Sites such as Brickset keep the LEGO fan up to date with the latest LEGO-related news and also enable visitors to catalogue their sets and write and/or read reviews of sets by other fans, while Peeron and Bricklink offer complete inventories of sets plus links to online traders, so you can see which pieces you're missing and then replace them. There are also sites focusing on specific themes such as Space, Castle, Trains and Star Wars, while other more general sites such as Eurobricks have discussion forums focusing on a host of different aspects of building and collecting LEGO as well as some of the most comprehensive set reviews on the web. And there are loads of other great sites such as FBTB and The Brick Show offering their own unique view of the LEGO world, as well as blogs like the one you're reading now, of which there are probably millions.....
One of the aspects of the LEGO community which I've personally benefited from, and which I think there's perhaps some scope for expansion of, is in the area of co-operation. Forums, like for instance those on Eurobricks, are an invaluable source of information, but in addition to the sharing of information, we could potentially help each other out in other ways too. For example, there have been a few occasions over the past few years where contacts I've made within the LEGO world have helped me get hold of sets which I had previously struggled to find. Most recently, a reader of this blog sent me one of the exclusive Brickmaster Star Wars sets which has as yet never been available in the UK (thanks, Dan !). It's pretty hit and miss, though - I moaned on this blog about not being able to get the set in the UK and someone offered to help, but there must be easier ways to make contacts. It's a simpler and more systematic way of getting people together for the purposes of such non-profit trading that I think may be currently lacking.
|Bricmmaster Shuttle - not available in the UK....|
I spent a few minutes thinking of other ways that LEGO fans might be able to help each other out, and a few things immediately came to mind :
- There have been a ton of 3 for 2 offers recently, at least in the U.K. and U.S.. I could have walked into Argos and bought 3 Clone Turbo Tanks for the price of 2 if I'd wanted, bringing the price down from a painful £99.99 each to a much more reasonable £66.66. But what am I going to do with the 2 extra sets ? Sure, I could resell on eBay immediately, or more profitably hold onto the extra sets until the LEGO company stop making them and then sell, but frankly I don't need the hassle - I'm a builder and a collector, not a trader. An alternative would have been to join together with a couple of fellow LEGO fans and we could all have got a bargain without having to figure out how to dispose of the extra sets, but how do I make contact with these people ?
- Many of us have really got into the collectable minifigs craze; while the identity of the minifig sealed within the foil packets is supposed to be a surprise, the barcodes on the packets in fact reveal their identities so it's been relatively painless to get hold of all 16 minifigs in each series. I understand that from series 3 onwards, however, the barcodes will no longer identify which figure is in the bag, so we'll have to resort to trial and error. Unless of course the LEGO community gets organised and finds a way to enable swapping of duplicate figures on a large scale.....
- Be it Brickmaster in the U.S., newspaper giveaways in the UK, or whatever, the LEGO company keeps finding ways of providing exclusive sets to its customers in one region while denying them to customers in another. I'd be very happy to try and source duplicates when such offers come up in the U.K. and swap them for similar offers elsewhere, and I'm sure I'm not alone. But how can people easily set up these arrangements ?
I'm aware that trading of LEGO-related items, including minifigs as above, is facilitated by a couple of sites, but this has somehow never seemed to really reach critical mass. I concede that trust is clearly a big issue in such matters - all we seem to hear about these days is how everybody is looking to rip us off online - but the success of sites such as eBay has demonstrated that the vast majority of people you come across are decent and honest, and I'd wager that when you venture into specific enthusiast communities such as that which surrounds our LEGO hobby, the proportion of villains is even smaller. Certainly my experiences on Bricklink, and with fellow fans I've 'met' online, has been 100% positive. I don't have 'the answer', however. Perhaps 'the answer' is already out there and I just haven't stumbled upon it yet - if you know reputable sites where this kind of thing goes on then please let me know. I do however think there's a 'gap in the market' for a site or resource to bring enthusiasts together for non-profit trading.
Talking of the LEGO community, I'm aware of a couple of LEGO fan events this weekend that look like they're worth checking out if you can get to them. In the U.K. the Brickish Association is putting on the Great Western LEGO Show at STEAM in Swindon. This will feature displays of models, interactive events and LEGO-related shopping opportunities. There's also going to be an awesome new set unveiled there which people will be able to see for the very first time "in the plastic"......pictures of this new set have already started to hit the web this afternoon, and I think it'll be worth getting along to check out the real thing. Meanwhile in the U.S., BrickCon 2010 is now underway in Seattle, featuring hundreds of models built by fans, a Building Zone where you get the chance to make your own models, and numerous opportunities to exchange the contents of your wallet or purse for oodles of LEGO goodness..... These kind of events offer people a great way to actually meet their fellow fans in the flesh and potentially put a face to some of the folks they've encountered on the forums etc.. If anyone reading this blog knows of such events and wants me to plug them please contact me and I'll give them a mention.