How to Pick and Pack

In last month’s guide, we discussed some tips and tricks on how to get extra LEGO® bricks cost effectively (click here to read it). One of my favorite tips is to shop at the Pick-and-Build wall in the LEGO® Store. Spending $19.99 on a large cup lands me an average of 715 pieces, at a cost of about $0.03 per brick, which is excellent. But, how do you cram 715 bricks into a cup? Keep reading to find out!

How do you get the most out of your Pick-and-Build cups?

“A large cup lands me an average of 715 pieces.”

To write this guide, I did a very simple experiment at home. It involved two large Pick-and-Build cups with lids, a kitchen scale, and 230 standard 2×4 LEGO® bricks. In the first cup, I just shoved as many bricks as I could into the cup. In the second cup, I stacked the bricks into columns of 15. I was able to fit seven columns into the cup. I then made a couple of smaller columns to fill the extra space, and shoved in a few extra, loose bricks where I could. Each cup was filled until the lid had just a little difficulty snapping shut. The idea behind this experiment was to see which cup actually contained more bricks.

My experiment involved two Pick-and-Build cups filled with 2×4 bricks.

The end result was that the cup with the loose bricks had 100 pieces in it, while the cup with the stacked bricks contained 130 pieces. The same sized bricks were in each cup, but stacking the bricks reduces the amount of air between individual bricks, allowing you to squeeze more LEGO® into the same space. In this case, we are talking about 30 more 2×4 bricks. That means that in the cup with the loose bricks, you are paying $0.19 for a 2×4 brick, whereas in the stacked cup, you are paying $0.15. Don’t believe me? I massed the cups too, and you can check the images out below. The cup with the stacked bricks has a mass that is 66 grams greater than the cup with the loose bricks.

Mass of the Pick-and-Build cup with the stacked 2×4 bricks.

“…stacking your bricks to minimize air pockets is the way to go…”

So, it seems pretty clear that stacking your bricks to minimize air pockets is the way to go when filling a Pick-and-Build cup. But, the keener readers among you probably noticed that I said early on in this article that my average haul at the brick at the Pick-and-Build wall is 715 bricks at a cost of $0.03/brick. My cups in the previous paragraph only talked about an ideal situation of 130 bricks at $0.15/brick. So, how do you make up that difference? Well, remember, I was talking about averages in the first paragraph. In reality, my cups range from $0.02/brick to $0.06/brick. It all depends on the type and size of the bricks you are aiming for. But, even then, $0.06 is way better than $0.15. The trick is matching different types of bricks in a cup based on size. 

Mass of the Pick-and-Build cup with the loose 2×4 bricks.

If you look carefully at even the stacked 2×4 filled cup, there is still a lot of empty space. I always fill that space with smaller bricks, even if I don’t need those bricks at that particular moment. 1×1 plates and studs are the best for that, but I often take 1×2 as well. I collect colors that are harder to come by, or that I can see myself using in the future. The idea is that you jam those empty spaces with a much smaller type of brick.

Close inspection reveals there is still a lot of empty space in even the stacked cup.

“… jam those empty spaces with a much smaller type of brick.”

You might be thinking: “Isn’t it the same if I just mix in those small pieces as I am filling the cup with large bricks? Won’t the small pieces fill those gaps?” The answer is no, you will still lose space needlessly to air. I have done that experiment too. I filled two cups with 2×1 bricks. In the one where I just loosely threw them in, I fit 436, along with sixty 1×2 plates. That gave me a grand total of 496 bricks ($0.04/brick). When I stacked the 2×1 bricks, I fit 481 of them, along with one hundred and twenty seven 1×1 bricks, and two hundred and twenty six 1×1 plates. That was a total of 575 bricks ($0.02/brick).

Loosely packing your bricks makes it look like the cup is really full, but you have lost a lot of space to air.

So, what is the moral of the story? Stack those Pick-and-Build bricks! You might get some funny looks from people in the store, and it will probably take you way longer to fill your cup. But, the trade-off is way more LEGO® for the same price. And, as a final tip, bring your old cup with you next time you go. If you tell the cashier that you are reusing your cup, you get a small discount!

The stacked bricks deceptively look like they leave more empty space, but they don’t.

“…reusing your cup, you get a small discount!”

Do you have any other tricks to share? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below. Also, if you like the content at True North Bricks, I would love it if you followed me here on WordPress (click the “follow” option in the menu to your right), FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.

Until next time,

-Tom

Re-using your old Pick-and-Build cups can actually get you a discount on your next purchase.
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