Saturday, 4 September 2010

The curse of missing pieces

As I said yesterday, I really can't stand having my building pleasure interrupted by missing pieces. Unfortunately, if like me you buy the occasional old, retired set off Ebay, you've just got to accept that the sets you buy will often arrive with a few pieces missing. While I genuinely don't believe that this is because there are a lot of dishonest sellers out there, the reality is that most people selling LEGO on Ebay aren't collectors or professional traders, they're just people trying to raise a bit of cash by selling off their old toys, or mums and dads selling their kids' old toys to clear some space in the loft. Consequently, their idea of a "complete set" is often not the same as mine. They may for instance not think twice about substituting a missing piece with a similar but non-identical one, or even replacing it with the same piece in a different colour. Or they may just ask little Johnny if the set is complete, Johnny shrugs and says "I guess so", and 5 minutes later the set is listed on Ebay as "complete". Such is life.

So what to do ? Well, as is often the case, the online LEGO community is here to help. Allow me to introduce you to the joys of Peeron and Bricklink. Amongst other things, these miraculous websites contain databases which capture every single piece (part number, colour and quantity) contained in pretty much every single set that LEGO have ever produced. Ever. It's astonishing. Just think about it - at some point, an army of selfless, unpaid individuals have carefully sorted through all these thousands and thousands of sets painstakingly documenting which pieces they contain, how many and in which colour. And all that information is available to all of us, free, gratis and for nothing.

The end result of all this generosity is that it's possible to check whether your set is complete before you build it. I personally tend to use Peeron for checking my sets - while it's been somewhat neglected of late and doesn't contain information about the newest sets, I just prefer the way it's laid out. The process is as follows : go to Peeron website, enter set number, and hey presto - up comes a listing of all the parts that the set is supposed to contain, with full colour pictures of each piece should you wish to see them. Simples. Using the Space Shuttle Launch set I got a couple of days ago as an example, click the link below to see the full parts listing.

Space Shuttle Launch parts listing

How cool is that ?! So you've checked off the pieces against the online listing, and to your dismay there are a couple of pieces missing. Irritating, but thankfully not terminal thanks once again to the joys of Peeron and Bricklink. Believe it or not, the world is literally full of nice people who make it their business to help you replace missing pieces. They'll also supply you with pretty much any piece in any colour and any quantity for that life-size LEGO model of Chewbacca that you're constructing in your living room, if that's your thing. Most of these sellers don't do this for a living - it's a hobby. And let me tell you that these people are worth their weight in gold. Peeron and Bricklink generate a listing of the sellers who have the part(s) you need, in the colour(s) you need, and all you have to do is pick who you want to buy from, make sure they ship to your country, and you're laughing. And unless the replacement pieces you're after are particurly rare, obscure or huge, an added bonus is that they're often pretty cheap - literally pennies in many cases - although you'll obviously have to pay the postal costs on top. I generally use the Bricklink website to connect me to sellers who can replace missing parts, and touch wood I've never had a bad transaction so far.

So you've checked your set, replaced the missing pieces and now you're ready to build ! Never underestimate the satisfaction you can get by sorting an old set, replacing the missing pieces, and returning it to former glories. It's like restoring an antique. Sort of.


  1. Richard Selby4/9/10

    Thanks for this. I'm new to the Lego world, but find myself buying sets of ebay exactly as you describe. Your average AFOL might say 'Bleeedin' obvious' but good for the rest of us.

  2. Hi Richard, glad you found it helpful. I'd go as far as to say that discovering Peeron and Bricklink did more to fuel my enthusiasm for collecting old sets than anything else. It was a revelation to me to realise that I could replace missing LEGO by the piece, and that it wouldn't cost an arm and a leg to do so.

  3. Anonymous4/9/10

    I too like the style of Peeron more. But I've found so many mistakes in the inventories there. I once tried to correct one by sending an e-mail as described, but it's still listed wrong.

  4. Jake6/9/10

    You're right about the satisfaction of resurrecting old sets using Bricklink and Peeron. I've done dozens of my old sets, and it's a great feeling to "restore" them after many years.