution and production (aftermarket values)
Mass distributed: $3 to $500
Lego exclusive distributed: $100 to $4,000
Limited production: $4,000+
“Truly limited production Lego like Chrome Gold C3-PO, Mr. Gold minifigure, Lego store opening sets, and San Diego Comic Con minifigures can be very rare and expensive, and it’s hard to put a general value on them,” says Hafer.
While sets are easy to identify, individual parts can prove more difficult. Instructions can be helpful in part identification; since 2008, Lego has included an inventory of parts in its instruction booklets. The inventories feature an image of the part above a part number, which encodes the part mold and color, and can be searched on a site like BrickLink.
If you cannot identify the part number, you can use the gallery feature on BrickLink to attempt to visually identify which part you have. Hussey advises to exercise diligence, however, because there is potential for confusion or human error.
“I have parts that, because I know their provenance, could not otherwise be recognized as Lego,” he says. “Old parts, mostly; the earliest parts made, even the 2x4 brick, did not have the Lego logo on the studs. They usually do have the logo on the inside. Other parts have such unexpected or unusual shapes, or just don’t have any available space for their number identifiers as they are too small or the numbers would affect their function. If you have a part that fits into this category, it is reasonable to assume value — especially if it is apparently old.”
Type of minifigure (or figure)
The type and completeness of a figure or minifigure directly impacts value. Hussey says it’s important to recognize there are Lego figures of many different scales and sources, including:
· System (minifigures)
· Friends (minidolls)
Some characters, like Han Solo, have been part of multiple Lego sets; so, there are multiple variations of that character. Some were available in only one set, which could make those figures highly sought-after.
Age can be an important factor, particularly as it pertains to collections.
“As a collection ages, it becomes less complete. Parts get lost, damaged, or are sometimes less recognized and disposed of,” says Hussey. “There are many factors to consider. Is it mostly ten years old? Twenty? Thirty? Forty? Yes, a collection can be mostly 40 years old. Obviously, there is a point where age may have a diminishing appeal to collectors. It always depends on the buyer.”
Hussey said notable gems include early Space (blue and “old grey”) Lego, Castle Lego, and Train Lego — especially the Monorail — as well as other rare pieces.
Purity is a factor in assessing the value of a collection, where purity represents the percentage of true Lego parts to non-Lego parts — for example, if your Lego are mixed in with Hot Wheels tires.
Size of collection
Size largely determines the value of a Lego collection. The following table lists general guidelines for designating the size of a Lego collection.
Collections are commonly sold by the pound, with prices ranging from $5 to $15 per pound.
Though most bins of used Lego will fall into the $5 to $15 pound range, it’s possible you have a diamond in the rough. Read the Ultimate Lego Selling Guide to find out how much your Lego are worth and where to sell them.