Wednesday, 6 March 2013

“That’s no toy. That’s an investment!”

“Music was my first love, and it will be my last.”

So said John Miles, by way of a fairly cheesy song.  But it was 1985 and we can forgive him, because pretty much every other song released at that time was cheesy too.  And with the possible exception of Mrs Boo, it holds true for me too.  I’ve had dalliances with juggling, anime and manga, a serious affair with cookery and an on-and-off long term ‘thing’ with videogames, but when it comes down to it, music has been my number one passion for most of my life.

“What’s he talking about?  I thought this was a Lego blog?”

“Leave him.  He’s on a roll.”

This morning, I grabbed the iPod and dialled up ‘The Wild Heart’ by Stevie Nicks.  Great album.  30 years old this year. (1)  If I remember correctly I’ve got a copy on CD (two copies on CD actually - never figured out where the second one came from) and another copy on vinyl.

But if something were to happen to those three copies, I could go and get another one just like that.

/snaps fingers to emphasise how easy it would be

Amazon - less than £7.00, and it would be with you in a couple of days.  If HMV hadn’t gone bust, you could walk into one of their larger branches and almost certainly pick up a copy today.  If you’re not attached to the physicality of the thing, you could probably download it digitally and be playing it in under two minutes.

It’s a great album, like I say, but it’s not a classic.  ‘Revolver’ it is not.  It’s no ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’.  It won’t be challenging the sales figures of epics like ‘Thriller’ or ‘Back In Black’.  
But if you want it, even though it's three decades old, it’s yours.

On the other hand, if you want a videogame that came out 5 years ago, then you’re looking at ebay or car boot sales.

So what’s all this got to do with Lego?  Well it seems that Lego is more akin to Pacman than Ms Nicks.  Sets are available for a period of time, after which they are withdrawn from sale.  Which has led to the slightly odd situation of ‘Lego as collectible’.

Soon after you get bitten by the Lego bug, you start to discover that - like most hobbies - it has it’s own language.  There’s the language of actually building the stuff - SNOT, I discovered, means Studs Not On Top, and it’s a building technique that leaves smooth edges because… well I’m sure you can figure it out. LURP - Little Ugly Rock Piece. SHIP - Seriously Huge Investment (in) Parts.  (Bit of artistic licence there, I think), and MOC - My Own Creation.

But in addition, there’s also MISB, NISB, BNIB, EOL and so forth.  Which, in order, are, Mint In Sealed Box, New In Sealed Box, Brand New In Box and End Of Life (when a set is discontinued).

These are some of the acronyms of the collecting and reselling world.  If you’ve got a MISB when it goes EOL and you can find a loaded AFOL (2) who’s prepared to shell out on that set that they missed, then there’s big bucks to be made.  

And big is right.

In the world of Lego there are many discontinued sets that command a premium, but one rises above all others.


10179.  It is spoken of in hushed terms when Lego collectors meet.

(Image taken from the fantastic database)

Back in 2000, after (presumably) two sets of lawyers had sat in a room for a very long time indeed, Lego struck a deal with Lucasfilm and launched the UCS series.  These were detailed Lego models of iconic 'things' from the Star Wars universe. (3)  Mostly ships, these are sets with (mostly) high piece counts and (mostly) high prices.

Back in 2007 I remember seeing 10179.  It cost £342.99, and while I thought it looked pretty cool, it never crossed my mind that anybody would actually spend that much on a Lego set.

What did I know?

These days, a mint, sealed box (and do not underestimate the importance of the factory seal-edness and the mintiness) of 10179 will set you back somewhere between £2,000 and £2,500!

Don’t get me wrong - not every Lego set increases in value when it EOL’s.  Some attract a bit of a premium for a while, some just about hold their value and yet more just become second hand toys, with the same price drop as anything else.

All of which was irrelevant to me, as I’d decided early on that I was only interested in Technic, and I was just going to buy stuff at reasonable prices.

Right?  Right?

Not quite.  

On Jan 11th, I was on one of the Lego forums, and found myself reading a thread that was basically watching a set go EOL in real time.  While most of the UCS sets since the Falcon had been pretty good, in 2010, Lego launched the 10212 UCS Imperial Shuttle.  It was, as I’d discovered in the few weeks that I’d been participating in my new hobby, generally regarded as something akin to ‘son of 10179’.  

The 10212 Lego Imperial Shuttle in all its glory.

(Image also taken from the database.  Sorry Huw!)

This was going to be a good one.

It was huge, for a start.  Beautifully detailed - an undoubtedly iconic ship.  And while it seemed to have been out of stock just about everywhere since Lego stopped production in December 2012, someone had spotted that had about 100 in stock.
And everybody taking part in the discussion had convinced themselves that this was it!  This was the last of them.

Only 100 left!

I watched with interest as people bought one. Or in some cases two.

70-odd left.

People were trying to guess what time the stock would run out.

50 left!

I looked over at Mrs Boo, sitting next to me on the sofa, who would obviously kill me if I spent a week’s salary on a Lego set, and dismissed such foolish thoughts.  I mean... it’s not even Technic.

40 left.

Some people were not just buying their first, they were adding to their collection.  A couple of guys (and when it comes to spending large amounts of money on Star Wars Lego, we usually are talking about guys) had double-figures numbers of sets.  I later discovered that one chap had bought 50 of them over the course of it’s two year lifespan, and had them stashed away for resale in the future.

30 left.

Slowing down a little bit now.

20 left.

Only 20 in the world left to buy (so it seemed).

19 left.

Hang on!  Where did that last one go?

Hmm.  I appear to have bought it.  How did that happen?

To her credit, Mrs Boo, when she finally found out about it took it fairly well.  But by that time I’d made a decision on what to do with it.  

Most people (I reckoned), would sell next Christmas, for a modest profit.  The hardened reseller would hold on for four or five years, which is pretty much the age of the Falcon now, and sell for a big chunk of moolah.


10 years.

It arrived a few weeks later with, considering how far it had travelled, very little damage (a small 1” rip in the bottom edge of the box, so not quite MISB, but not far off), I inspected the box, wrapped it carefully and put it in our loft.  And that’s where it’s going to stay until 2022.


Well first off, I thought I’d sell it for pots of cash in a few years time and we could have a holiday on the proceeds.  Then it occurred to me.  2022 will be the 10th anniversary of me losing my Mum, and the 25th anniversary of losing my Dad.

So I’m going to sell it (hopefully for a tidy sum), and split the money between the Stroke Association (Mum) and Cancer Research (Dad), which Mrs Boo thoroughly approved of, hence me getting off lightly.

Wish I’d bought two though...  

Really fancy building one.   

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1) The album.  Not Stevie Nicks.
(2) Adult Fan Of Lego.

(3) For the most part iconic.  There have been, in my opinion, a few clunkers.  Life sized Darth Maul head, anyone? 

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