A Beginner's Guide to Buying Lego

By Kim Snaith on at

So: you’ve discovered the lure of the mighty plastic brick, eh? We welcome you, AFOL, into our Lego-filled arms. Buying Lego for children isn’t too much of a hardship: there are dozens, hundreds even, of low to mid-priced sets for kids. You’re likely to pick a set with a theme that best corresponds to your kid’s interests. Into Disney? Pick a Frozen set. Like superheroes? There are tonnes of Marvel and DC-themed sets. Like ninjas? Take a look at Ninjago.

And while some of the smaller sets are still fun for adults, we’re typically into the bigger, fancier sets. The kind that take hours or sometimes days to build, and when we’re finished we’ll proudly put them on display for our friends and family to coo over (or, more likely, roll their eyes at and secretly wonder why a full-grown adult is still playing with Lego. Well, joke’s on them, because they don’t know what they’re missing out on!).

The thing is, those big and fancy sets also have a big and fancy price tag to go with them. We’re not going to lie; getting into Lego as an adult is a very expensive hobby. The largest of Lego’s sets come with eye-watering RRPs of £650 – yep, about a month’s rent for a London broom cupboard – and most Lego Expert sets – the ones designed with adults in mind – will set you back at least £120, often more. Needless to say, if you don’t have much disposable income, Lego probably isn’t the most sensible choice for a new hobby.

That said, there are ways and means of getting Lego slightly cheaper, or at least getting a better deal that simply paying RRP. After buying a lot of Lego in the last couple of years, I’ve had quite a lot of experience in handing over money for a box of bricks. And rarely do I pay RRP – unless I’m getting some worthwhile freebies alongside it. Here are some tips to help you on your way to having too much Lego that you don’t know what to do with it.

Make sure you’re a Lego VIP member

Lego has a loyalty scheme, known as VIP. It’s free to join, and if you plan to buy Lego from the Lego Store even once or twice a year, it’s worth signing up. You’ll get some exclusive freebies along with your purchases from time to time, which is a nice perk, but the main draw of Lego VIP is the fact that you earn points every time you spend something. Those points add up, and can be traded in for various perks – the most useful one being credit to spend in-store or online.

Better yet, every month a couple of sets will nab you double points, with regular double point events across everything in the store.

If it’s not a Lego store-exclusive set, wait for a discount

There are very few sets that are exclusive to Lego – most you’ll also find in other retailers. On the high street, Argos, Tesco and Asda stock Lego, but their ranges tend to exclude the pricier, more collectible sets. Smyth’s is about the only physical store you can walk into and expect to walk out with the latest large Lego set. If you happen to have a John Lewis nearby, they also stock Lego, but you’ll find a bigger range on their website. And of course, Amazon has a fairly large range.

All of these retailers are pretty quick to slap a reduction on a set. Usually it’s only a few weeks after release that you’ll be able to get a discount of 5-10 per cent off RRP as standard. On smaller sets, you’ll likely see discounts of 20 per cent or upwards fairly quickly. Sadly, larger sets tend to hold their value more, but that’s not to say that John Lewis or Smyths isn’t going to discount it. Smyths regularly has Lego events where they’ll discount certain ranges. They also have store-wide events perhaps two or three times a year that give you discounts – most recently was a voucher giving you £10 off every £50 you spent, with no limit. That meant a 20 per cent saving on the biggest Lego sets they stock, like the £350 Hogwarts Castle (£280 after discount) or the £650 Millennium Falcon (£520 after discount).

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If it is a Lego store exclusive, wait for a freebie (or double points)

Unfortunately, Lego rarely does a good sale. There’s occasionally an event that reduces some of their range – like Force Friday just gone saw some older Star Wars sets get around a 30 per cent discount. There are also some good offers that come around at the usual sale times, like Black Friday and post-Christmas. But that’s not much use at the rest of the year, and the sales very rarely include the newest, most sought-after sets.

Most months, Lego will have a free gift that’s given away to customers who spend over a certain amount. Those free gifts vary in quality and size, but some of them have been pretty nice little sets, like a miniature replica of Avenger’s tower, or Diagon Alley. With an eBay resale value of around £30 or more depending on the set, they’re worth getting. So wait to make your purchase until there’s a decent freebie you can get your hands on. Sometimes there are even multiple free gifts to have in one transaction, if you’re savvy. In the absence of a free gift, getting double VIP points on your purchase can also be a worthwhile reward.

Check eBay

I personally don’t like buying second-hand Lego, but sometimes an eBay purchase is worth considering. People also sell brand-new, unopened Lego on there, and if you’re a wise eBay buyer, you can sometimes snaffle bargains. Keep an eye on ‘newly listed’ buy-it-now Lego sets; sellers looking to clear out space can want a quick sale, or aren’t necessarily aware of the resale value of their set.

If you don’t mind a set that’s already been built up, buying second-hand could be a good way to save some money, too - especially if you’re not bothered about having a box. Collectors are very keen on item condition being pristine, which means sales without boxes often go much cheaper. If you’re more into the building and displaying than simply collecting, it could be a good option.

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Consider Facebook Marketplace/Gumtree/Craigslist/Local paper

It might not be the 90s anymore, but that doesn't mean that free ads aren't worth checking out. If you live in a smaller town, your local listings might not be up to scratch, but in bigger cities it's definitely worth keeping an eye on Facebook Marketplace and the like to see what your community is trying to flog.

Lego is popular, but it's also a popular item to resell. Lots of people have had enough once it's been built, or they run out of space to display sets, and the only option is to sell it. There are always people looking to circumvent eBay seller's fees by trying to sell directly, so you never know what you might find.

Acquaint yourself with Bricklink

Bricklink is a marketplace dedicated to Lego. Unlike eBay and local listings, everyone selling on here is very much in the know about Lego and its value, so you're unlikely to pick up a bargain. But Bricklink is a much more complete marketplace: if there's a Lego set you want, no matter how old or rare, chances are it'll be on Bricklink. You might have to pay a pretty price for it, though, but prices do tend to be fair in terms of a set's actual value.

You can also buy parts individually, if you're wanting to put together your own model, or accumulate the pieces for a rare set yourself. It's doable, but chances are you won't save a massive amount of money doing it that way.

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Shop around 

This sounds obvious, but if you have your heart on a set, don’t settle for the first price you see. Make sure you check around a variety of retailers to see who is offering the best price. If they’re all the same price, go with the retailer that’ll offer you the best service – maybe free delivery, or a free gift.

Wait - but don’t wait too long

It’s worth noting that Lego sets are very rarely as hard to get hold of as they used to be. Fewer and fewer sets seem to be exclusive to Lego in the long-term, even if they’re exclusive for a couple of months. And every set seems to have a much longer shelf life than they used to. It wasn’t uncommon to see sets become retired after a matter of months, but now the majority of them will stay around for at least a couple of years – most likely as a means for Lego to tackle scalpers who try to resell sets after retirement for a massive profit.

So don’t feel you need to buy a set the day it's released. Unless you’re desperate to get your hands on it, it often pays to wait a few months, to see if any retailers drop a discount. Just don’t wait too long. All sets do get discontinued after a time – it may be after 18 months, it may be after seven years – but once that happens, they suddenly and instantly becomes very difficult to buy, unless you’re happy to pay much more than RRP on eBay. Which of course, nobody wants to do.

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