Sunday, 10 October 2010

Balancing act

I was reminded of the sometimes fine balancing act between being a LEGO builder and a LEGO collector this past week. The launch of Set 10214 Tower Bridge, together with double VIP points from LEGO stores during October, prompted me to put in an order for the Tower Bridge set plus a number of other sets I'd been meaning to get for a while. It was the biggest order I'd put in for a long time, and I was obviously eager for my bounty to arrive. My excitement turned to dismay, however, when the doorbell rang a few days later and I saw the state of one of the large packing boxes that had arrived - dented and battered, with a large tear down the side. The good news was that Tower Bridge had survived the pummelling pretty much intact, but some of the other sets were just too bashed for me to accept them and they'll have to go back to the mothership in Billund.
Winter Village Bakery - wish mine had arrived looking this good....

These things happen, and if you're going to shop online you just have to accept that your items, whatever they are, may not always arrive in tip-top condition. It also has to be said that ordering direct from LEGO is generally low-risk as they send the sets out in quite robust boxes, and also usually throw in a few of those air-filled bags which look like individual monster bubble wrap for good measure. Nothing can protect sets against the most determined of destructive courier companies, however, and it got me thinking about why it matters so much to me when the boxes of my LEGO sets aren't pristine.

While I'd certainly describe myself as a LEGO collector, I only actively collect Star Wars sets and a couple of other themes; generally, I just buy sets I like the look of. And none of the damaged sets that I'll be requesting replacements of are Star Wars sets or other themes that I'm collecting. Furthermore, looking over my collection with an objective eye, even a number of my Star Wars sets are far from 'mint', so it's not as if I have the kind of collection that I'd be able to sell to the most discerning of buyers for a huge amount of cash anyway. And that's assuming I'd even sell my LEGO. In fact, I can't really envision a situation other than utter destitution where this would happen; almost certainly I'll cherish my LEGO until I snuff it and then hopefully my boy will take up the baton.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that it really doesn't do any good to analyse any of this too closely because it's fraught with illogical behaviour and inconsistencies. For instance, given that I'll realistically never own all the Star Wars sets in MISB condition, why am I so reluctant to crack open some of my sets which ARE sealed and build them ? The obvious answer is that the value will  diminish, but as I've already stated, I have no intention of selling anyway. Ever. It just doesn't make sense. Similarly, I go through phases of picking up sealed duplicates of used Star Wars sets that I already have, and also used copies of sealed sets that I already have, which all points to me trying to amass 2 complete collections - one sealed for the MISB collection, and one used for building. And that's even though I'm fully aware that I'm not willing to commit the kind of funds necessary to complete a sealed collection. Honestly, Freud would have a field day. It does however suggest that I'm at times uncomfortably straddling the fence between being primarily a collector and primarily a builder, and that life would be easier (and perhaps cheaper) if I could just make my mind up which I really am.....

The UCS X-Wing - worth a fortune sealed, but great to build....

It's a strange beast, LEGO. There can't be many other toys which can consistently be sold for as much, if not more, than they were bought for, and if left unopened can not infrequently fetch 2 times, 3 times, 4 times or even more times their purchase price within just a few years of buying them - just look at how much MISB LEGO Batman sets are selling for on eBay if you are in any doubt. Perhaps it's this which can at times result in an uncomfortable tension between the impulse to collect and hoard, and the need to open the sets and build. For me, the compulsion to build generally wins out in the end, regardless of how much a set is worth, but it can be a close-run thing sometimes.....


  1. Well said DrDave, this made me chuckle, it reads like it was plucked straight out of my own brain!

    I've been kidding myself for a while now that I'm not opening and building any sets due to a lack of space. Really, deep down I know I'm kidding myself, I just don't want to ruin their MISBiness. Like you, I have no intention of ever selling my collection, so why oh why do I think like this?? I need help I reckon (or so my friends tell me on a regular basis).

  2. In all the years I've been getting stuff shipped from LEGO I've never had anything damaged, so you were really unlucky.

    My Tower Bridge arrived yesterday: it's heavy, isn't it! Maybe that was a factor.

    I wish I knew why I buy so much stuff, when I have so much in the cupboard still to build. In fact, when my daughter went to uni 3 weeks ago the first thing I did was clear our her spare wardrobe and fill it with MISB lego: there must be 50+ sets in there, from 2004 onwards. When will I ever build it all? Probably never, particularly when there's always something else new to buy...