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.