A Guide to Buying Bricks
Recently, I have been approached by a number of people asking for my opinion on where and when to buy LEGO® bricks. Since building a MOC (My Own Creation) is not a cheap hobby, how to bolster your brick selection without breaking the bank is an important consideration. I remember getting back into building during my adult years and wondering the very same thing. What constitutes a “good” deal on LEGO® bricks?
All price information in this article is presented in Canadian dollars.
Buying your bricks in retail sets is the obvious place to begin. There are a number of brick-and-mortar, as well as online shops out there. There are also loads of sets to choose from at any given time. Buying sets is, however, not the cheapest way to get supplementary bricks for your custom projects. I recommend buying sets only if you want the actual set, or the Minifigures that come with it. However, sometimes sets come with specialty pieces that are hard to get otherwise. So, here are my tips when it comes to buying sets:
- Wait for a sale. Stores like Toys R Us have LEGO® deals almost every week (for my international readers, yes, Toys R Us is still a thing in Canada). When it comes to sets I am dying to get, I will often bite at 20% off (which happens frequently). But, 30% off or more is a great deal. If the sale hits 40% off or more, those sets won’t last long, so you better grab ’em while you can.
- Wait for double VIP points. The LEGO® Store doesn’t offer major sales as often as other retailers, but they do have the VIP points program, which is free to join. Every month, the LEGO® Store offers double points on a couple of select sets. A few times a year, they offer double points on all sets for a limited time. This is the best time to buy those big, rare sets that almost never go on sale (like Creator Expert sets, or Ultimate Collector Series Star Wars sets). Normally, VIP points gets you 1 point per dollar, and 100 points gets you $5 off your next purchase. Double VIP points gets you $10 off for the same purchase, meaning a savings of 10% for every $100 you spend.
- Wait for a freebie. The LEGO® Store in particular, and sometimes other retailers, offer giveaways with purchases. While this doesn’t lower the cost of buying a set, it certainly adds value to the purchase. Now imagine a freebie with double VIP points or a sale…
- Calculate the price per brick. Dividing the price of a kit by the number of pieces in the same kit will tell you how much you are paying per brick. After a few years of collecting, my average cost per brick is $0.14. Anything below $0.14/brick is good in my opinion. Anything below $0.10/brick is awesome.
Selecting and buying loose bricks is the best way to get the specific bricks you need. There are so many sources out there from Bricklink to eBay to the LEGO® Store itself. Let’s start with the LEGO® Store. Going into a physical store, you can select bricks from the Pick-and-Build wall. Shopping online, you can order what you need from Pick-a-Brick. When considering Pick-and-Build (in store) VS Pick-a-Brick (online), Pick-a-Brick gives you more selection at any given time. Going in store, you will have to check frequently and wait for the bricks you need, if they ever show. However, Pick-and-Build is a much better value. I buy the $19.99, large cups. I jam pack them so the lids needs to be taped on and the bricks are stuck together. Based on my last 14 cups, I spend about $0.03 a brick on the Pick-and-Build wall. My last cup cost $19.99, and the same order from Pick-a-Brick would have been $85.95.
So, what about buying from other online sources? I have tried Craigslist, Kijiji, Bricklink, and eBay. I was never really sure if I was getting a good deal or not, so I decided to really compare online resale prices to the Pick-and-Build wall. I have massed my last 14 Pick-and-Build cups and their contents. I have found that on the average $19.99 cup, I am getting:
- an average of 715 bricks.
- an average cost of $0.03 per brick.
- an average cost per gram of $0.05.
- an average cost per kilogram of $52.41.
- an average cost per pound of $23.77.
Online re-sellers often charge per brick, or by mass. So, if you use the above numbers as a guideline, hopefully you can judge whether or not you are getting a good deal or not. But, beware, some online re-sellers will sell you Megabloks or some other non-LEGO® brand bricks at LEGO® prices. This is particularly true of the garage sale sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. I have bought from each of those sites once, and both times the seller was either ignorant or dishonest.
I have tried to include as many useful tidbits as I could think of in this article. So, hopefully that information will prove useful to LEGO® enthusiasts out there. If you have any other tricks-of-the-trade that you would like to share, feel free to comment in the space below.
Until next time,
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