Sunday, 1 September 2013

My Journey Into LEGO - Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the story of my Lego addiction.

Need to catch up? You can read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

Minifigure Madness Update!

        Ok, so even since my last article some things have changed.

        I have been steadily building up my collectible minifig collection bit by bit – especially since Series 11 has already been out. That’s right – due to an exclusive deal with WHSmiths, Series 11 minifigs have been released early in the bigger Smithies (the ones that sell toys and stationary) and the official LEGO stores aren’t due to get them in until today - much to the puzzlement of some LEGO store employees I spoke to.

        Needless to say, I was in there like a wedgie and have long since completed all of Series 11. Not only that, but I myself have also perfected the art of ‘the feeling method’ of identifying what minifig is in a particular sealed packet. Though there was an initial spate of blind buying packets (which is why I have too many bloody spare Welders to sell off!), I can now tell with 99% accuracy what is in any one packet I pick up of series 9,10 and 11. I say “99%” because I’ve only got it wrong once and that was during my learning phase so I’m sure you can let it slide.

        It's a two part thing – firstly, you need a complete knowledge of what figures are in what set (including all accessories, what materials they are made of and how they are put together) and secondly, you need to know what particular identifier to look for with each minifigure. Once you have a good knowledge of these two things it’s really not too hard.

        Ok, just to give a few examples here is Series 11.

        Identifiers to feel for each particular minifig are - Scarecrow: the long and thin pitchfork and the rubbery crow, Gingerbread Man: unique disc shape of head and mug with handle, Holiday Elf: the only one to have a 2x2 block and 2x2 plate in the packet (also you could feel for the hard teddy), Yeti: unique bulky headpiece and small flat ice lolly, Welder: rubbery hose of the welding kit and unique cylinder shape of the tank, Scientist: 2x flasks, Waitress: unique flat disc shape of the tray… and so on.

        Whilst I have bought random packets in the past, I no longer do this as I have pretty much perfected this touch method, not just for series 11 but also for series 9 and 10 (you are unlikely to find any earlier series on sale in stores).

        Okay but that sounds rather fickle you may say. Is all this feeling around malarkey really necessary? Well the biggest reason why this is useful is because of the uneven distribution within each series.

        You’d think that say, if you wanted a Scarecrow from Series 11, whatever packet you choose at random will theoretically have a 1 in 16 chance of obtaining that particular minifig.
That’s just basic probability, right?


        You see LEGO have been slighty naughty in making certain minifigs rarer than others within each set – increasingly so in these later sets such as 10 and 11. Classed as ‘Common’, ‘Uncommon’ and ‘Rare’ the breakdown for Series 11 is as follows: 4 of the 16 available minifigs are classed as ‘Common’, 6 as ‘Uncommon’ and 6 as ‘Rare’.
        It has been found, on average, that each box of 60 Series 11 packets contains only 2 of each ‘Rare’ and 4 of each ‘Uncommon’!

        So let’s get back to that Scarecrow then. He’s classed as ‘Rare’, so instead of 1 in 16 chance as you might think, there are only likely to be 2 of him in every box of 60 which makes it actually a 1 in 30 chance of picking him at random! (Anyone good at maths and want to point out that I’m actually wrong, please do so)…
        And that’s only accurate if it presumes that the packets are fresh out the box and nobody has felt through them before…

        That’s why the ‘feel method’ is proving so useful in finding the particular minifigs you want and not spend a ridiculous amount of money blind buying packets in the hope of striking lucky and ending up with lots of ‘common’ duplicates. Obviously the resale value of the rarer ones are a lot higher on eBay and as such and I’m finding it hard to shift some of the common duplicates that I have to make any kind of profit. I’m not in the business of full time eBaying, but this method of identifying and reselling the rarer ones can indeed turn you a nice profit.

        Some fans and collectors have complained about this uneven distribution (personally I think it would be better if they made the same number of all of them), but I guess it adds an extra dynamic to the collectability of each series.

        Oh, and in case you are wondering, the ‘Rare’ classed Series 11 minifgs are as follows: Scarecrow, Pretzel Girl, Island Warrior, Saxophone Player, Diner Waitress and Grandma. If you manage to get one of those from a random pick, count yourself lucky! Especially since ‘feeler sharks’ might have got in there before you, further decreasing your chances.

