Welcome to Part 2!
In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 HERE.
So back to the story of my journey into LEGO…
Star Wars ‘Planet Sets’
Just browsing through some of the Star Wars stuff in another of my trips through the LEGO shop, I noticed these little series of minikits. They consist of a plastic planet or a moon (or in one case the Death Star - “that’s no moon!”) within which you get a small model of a Star Wars vehicle to construct, a minifigure and a little plaque that gives the name of each piece. You can see one such example below:
For someone who likes the idea of simple little models and cant afford/don't have space/cant be bothered to purchase a full blown LEGO kit, this was an appealing purchase. LEGO you clever, clever marketers, you!
So I bought 2 of these: AT-ST (9679) and the TIE Interceptor (9676). You can see them here, chilling on my shelf:
I’m not sure what people usually do with the planet thingees after they are emptied (baubles for a Star Wars themed Christmas tree?), but I’ve kept them anyway as one of them is used to hold some spare LEGO parts.
Now these belong in a series, with 3 model kits in each one. Series 4 has just been released which means there are now 12. I’m not a fan of the ‘prequel’ Star Wars films (save for Darth Maul – he was a badass) so a few of the sets I’m straight up not interested in. But the others? I just had to get them.
So next I picked up the X-Wing (9677) and the TIE Bomber (75008) – two iconic spacecrafts from the Star Wars universe at a reasonable price. The Twin-Pod Cloud Car from Bespin I’m not too bothered about, but Series 4 is looking good with a Hoth Snowspeeder (75009), B-Wing Starfighter (75010) and Tantive IV (75011) (for those of you that don't know, that’s the ship you see being chased by the Star Destroyer right at the very beginning of Star Wars). I haven’t picked them up yet but I will once they've been out for a bit and the price drops (for some reason they initially retail at a slightly higher price than the other sets).
Why is all this important? Well, these are perfect ‘gateway’ sets. They give you a small sample of the simple yet satisfying construction of LEGO that you probably haven’t experienced since childhood. Everyone loves building stuff - in the LEGO store, adults seem to play with the blocks and ‘build your own minifigure’ just as much as the children do. Building and creating stuff is just plain fun. If you are a fan of Star Wars and you want affordable, minimal commitment and nice display pieces, these ‘Planet Sets’ are perfect for you.
Although you do also get a minifigure inside each of these sets, it wasn't really these that started my minifigure collecting madness.
It was actually…
Collectible Series Minifigures
Since 2010, LEGO have been releasing various series of collectible minifigures, with 16 figures per series. They only sell one series at a time so once they are gone from shops, that's it - they're gone. We are currently on Series 10 (Series 11 is out in September) and so as you can imagine, earlier series are becoming more of a rarity and can be fairly expensive on ebay, especially if you are looking for that one figure that you just have to have for your collection.
Here’s how it works: you pay £2 for a small foil packet containing one minifigure. You don't know which one will be inside (of the possible 16 of the particular series) so as well as the rush of excitement and the unknown, this setup allows for increased collectability and to encourage trading and multiple purchases. Again, a smart move on LEGO’s part.
16 minifgs x 10 series… that’s 160 available minifigures to date. The designs are exceptionally good - varied too. You have historical characters, various professions and hobbyists, mythical creatures, science fiction… there is something for everybody. Whether you are a crazed collector that needs to get them all or a casual buyer who might pick up the odd one, £2 is a great price for an excellently designed and quality built minifigure.
You can check out some from Series 1-8 in the pic below or HERE for
all the designs to date.
all the designs to date.
I personally don't have the desire to collect all of them (some designs I’m not too bothered about), but there are many collectors out there who buy whole boxes of these packets every time a new series comes out just to ensure that they get every single one. Presumably they trade or sell the inevitable duplicates.
There is a good market for these on eBay, as there you often don't have to buy a blind packet. You can get the specific minifig you want from any series – and as a lot of sellers combine postage, it’s always tempting to buy a few at a time. Obviously, the older series and more rare ones will cost you a bit more. For example, the Zombie from Series 1 goes for a minimum of £25!
You think that’s ridiculous? That’s nothing compared to Mr. Gold…
When Series 10 came out there was a special 17th minifigure available to collect, aside from the regular 16.
Now this guy is super rare. As in, only 5000 of his exist in the entire world. Collectors have gone mad over trying to find him, with stories of people bulk buying entire boxes of packets just to have a bigger chance of finding him. There have been some stories of LEGO/warehouse employees rifling through entire boxes using the feel method (more on this later) before they hit the shelves. Some want him just because they are completists, others because they know his rarity will fetch a pretty penny – eBay currently lists him for sale between £500 and £1000!
Some in the community have criticised LEGO for this as it has caused a bit of mass hysteria amongst buyers as well as the inevitable slew of fakes appearing (there are many ‘custom’ Mr. Gold’s available for eBay) and despite each genuine Mr. Gold coming with a serial number, it’s still no guarantee that you wont be duped by some unscrupulous opportunists.
Personally I’m not too fussed – I don’t think he is that great a design anyway and I’m certainly not a completist trying to collect every single of the 161 available collectable minigs.
It’s just a piece of plastic after all.
Well what if I told you that that’s not even the most expensive minifigure out there right now? A Comic-Con 2013 exclusive ‘Azog’ minifigure from The Hobbit currently goes for around £1,291 on eBay. Or you can get a set of all 5 exclusive Comic-Con figures for a princely sum of £3746. Just wow…
Ok, touching down to earth once again.
Say if you are in a shop and you want a particular minifig for your collection. How can you identify what’s in a specific foil packet? Well it was first discovered (in the earliest series) that reading/scanning the barcode on the back of the packet would let you know what the packet contained.
In later series, this changed to feeling for the little ‘dimples’ on the bottom ridge of the packet to identify the contents. Once again, LEGO got wise to this and now for the most recent series, the only reliable method of knowing what minifigure is in a packet is through the ‘feel method’ – the old fashioned squeezing and squishing of the contents inside to make an educated guess at what it could be.
If you know what you are looking for, it’s not as a hard as it sounds. The shape of certain accessories or unique headgears are usually good identifiers. Most collectors are familiar with what each available character in the current series looks like and also they are usually on display (in LEGO shops at least) so you can always use that as a point of reference.
In fact, LEGO shop employees are usually very skilled at identifying the contents of a packet and, if you ask nicely, will usually find you the one you want. I’m often in there chatting with the staff so they have no problem in helping me out in that regard, which has undoubtedly saved on many ‘blind’ purchases.
Thinking of starting your collection of LEGO minifigures? You’d better hurry as Series 11 goes on sale at the beginning of September. Once that happens, Series 10 will only be available on eBay and other such traders (The Minifigure Store is another good place to buy). See below for a peak at what Series 11 has in store:
Click HERE to be taken to Part 3!
13th August 2013