The 2020 Guide to Retiring LEGO Sets

June 28, 2020
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning BrickingScanner receives a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Within this guide, we’ll review LEGO’s process for retiring LEGO sets and how that impacts their value. Learn how we find sets we think are about to retire  

What Are Retired LEGO Sets?

Retired LEGO sets are sets that LEGO has discontinued and no longer produces. Typically, LEGO  introduces several new sets a month across all their themes. These sets are on store shelves and available online for about 18-24 months — give or take. After that, they are no longer produced, a.k.a. “retired.”

LEGO usually does not announce when popular sets will be retired. That’s right, LEGO’s Retiring Soon page only lists a few sets that we know will retire. For everything else, we need to use some markers to sense when this might occur. This includes days on sale and in-stock information from many retailers. 

Finding Retired LEGOs with BrickScanner

At BrickScanner, we will attempt to give you this information as quickly as possible to assess whether you’d like to make a purchase. With our Twitter alerts, we’ll let you know the set name, age, sales rank, availability and purchase link. You can also find retiring LEGO sets within our BrickScanner data tables.

How Does Retirement Impact LEGO Value

Like many other popular products, prices rise when supply is limited.  When these products’ production comes to an end, ‘new’ supply starts to drop and prices will rise over time.  The question is:  How quickly? 

For the collector, the sweet spot is usually to get a good deal is a clearance or sale 6-18 months after introduction. For an investor, they’d like to acquire as many of the target set as possible, at the best price possible, nearest to the most rapid price rise – just like the stock market. The ideal investment time is a clearance sale on a retiring lego set,  but this isn’t always possible. In most cases, you’ll need to find a balance of clearance and retail prices when finding your inventory.

How Do You Resell LEGO?

The Quick Flip

The “flip” is when the buyer of a product recognizes an arbitrage opportunity and sells a product immediately after purchase, taking their profit as soon as possible. This allows immediate return of capital as well, allowing reinvestment. With the quick flip, the seller is trading greater ROI for quicker cash.

When it comes to LEGO, the quick flip is usually a great option during temporary surges in demand, like the Q4 holiday season, or retiring LEGO sets that are starting to go in and out of stock. 

The Hold

The “hold” is when the investor buys with a longer time frame in mind. In this case, the buy-in price and timing isn’t as important – picking the right set is. When holding, you want to pick a set that has a high likelihood of quickly increasing in value.

A great resource for LEGO and other toy investing is a book by Greg Webb called Toyfolio. You can find out more about Greg and his book on his Twitter profile.

Spotting Quick Flips and Holds with BrickScanner

It is possible to find both types of opportunities from BrickScanner alerts and research tools.  At BrickScanner, we aim to provide valuable information in the form of actionable tweets or other alerts. These alerts usually try to find retiring lego sets that you can immediately sell, as well as investor or collector alerts where the buy-in price and age meet certain criteria.

What Makes a Good LEGO Investment?

Historically, there are several factors that have affected a given set’s appreciation.  These are listed and described below:

#1: Popularity (Demand)

Typically popularity early in the life of the set translates into popularity in retirement, thus price premium.  A way to see popularity is to check Amazon sales rank – either via Keepa or in the product details section of Amazon.

Example of Keepa graph showing relationship between sales rank and sales volume
In this Keepa graph, sales rank is represented by the green line. The lower the sales rank, the better the product is performing. When Amazon is in-stock, sales rank is very low. When Amazon goes out-of-stock, the sales rank rises, but still remains relatively low.
Example of Amazon product details section showing the sales rank for a product
In this example, a sales rank of 966 indicates the item is the 966th best selling product in the Toys and Games category. Often, secondary categories such as Toy Building Sets can be ignored.

#2: Time on Sale at Retail Stores

Time on sale is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the amount of time an item is available for purchase from retailers like Amazon, Walmart, or Target. If the time on sale gets shortened for one reason or another, the number of sets in circulation are reduced. If the time on sale is very long, there may be a lot of inventory between you and the price for which you’d like to sell.

#3: Unique Minifigures or Other Unique Pieces

Unique pieces in a set can also drive up the price of the entire set.  Below is an example of Davy Jones minifigure which only came in the Pirates of the Caribbean Black Pearl set.  The price of the figure drives the price of the set high very quickly.  In this case, there are two minifigs that are exclusive and highly prized.  The hat alone on this figure brings significant money. Bricklink has a function that allows you to see the pieces included in each set and the exclusivity of each piece.

