Thursday, 9 August 2012

Scalpers Rejoice !

LEGO-wise it's been a bit of a frustrating week so far, initially spent willing the last few AT-AT parts to arrive so I could start to build, then realising that I'm actually short of more parts than I first thought and therefore having to dive back into Bricklink. Still, they say that you have to suffer for your art, so maybe I'll appreciate the build all the more when it finally starts. Maybe.

While I've been waiting, I've consoled myself by perusing the various LEGO forums. One thing that's caught my eye has been the number of people posting "Wanted" messages on the Brickset Forum seeking to buy or trade exclusive items given out by LEGO at events such as San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). Good luck with that, guys...

LEGO have been doling out small numbers of limited edition minifigures and exclusive sets at events for years now, although I only became aware of this practice a couple of years back when I read reports of attendees at Star Wars Celebration V and SDCC picking up limited edition Star Wars Cube Dude sets (above - click to enlarge). Since then, LEGO giveaways at such events seem to have become an increasingly prominent part of the LEGO calendar, to the extent that speculation about what will be given away starts weeks beforehand, and the subsequent bragging by the lucky few then goes on for literally months afterwards....

Some of the most recent LEGO giveaways include four exclusive Super Heroes minifigures at SDCC 2012 - Phoenix (above), Bizarro, Shazam and Venom - and a trio of unique Green Lantern, Batman and Superman minifigures at SDCC and New York Comic Con (NYCC) last year. In previous years other themes such as Star Wars (below) and Indiana Jones have featured.

On the surface, you might be inclined to give LEGO a big great pat on the back for their generosity and wonder what there is to complain about. LEGO are producing neat stuff to give away free, gratis and for nothing to LEGO collectors. The problem is that the route by which most of the passionate LEGO collectors eventually secure these items isn't via an obliging LEGO employee at a show, it's via eBay, or maybe Bricklink. And as you can probably gather, by the time most collectors get a look in, the nature of the transaction has gone from gift to gouging....

Let's look at some of the recent giveaways for evidence of this, starting with the Super Heroes Shazam minifigure (above) given away at SDCC earlier this year. Cost to recipient : nothing. Cheapest current Bricklink price : $165.00. Or you can try eBay, but once you've eliminated the custom minifigures you're looking at a $100 starting bid. Alternatively, I see that some eBay sellers are offering all four of the exclusive SDCC 2012 minifigures for the 'bargain' Buy It Now price of $749.98 - way to go ! Then there's the exclusive Batman minifigure from SDCC 2011 (below). Cost to recipient : zero, zilch, zip. Cheapest current Bricklink price : $254.99. Or you can Buy It Now on eBay for $180. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the gist - these items are expensive. I don't necessarily blame the sellers for trying to get what they can for the items; the current shoddy state of affairs is at least as much down to LEGO for putting the conditions in place for such a situation to predictably develop.

So what is the LEGO company hoping to achieve with these desirable giveaways ? My suspicion is that they're trying to attract new customers by targeting the freebies at events such as SDCC rather than, for instance, LEGO shows attended by genuine LEGO fans, and if they antagonise a few existing fans in the process then so be it. After all, those LEGO fans are already hooked. The company do need to be careful, though - with increasing numbers of people buying LEGO sets just for the minifigures these days, there's a chance that some will stop doing so if you take away their ability to "collect 'em all" by releasing exclusive minifigures which are out of their reach.

Honestly, while I have managed to track down a few of these exclusives, I'd actually prefer that LEGO just didn't bother with these giveaways at all. Tantalising sections of your audience in this way just seems cruel and potentially counterproductive to me, the joy of the few outweighed by the frustration of the many, with the only real winners being those opportunists seeking to make a financial killing out of the whole thing....


  1. Anonymous9/8/12

    Your last paragraph summed up the situation perfectly; well said!

    I don't see any new fans coming onboard from these exclusives, and it just demoralizes their core audience. Why bother collecting DC Superheroes when there'll always be core ones (like Bizarro) that you'll never, ever be able to get?

  2. Agreed. The amount people have to pay for a few pieces of plastic is ridiculous. It'd be cheaper to just make your own molds. :P

    I think LEGO has really done a great job with this. But yes, the only people who can brag about having these figures is either the lucky kid at SDCC or an adult with lots of money. There is no room for people with not as much money to burn that live in Hawaii.


  3. I highly doubt most of the people lucky enough to score this figures at the conventions will suddenly be interested in LEGO. Any non-AFOL will get it and say "this is cool," then sell it once they realize it's going for $150+ on ebay. I highly doubt someone got one of four and was suddenly saying "wow, I should collect the whole line of these sets."

    Stuff like the cube dudes and the Star Wars diorama are cool, and any fan who wants to recreate those should have little trouble picking up the parts and building their own version. There's no way to do that with exclusive figs, which is why I think so many collectors are mad.

  4. While Lego is producing some really incredible stuff for these giveaways, they do nothing to build their customer base. As people have stated, these awesome exclusives don't turn a cosplayer into an AFOL.

    If they really want to create exclusives, they should make them available to current LEGO VIP members. Then they'd be rewarding loyal fans instead of feeding the scalpers.

    Don't feed scalpers!

  5. Anonymous11/8/12

    Agreed Dave.

    On the Cube Dudes, I don't know why people don't take a quick look at them and build a near perfect copy for a fraction of the price by bricklinking them or just seeing what parts they have lying about. They are not particularly hard to do.


  6. Anonymous11/8/12

    This topic touches a nerve for me too.

    I love collecting Star Wars lego but I think it's unfair about these exclusive give-aways. Well, life is not always fair and you just cope with it. That's fine and I do and continue to enjoy the lego I have. But I like to be a completionist as an adult collector and lately I've just had the mindset that it's time to sell and carry on a new hobby. I don't think Lego wants this message being sent to it's loyal fans.

    Paying for for these almost impossible to get pieces is just way out of my budget range. Lego is already quite an expensive hobby. I think it's a shame because Lego will lose me and probably others who are the real fans of their products.

  7. The legoman12/8/12

    Hi Dave, can you do a post on blacktron, m-tron or futuron, the ones that went just after classic space? Were they in your dark ages? I haven't seen anything about them yet.
    Thanks for the post,

  8. I really agree. I'm starting to hate a bit how everybody only gets sets for the minifigures. Lego is all about the fun of building.

  9. It's all about the collectors now :( I used to to love building all sorts buildings and cars.

  10. Anonymous7/6/13

    Looking at this issue, I think LEGO is required to attend shows like Comic Con in San Diego and hand out free stuff. That is at least the case with the current Disney/Marvel/Star Wars and DC Comics contracts. If the freebies get into the hands of scalpers, then tough luck. There is nothing they can do about it.