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LEGO price creep!

February 5, 2012
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I have been a member of Bricklink since 2002 when Vincent ended my personal dark ages by creating a little game about big robots.  In that time I have watched bricklink grow and observed the price fluctuation of certain parts.  I have also in that time created several “wanted” lists on my personal bricklink account.  These lists help me in organizing my thoughts when buying Lego.  They also help me in rounding out smaller orders.  Many times I will go to a bricklink store for a particular part they have listed, but the cost of the part or parts will not be enough to get me over the stores “minimum order.”  This is when I fall back on the wanted lists I have for other projects I have going, and failing that I then move to the wanted lists I have for open ended projects, and finally to wanted lists for finished projects that I never deleted.

This is how I stumbled across a startling revelation today.  The prices of two parts that I have purchased numerous times in the past have skyrocketed to astronomical proportions, and people are still paying those prices!

The first part I will discuss is bricklink part number 3778  Plant, Tree Cypress.

I decided, in 2004 I think, that I wanted to build a 90″ by 50″ Lego gaming table that could be covered in gray city base plates, or green countryside base plates.  Of course a green table this size would require a great many trees.  So I set about buying a great many trees, and my tree/plant wanted list is still active to this day.  I have filled out many undersized orders over the years with a few trees.  I did notice that fewer and fewer of the stores I was ordering from had this tree, and that now that I think about it, none of them have had any for several years.

Well I did bump into one today, and I was stunned by the price being asked.  I then decided to look at the prices across bricklink, and was floored by what I found.  The cheapest one is going for $11.00 Dollars even.  The cheapest store with more than one for sale wants $19.40 each!  But the best part is that one guy thinks he can get $59.00 for one, and that five other stores think it is worth at least $40, and another nine stores think it is worth more than $30!

I don’t have a count right now, but I think I have between twenty and thirty of them.  There are nine of them in this pic of a 30″ by 30″ landscape I made up just to take pics on.

Needless to say, I won’t be buying any more of these trees any time soon.

I almost wish I had not seen this price increase because I intended to take my tables to conventions.  In the past having a passerby pocket a tree might have meant I was out sixty cents to a buck, but now that tree is potentially much more than a handful of change.  With the price starting at $11.00, the nine trees in that last shot are a $99.00 value, at the highest listed price of $59.00, those trees are $649.00!

This part is not the only one to experience this price creep.  The other one I noticed several weeks ago.  The part is – Black Brick, Round 1 x 1 x 2/3 with Scala Base (Flower Edge, 4 knobs) bricklink number 289.

The cheapest one is $5.53, the most expensive is $8.00!  and to make it even better, there are only five for sale right now.

I love this part, it is so useful.

This mech uses four of them –

as does this mech –

You might also have noted that the battle droid infantry on the right hand side of the last two pics are based on a white version of this same part.  This part also makes a great stock for mech rifles.

Three of the four rifle toting Gundam in this pic are holding rifles with stocks made from this part.

I have between 30 and 40 of these, and again I won’t be buying any more of them any time soon.

To give you an idea of how ridiculous this price is, we will look at two other similar parts.

First up is the Black Brick, Round 1 x 1 Open Stud, bricklink number 3062b.

This part is 1/3 again bigger than the part in question, but its price starts at just one cent even!  One penny!

Next up is Black Plate, Round 1 x 1 Straight Side, bricklink number 4073.

This part is 1/2 the size of the round scala brick, and it’s price also starts at just one cent!

This is clearly not a case of “size matters.”  The price of these parts is simply determined by supply and demand.

Keep it stompy!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Soren permalink
    February 7, 2012 6:04 pm

    The crucial thing in figuring out why a part costs what it does is to look at how long ago it was issued, how many sets it came in, and how expensive the sets it came in were. They may show up in PIck-a-Brick from time to time, but you can’t really count on that.

    Cypress tress last showed up in a set in 2001, the black 1×1 round bit in 2002 (both times in small quantity in an expensive set). The mystery isn’t that they’re so expensive, it’s that they were ever cheap.

    (obligatory blatant plug: MFZ will include suggestions for perpetually-cheap scenery options.)

    • Soren permalink
      February 7, 2012 6:12 pm

      Um, I should probably fess up and say that, with certain rare parts (like #2745), I was personally responsible for driving the price up – although now that I check, there are a ton more out on the market now than when I bought out the entire supply of red and yellow.

  2. March 8, 2012 1:00 pm

    Yeah, what Soren said: the cypress tree only ever appeared in about a dozen sets, 3 of which were fairly large, and therefore expensive, sets, all in the early 80s. Another is Dacta, and another is Belville, both of which weren’t particularly popular, and both of which predate easy online selling, so people hadn’t started buying Lego just to part out and resell. Finally, other than a 5-pack in 2001 (at the dawn of online Lego selling), this part hasn’t been sold in nearly 20 years, and most of the sets are 25-30 years old. So I suspect you’re just running into the limits of the supply– those prices might reflect actually approaching the limits of what’s out there in circulation.

    Now, you want expensive, try building in [Neo-]Classic Space or [Neo-]Blacktron style–trans-yellow is stupid rare and ridiculously expensive. There’s a reason that most of the folks doing a Blacktron follow-on have chosen a different color scheme. I’m glad I had all those sets as a kid (and still do), but I wish that (1) Lego would make more windscreens, etc., in trans-yellow again and (2) I had bought multiples as a kid.

    In addition to Soren’s comment about availability in a total-quantity-produced sense, I think the existence of Bricklink has really changed things. http://www.bricklink.com/search.asp?itemID=90240&colorID=19 is running under $.50/ea, despite being only found in one $70 set, singly. http://www.bricklink.com/search.asp?itemID=90240&colorID=19 was available in half a dozen sets, ranging from large to very small, and yet runs around $2/ea. And then you get to http://www.bricklink.com/search.asp?itemID=69&colorID=19 ($20-25+/ea, and only one US seller currently), http://www.bricklink.com/search.asp?itemID=121&colorID=19 ($6+), both of which only occurred in one set. I really do think that Bricklink is making the Lego market very close to frictionless, and equalizing information availability for the most part, meaning that the prices are approaching a true reflection of the balance of supply & demand. Unfortunately, in some cases. 😦

  3. MrWeasely permalink
    March 24, 2012 12:40 pm

    Heh, coming at this from 2010 perspective, I saw Zeek’s great dioramas on BGG, went out to buy some trees, blanched, and just bought a bunch of green bricks instead, building my own trees. Brick trees are somehow more “lego” anyway. They take damage more gracefully too. Maybe one day I’ll get some green cones and build some conifers.

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