Example of minifigure price vs. set price
In this example, the Davy Jones minifigure is selling above $100 as a single piece. This makes it the clear driver behind the set's price.
Example of Davy Jones minifigure only produced in one set ever
What makes the Davy Jones minifigure so valuable? This minifigure only appears in one set, making it a rare collector's item.

#4: Price Efficiency

The objective value of a set can be determined simply by the price of it’s collective pieces.  Efficiency would be the ratio of that collective price vs. purchase price of the set. Typically, a $0.10/piece target is not a bad set to invest in. Here’s an example of a solid set from a price efficiency standpoint $29.99 msrp and 342 pieces – lower than $0.10 per piece and if you check the comparable sets, 76119 looks very strong.

Example of LEGO set 76119 price and piece count

#5: Uniqueness

If a set is very similar to another previously made set, from a consumer perspective, the price of the newest set will be limited roughly by the price of the previous set.

Below, we have an example of a remake on the left, and an older set on the right. Since these are both Cinderella carriages, an amateur collector might expect the newer set to eventually rise to $65. But of course, we’re no amateurs here at BrickScanner. 

Before you leap to that assumption, ask yourself: Why would a consumer buy the set on the left at a similar price? (⅓ piece count, fewer figures) 

The answer is: They won’t.

On the other hand, a very unique set with colorful dragons, popular movies, TV shows or cartoons made for the first time typically does very well.

A comparison of two different Cinderella's castle sets
In this example, we have two very similar Cinderella's castle sets. Before we assume the newer set will reach the same price levels, we must consider piece count and minifigures.

Why is Brick Picking a Good Idea?

What is brick picking? Well, brick picking is similar to stock picking. You pick a LEGO investment based on the attributes above and take opportunities to buy in at low prices when presented.  The older the set, potentially the more urgency and volume you’d like to take on even a 20% off sale.

Ideally, every set you buy would be on clearance. However, many of the most popular sets are not widely available for 50% off or more. To make matters more challenging, it can be very difficult to acquire these sets in high volume just prior to retirement (which is difficult to predict).

When you’re able to identify LEGO sets that meet your criteria, often the best opportunity comes with 20-40% off sales on Amazon, Target, and Walmart. These might also exist in the form of a discount on a certain sale total or quantity purchased. Think of these sales as momentary stock market dips where you’re able to acquire shares without much fundamental shift in outlook.

When Should You Sell Your LEGO?

We won’t ever give you a price target for any given set because it’s very difficult to predict where the top is and everyone has different goals. However, since sales rank on Amazon gives you an idea of demand, why would you sell an investment with continuing strong demand that there are no more of?  It simply means that someone else is lined up to pay a higher price than you sold for.  In the Amazon US toy category, a sales rank of 50,000 equates to about 3 sales per day, 100,000 rank to about 1 sale per day.

In the example below, this set was widely available for $13 for over a year online and in stores allowing the investor to acquire a very significant number if desired.  What would be the merit of waiting for an additional $2-4 discount on clearance at the expense of quantity accumulated if the intention is to hold until 100k rank?  Waiting until the end on a very popular set or quick flipping a popular set at retirement could cost you significantly.  But one never knows what the future holds! Usually strong demand at retail translates to strong demand in retirement.

Example of Keepa graph segmented by price and rank increases
In this example, we see the correlation between price increase, sales rank, and volume of sales. As price increases, we can expect sales rank to increase. When sales rank increases, that means less units are being sold per month. Remember, sales rank is relative to the product category.

How to Use BrickScanner to Brick Pick?

We intend to use 500 days or approximately 18 months as a trigger to start automated notification of general retail sales purchase opportunities. If there’s a set over 500 days where the price drops, you’ll be notified. If there are single or multiple big box stock-outs on a single set over 500 days, you’ll be notified.

We see these as increased triggers for investment and accumulation. By using the filters noted above, along with a few others, we’re increasing our likelihood of spotting retiring LEGO sets. As always, it will be up to you to decide whether that investment will be right for you! When reviewing the sets that BrickScanner publishes, always confirm sales rank, set age, and availability.

Follow BrickScanner on Twitter

Ready to get Tweet alerts sent straight to your phone? Follow @brickscanner on Twitter, turn on notifications, and watch the alerts roll in 24/7. You’ll get alerts on LEGO deals, new releases, and in-stock notifications for retiring sets.