LEGO: for children, adult fans and speculators

Collectors and speculators also get their hands on Lego. From a golden stone that has been auctioned off for 18,498 euros to sets that sell dozens of times the price.

A Flemish man is bent over a row of gray LEGO parts bins. He looks at them brick by brick, is this the right piece? He builds a launch tower for a rocket with the toy.

Working time for 20 stones

“I was here at ten o’clock this morning,” he says. It is now three o’clock and he is still busy until about five o’clock. In his container of LEGO, which he wants, there are about 20 pieces. A small yield after 5 hours of searching.

“But I’m looking for very specific stones,” he says, pointing to paper lists he has with him. “Brick, 2×2, modified, grey”, he marked, for example, with a fluorescent marker. He carefully compares the pictures on the list with the stones he is holding.

There are thousands of gray parts in the bins. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. “It’s a fun hobby,” he says.

Adults

Flemingen is not the only adult in the Breda business looking for the right piece among used bricks and mini-doll figures. “At least half of my customers are adults,” says Bram Akkermans (29), owner of Brams Bouwblokke.

It is the new target group for LEGO, which focused only on children in the first decades of its existence.

“At the turn of the century, LEGO was almost bankrupt. Then they turned around and started publishing specials around popular movies like Star Wars and Harry Potter and also started special LEGO for girls,” Akkermans says of the company, which launched 90 years ago this week.

Gain

It did no harm to the Danes. In 2004, LEGO suffered a loss of 260 million euros and the end seemed to be near. In 2021, a net profit of 1.8 billion euros was recorded. Sales increased by 22 percent in 2021 compared to 2020. Revenue increased by 27 percent to 7.4 billion euros.

“The corona crisis has done LEGO good”, says Akkermans. “People started cleaning out the attic, saw old bricks and started building again. Before there was a taboo for adults to play with the bricks. It has now completely disappeared, partly because of the TV show LEGO Masters. We make quite a few children’s parties here. , but also have a bachelor party today.”

Used

Akkermans only deals in used stones and accessories. He buys used sets and resells them. Rarely in set form, usually in parts. Everything is unpacked and sorted by color and shape. Customers can only visit him by appointment, he is based in a business building in Breda.

“I played with LEGO as a child. When I was about 15, I started collecting and trading again. I bought sets that were temporarily on sale and sold them a little more expensive via Marktplaats. Later I bought bricks and minifigures to sell through barter . Then I took a thousand kilos with me.”

Due to the corona crisis, stock market sales came to a standstill, and he moved to the company’s premises in Breda.

There are two types of customers, he explains. People, often with children, who just want to play with the toys and come by because they have lost stones e.g. And collectors, people who know their business and profession. They are especially looking for rare LEGO.

Color important

He shows off some drawers filled with seemingly ordinary rocks, dolls and other paraphernalia.

“This is a scaffold to put up a palm tree. It’s blue. It’s worth three tens, because it’s hardly been released in that color. In yellow, it’s a few pennies. And the red roof tile, in that size will release it almost doesn’t, so it’s also valuable,” he points out some parts.

Small flag of 23 euros

He sells the valuable LEGO through a special website. From a two-by-two-centimeter red flag that costs 23 euros to a Marvel doll (Hank Pym) at 12.50 euros. A so-called timber car even costs just under 190 euros. “It really depends on how rare something is, what edition it was released in.

He grabs a white stone measuring two by four centimeters. “This one is white, 10 cents, but if you want a dark blue, you pay five times as much.”

Rare

It’s like an antique shop. Only the right expert fishes out the profit makers. “95 percent of the LEGO material is normal, 4 percent is special and one percent is rare. There are bricks that never made it to the market, but that the Legoland company has used for construction. It really takes a lot of money. I now have an order of 800 euros.”

He deliberately does not make new LEGO. “You can only do that as a large chain, for example the LEGO stores themselves. Small toy stores have to pay more in purchase price than the amount Amazon sells it for, for example.”

Investors

In addition to collectors, there are also investors who have their eyes on toys, according to Akkermans. “But it remains a gamble. Sometimes people think a certain set will be worth a lot, and then it’s disappointing. But there’s a lot of investment in the toy.”

This is also what Gerben van IJken of Catawiki, an online auction where special objects are auctioned off, says. He regularly visits international LEGO fairs and notes that there is also an increasing supply and demand for exclusive toy sets on Catawiki.

golden stone

The most expensive stone ever sold at auction: a gold example of a few centimeters, which sold for 18,498 euros.

Not even 26 grams and two by four centimeters in size, but collectors and speculators bid hard for the 14 carat specimen. “These are bricks that only LEGO employees received who had done something very special for the company or who had been employed for 25 years,” says Van IJken.

It is not often that something from the Danish company is auctioned for such an amount. But there are big boxes that go for hundreds of euros.

Close the box

“LEGO that has been played with is not worth much more. But if there is something new in the box, it is different. That is why I always advise people to buy two boxes. For example, this week there is an auction where a castle is from the 90s is being auctioned.”

The new price was 70 euros, the highest bid is now 700 euros. Van IJken: “But whether something really increases in value is difficult to determine, it remains a gamble.”

High efficiency

Every day, investors face the difficult choice: do you invest your money in stocks, bonds, real estate or something else? It is best to buy LEGO, which is the most profitable used. This is according to a study conducted by Victoria Dobrynskaya, an assistant professor at the Russian Higher School of Economics

She collected the prices of no fewer than 2,322 different Lego sets released between 1987 and 2015, all belonging to the popular Lego themes.

What turned out? Lego delivered an average return of between 10 and 11 percent. That’s more than many other investments.

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