By Paul Kennedy
The year was 1973 and Ed Maciorowski was setting off on a road trip that would change his life, brick by brick.
Of course, Ed had no way of knowing all this. He was just a kid with smart parents. The family, stuffed into a Ford Gran Torino station wagon, was heading from their New Jersey home to California. Ed’s parents gave him a LEGO set to play with as they set off on an adventure of a lifetime.
Funny thing is, the adventure wasn’t the trip to California. It was with LEGOs.
“I played with that set all the way to California,” Ed says of that magically simple 91-piece set, “Wrecker With Car.”
More than 40 years later, Ed and his brother, Jeff, are the driving force of BrickPicker.com, an online price and investment website for LEGO collectors. The brothers Maciorowski are also the authors of “The Ultimate Guide to Collectible LEGO Sets,” hailed as the No. 1 new release in Antiques and Collectible Toys on Amazon.com.
LEGOs have not only taken the toy world by storm – The LEGO Group is now the world’s largest toy company by revenue, surpassing Mattel – they have captured the attention of savvy collectors worldwide.
Started in 2011, BrickPicker.com is the third-busiest LEGO-related site in the world, with more than 5 million unique visitors a year. The Maciorowskis have 50,000 paying subscribers to their site, all looking for the kind of critical information they share in their new book.
“The Ultimate Guide to Collectible LEGO Sets” features more than 2,000 of the most collectible sets on the secondary market, illustrating not only the amazing value of LEGO bricks from an entertainment and educational standpoint, but also as an investment.
“I knew that people enjoyed building LEGO sets,” says Kristine Manty, a veteran book editor who managed the book project at Krause Publications. “But as far as investment interest goes, I was surprised by just how valuable and desirable LEGO sets are.”
Just how desirable are LEGO sets? Consider a Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Millennium
Falcon. The massive 5,192-piece set retailed for $500 when it was released in 2007. Today, a new set is worth about $3,500 on the secondary market.
Jeff’s personal favorite set, the Imperial Star Destroyer, retailed for $300 when released in 2002. The 3,000-piece set, which assembled is more than 3-feet long and weighs 20 pounds, is valued at more than $1,500.
So what’s going on here? How did child’s play become an investment opportunity?
Approximately 10,000 LEGO sets have been created over the past 50 years. Each set has a limited production run, some a few months, some several years. What makes a set valuable is the same thing that makes any collectible valuable: supply and demand. The more desirable and rare a set is deemed, the higher its value. Both demand and value are on the rise, pointing to a continued robust secondary market.
“Interest in LEGO sets and products are at an all-time high, so much so, there is a shortage of bricks in Europe,” Ed says. “Company profits are at a record pace and have grown for almost a decade now. New and interesting LEGO sets are being developed and retired every year, and LEGO is now opening a plant in Jiaxing, China, in 2017 and expanding their sales into untapped markets in Asia.”
LEGOs are truly an international phenomenon. The brothers have heard from collectors in South Africa, New Zealand, Thailand, Russia, Poland, Mexico, and Brazil, to name a few. A website in England, Brickset.com, just gave the book a rave review, calling it a “great resource” and the entire collecting culture “a bit of an eye-opener.”
No matter how big this part of the hobby gets, it’s important to remember the central creed at LEGO is “Get kids to build things.” In the backseat of a 1973 Ford Gran Torino station wagon, a young Ed Maciorowski did just that. And he hasn’t stopped.