Even though I’m not going to BrickCon this year, I am asking a fellow Lugmate to mule back some sets for me. We get a significant discount just for crossing the border, it amounts to 20-30% and really good time to get any exclusives that are just at the Lego stores ( or SAH ). Unfortunately Lego has stopped offering con attendees a discount as well which ended up being around 40% off. Due to that I have had to be even more selective about my set purchases and been revisiting my thoughts on them.
In the 90’s I built my collection mostly through sets and the occasional 2nd hand lot. Around 2000 I discovered the online Lego community, the local Lug, and bricklink, all of which changed my purchasing habits. Since my collection had bulked up somewhat I didn’t need to buy sets for bricks and was looking for specific parts, it was much more efficient to get those parts or figs on briclink. I would spend a few dollars on a fig that might come from a $100 set, repeat that a few times and the savings become astronomical. I pretty much stopped buying sets altogether for at least 5 years.
In the mid part of the decade that changed when Lego revamped their whole business model and product line. You got Power Miners, Agents, and the introduction of the Cafe Corner line. I started attending fan events around the same time, me and sets had a grand reunion. It’s levelled out for a few reasons again though. There have been some initiatives from the Lego program like the Lugbulk program, group purchases within the Lug, and the removal of discounts from the mothership have made me rethink what’s out there.
The past couple of years I have been Minifig crazy and there has been no decline in my interest there, and none in sight. I still make regular bricklink orders to work on my backlog. When I go to actually get a set it has to have enough interesting bricks in the mix to make it worthwhile. The whole is not as valuable as the parts to me, I really do not care about the actual end model. Actually, some models are quite lovely like the Cafe Corner buildings, and I’m actively not going to get any more of those because *I don’t take them apart* I don’t want to be a set collector and displayer, I would prefer if my collection was organized and fluid, ready for building.
This week I went and took almost all of my still assembled sets and tore them all down. They are essentially doing me no good in that state. When I went to look at the current product line as to what I’d like to get from BrickCon I was actually kind of at a loss. Any Hobbit, Super Hero or Turtle set I will bricklink want I want to get, or have managed to pick it up already at a very reasonable price. The Tower of Orthanc epitomizes this problem for me. I pretty much want the eagle. The rest of the set is a bunch of nice black bricks which are amazing altogether, and then you wouldn’t want to take it apart. The eagle is also available in the Black Gate set… more black bricks. I was casting about, kind of weirded out that there was nothing that I felt hit my criteria.
Then I looked at the Galaxy Squad line. Hell ya. I had picked up one small set many months ago when it first came out but hadn’t really checked out the new wave. This fits my bill, great buggy figs, neat parts in crazy colours and some wacky elements only found in that line. I’m a happy camper. It’s all got me thinking though, there is a culture of the sanctity of the set being unbreakable and an end unto itself. Lego itself has done much to foster this mindset and it’s a big part of what’s driving their current success.
People want to buy a set for the model that it represents. They want the X-Wing, not for that obscure slope, but for the whatever it is the whole model evokes. People purchase LOTR over DC sets because they care for those characters, not the colour palette or the introduction of a new tile. People do or don’t buy Friends because of the their feelings towards gender representation, not all the new colours and elements included. This has always been the case to some degree but I think the shift really happened at the turn of the century when Lego stopped putting alternative models on the backs of sets. I can’t remember distinctly when it happened but I see it as part of the shift from a creative building toy towards a building toy that informs you how it should be used. Very little emphasis is put on free form play, one actually has to go out of their way to get random bucket of bricks now.
From my understanding it was customers who complained that Lego wasn’t including instructions for the alternative models and that’s why they removed them. I always thought that was the appeal? To figure out how they did it? Or to give you ideas as to do other things with the bricks? I wholly realize that ironically enough I’m a niche customer… someone who buys bricks primarily to make their own creations, but since Lego is constantly looking at retooling their image then this is something that would make me feel better about them as a company and not just selling a predetermined play package. They’d also probably see more of my dollar vote 😉
What drives your choices when it comes to sets? What would you like to see more and less of?