Monday, 29 April 2013

Gold Rush

OK, so at the risk of sounding like a broken record, here we go once again....

I've previously moaned here and here about LEGO's increasing tendency to dangle limited edition merchandise, be it ultra-rare Super Heroes minifigures or Star Wars sets, in front of LEGO fans. The practice unfortunately shows no signs of abating, however, and now it's spreading to the Collectible Minifigures.

I'm referring of course to the infamous "Mr. Gold" (below). LEGO have hidden 5,000 of these gold-chromed but otherwise fairly unremarkable minifigures in cases of Series 10 Collectable Minifigures and have thus predictably sparked a frenzy amongst collectors and completists. A couple of early examples turned up in Germany and were duly listed on eBay for 999 each, and others are starting to pop up elsewhere, including the UK and the US.

So why are LEGO doing this ? They must surely be aware that the chances of any of these figures ending up in the hands of children, who us AFOLs are repeatedly reminded are the target demographic, are next to nil. And I'm struggling to believe that the LEGO company actually set out with the intention of lining the pockets of eBay scalpers. Which does beg the question of exactly what they're trying to achieve by doing this. Is the popularity of the Collectible Minifigures starting to wane, necessitating a publicity stunt like this to try and re-invigorate sales, or is it just good, old-fashioned greed and a desire to milk the Collectible Minifigure cash-cow for all its worth ?

I think it's fair to say that reaction to this latest development hasn't exactly been overwhelmingly positive (see for instance here and here to get a flavour of some of the opinions out in cyberspace). It's interesting that some folks have reacted by stating that they won't buy Collectible Minifigures any more as a result - they can realistically no longer guarantee that they'll be able to acquire full sets of figures, and as such there's no point wasting time and money trying to "find 'em all". In fact, it's not inconceivable that I may well end up going the same way - I've quite enjoyed collecting all 9 series of figures so far, not to mention the Great Britain Collectible Minifigures produced for the 2012 Olympic Games, but now that I'm unlikely to be able to complete Series 10 my enthusiasm for keeping it going has evaporated somewhat. So Series 10 might be my last if LEGO goes down the same route for Series 11 and beyond.

Some may argue that rare though the figure may be, we all at least have a chance of finding one. Except maybe not, if allegations of underhand behaviour by some retailers are to be believed. There have been more than a few reports of supposedly new, full boxes of Series 10 Collectible Minifigures having seemingly been rifled through by store staff before making it on to retail shelves; certainly the current resale value of Mr. Gold is hardly a discouragement when it comes to skulduggery perpetrated by the unscrupulous.

In its Mission Statement, LEGO speaks of a desire to foster creativity, but it's hard to escape the conclusion that the only creativity this initiative is likely to foster is the discovery of new and creative ways of surreptitiously searching (and indeed opening) packets of series 10 CMF's in stores in order to try and find Mr. Gold. I suspect that's not what LEGO had in mind when it first came up with this brainwave, but you reap what you sow. For my part I just hope that there's sufficient backlash this time round for LEGO to reconsider its decision and refrain from subjecting us to this chase figure nonsense for Series 11 and beyond.


  1. I agree completely.

  2. The sad fact is that people WILL pay through the nose to get the figure. If no interest was shown and the scalpers could only get a couple of quid for it there wouldn't be a problem. It's the desperate people who are willing to fork out silly money that make this an issue at all.

  3. mr_benn29/4/13

    Absolutely agreed on all points. I'll be interested to see in the end how this whole debacle compares witht he ComicCon exclusives - where you had comic fans wanting a dinky little figure because it's both a character they like AND it's Lego AND it's a ComicCon exclusive, compared with this which in the end is 'just' Lego - a Star Wars or Marvel etc completist isn't going to worry about it - though as you point out, a collectible minifig completist is.

    Grrr either way - I really do hope this is just a one off and we can all move on!

  4. I totally agree. I hate how when Lego puts out something hard to find, people are ready to pay THOUSANDS on ebay and other sites for only a minifigure. I think it's a bit crazy.

  5. Playing both sides here a bit...I actually think that LEGO's "trading card" style formula here could be reasonably supplemented by rarer figures beyond the standard 16 per box. The main problem is the way they've handled this. They could have done things that are done with other blind-packaged collector's items - like say "there's one of these special sets per box" or "each case of boxes has one special set" or even "we have a variation on each of these 16 characters that is even more limited, and there's only one of each of those in a box!"

    They should have tried a more intermediate level of rarity first. By going straight to an extreme lottery, they've ignored lessons learned by other companies and made things needlessly painful for collectors (and inevitably, for themselves, as collectors get increasing fed up. Most kids I've talked to about the 'figs gave up due to rarity/limited funds/impatience around series 2 or 3).

    Also, LEGO has tried the "gold" lottery before with disastrous results. Remember "gold C-3P0? Didn't they promise to always use terms like "chrome" instead of "gold" afterward to keep people from thinking that these were actually made of gold and thus worth committing crimes for? I remember (sadly can't recall the source) hearing about stolen and destroyed merchandise involved during the 3P0 promotion.

  6. I really like the idea of Mr Gold. He's so bloody ugly what kid would want him? It's really only the deranged AFOL completists after him. I would have liked a golden ticket scenario so he could not be felt for though. The toy store staff have been finding and selling all the Treasure Hunt$ Hotwheels cars for years! Mattel finally made that a bit hardy recently.
    I also would have liked a second tier of rarity with all 16 standard S10 CMF chromed one per box to give a total of 17 gold chrome CMF
    That just me though 'cos I'm happy with my standard set of 16 plus a few select extras for my city.
    Great blog BTW. Always a good read. How goes your city? Can we have an update soon please?

    1. Guess that makes me a "deranged AFOL completist" then.... No worries - I've been called worse !

      My City layout is currently submerged beneath a sea of LEGO sets; I'm in the process of arranging additional storage, at which point I can reclaim the City, work will recommence and I'll post an update.

  7. Anonymous6/5/13

    The Lego Group is really annoying me lately. I've never been interested in collecting these figures but when I read about this it just seems to me that Lego is exploiting it's position as a very popular toy. What really grates with me is the latest May the Fourth promotion whereby the UCS B Wing is 50% discounted in the States and not discounted at all anywhere else. Talk about alienating consumers outside the States!! As if people outside the States arn't fed up with having to pay more as it is! I hope TLG gets a nasty sales shock sometime soon

  8. what if we just want pieces for a set, do you think we will get to a time where we can just 3d print parts, or order parts online? like i don't want the team GB boxer, but i would love to slap a pair of boxing gloves onto a regular mini figure

    1. No need to 3D print parts - most, such as the boxing gloves you mention, can be purchased from Bricklink ( and some parts can be bought direct from LEGO although the selection they offer is much smaller.