        I guess I can be classed one of those guys now – as long as you don't just swoop in there on day one and nab all the rare ones and leaving none for the kids (with great power comes great potential for douchebaggery as the phrase goes) – I guess it’s ok. At least now I’ll be ready and know what homework to do for when the next set comes out so as not to waste any money and get any (undesired) duplicates whatsoever.

A Guide to Feeling Packets in a Shop

        This is not a guide to the technique per se (I’ve pretty much outlined that above already) – but instead it's how to deal with the potentially awkward time you have to spend there standing in a shop, fondling the foil.

        1)   Don't look dodgy – Don't wear a hoody over your head, or a low hat over covering your eyes. No shifty glances around you. Act natural. Don't slouch. You may be there for some time so staff are definitely going to clock you at some point.

        2)   Be open about it – If a member of staff passes by, asks you what you are doing or if you need any help – smile and be nice and just tell them you are looking for one or two minifigs to complete your collection. Most of the time they will have witnessed someone else doing the same thing previously and be cool with it. This is even a great opportunity to ask if they have any more in the stockroom so that you can have a fresh batch to look through (which means you are more likely to find the rares).

        3)   Be cool with the staff – Often the minifig POS is by the till. As long as you are discrete, polite and don't get in the way of the queue, the staff won’t mind you being there. In fact, a few times I ended up having a friendly chat with various staff members behind the counter in WHSmith as I was there for a while, not just chatting about LEGO collecting but also about their upcoming holidays and other such lighthearted banter. Because I was so friendly with them, one guy even went into the stock room to get an extra lot of Series 10 for me to look through, from which I ended up scoring a few rares. Result.

        4)   Be efficient – Don't spend too long fondling. If you cant feel what’s in a pack within a period of say, 30 seconds, put it aside and move on to the next. Over-fondling of a packet may cause distress to the foil and you could even end up with damage to the pack or at the very least give it a worn and unappealing look to any other future buyers. Staff will not appreciate this. Be gingerly. Like a ninja. …A ginja?

        5)   Don't leave a mess – When you are done, put all the ones you don't want back neatly where they came from, pay for your stuff and thank the staff. Boom. Done.

        6)   If you are in an official LEGO shop... – you probably don't need to worry about any of the above as the staff will help you find the ones you want anyway!

        So yeah, all joking aside please do consider your etiquette.

Kindred Spirits?

        On one particular trip to WHSmith, I encountered another guy, slightly older, in a suit, stood there near the queuing area, rifling through several packets of Series 11. I immediately knew what he was up to so approached him.

        “Which one are you looking for?” I asked, momentarily startling him.
        “Erm… a few of them actually”, he replied.
        “I just need the Pretzel Girl, but I’ll let you know if I find any that you are looking for”.
        “I’ve found one already for myself”, he motioned to a neat pile off to one side, “but I’ll let you know if I find another one.”

        So off we went, searching through the packets…
        “Waitress?” I offered.
        “Er… sure. I’ll take that one. Here’s a Barbarian?”
        “Go on then, I’ll take that…” (NOTE: it wasn't - but hey, I forgive him).

        Combining forces, we got through the pile a lot quicker and both left with a few decent finds. He even offered me a Daily Mail voucher for a promo polybag as thanks but I had already picked up two for myself moments earlier so thanked him but politely declined.
        Hurray for teamwork and the spirit of collaboration! (Although I suspect he got a few more of the rarer ones as he was in there first). Anyway, I did end up getting a Pretzel Girl – cant remember if it was during that visit or another – so now I have all of Series 11.
        I also managed to get all of Series 10, 9 and most of 8 through various other sources (which we will go into in my next LEGO update).

        This post has been a little light on pictures so now I'll spam you some of my collection of Series 8-11. You can click on them to see bigger versions of them.

        Next time, in Part 4: I'll discuss the different avenues I’ve taken for acquiring minifigs, including eBay, Bricklink, swap sites and DIY jobs. Plus more photos of my burgeoning collection.

        See you then!

1st September 2013

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