Revealed!! Why LEGO Toys Are So Expensive

By on May 8, 2013

Lego Retail store

Whenever we post LEGO deals on Ben’s Bargains, they’re usually quite popular because regular-price LEGO sets just seem outrageously expensive for children’s toys. The 3,803-piece LEGO Death Star (10188) is frequently cited as an example, retailing for $400.

LEGO Death StarYet, we love LEGO anyway and continue to fork over our hard-earned cash for these fantastically well-crafted pieces of (ABS) plastic. The LEGO Death Star has been in production for 5 years (!) and is frequently seen on eBay for significantly more than the MSRP during peak buying periods, as are many other popular and/or rare LEGO sets.

Among LEGO buyers, it’s known that the price per brick hovers around 10 to 13 cents. According to Andrew Sielen’s excellent analysis What Happened with LEGO, the price of a brick has been relatively static for the past 8 or 9 years and was even significantly higher two or three decades ago — you know, back when most adults today were playing with LEGOs. And this price stability has occurred in the same time period as the advent of LEGO’s licensed sets (Star Wars, Harry Potter) which actually carry very little to no price markup compared to the non-licensed sets.

Expensive, Just Not Crazy Expensive

LEGO toys aren’t always tremendously more expensive than its closest competitors (knockoffs) MegaBloks and KRE-O, which have increased in popularity in recent years with its own licensing deals like Halo (MegaBloks) and Star Trek and Transformers (KRE-O). For example, while the 413-piece LEGO Tie Fighter (9492) can be found for around $45 to $50 and the 443-piece MegaBloks Halo UNSC Mantis is a comparative value at $32,  the 432-piece KRE-O U.S.S. Enterprise is the most expensive at $50.

Star-Trek-Kre-O-USS-Enterprise

LEGO USS Enterprise? Nope, this is the KRE-O USS Enterprise!

Even a comparison of plain bricks is a close call. A 450-piece MegaBlocks Ultimate Building Tub is $25 (5.5 cents/brick), while the 405-piece LEGO Ultimate Building Set (6166) is around $30 (7.5 cents/brick). So, yes, LEGO toys are generally pricier, but not by a huge margin.

Resale Value, Quality and Size

Grumpy Cat in LEGO formThe thing is, LEGO sets hold their value and then some. Sealed and mint brand-new sets from popular lines like Star Wars have been known to go for twice as much as the original price, and sometimes even used sets can fetch higher-than-sticker prices. The LEGO Star Wars Slave I (8097) sold for $80 three years ago and can now be found on eBay for as much as $100 new and $75 for used.

LEGO is famous for its crazy attention to detail and precision engineering of the billions of pieces they’ve produced over the decades (over 400 billion since 1958, according to the company).

Not only do pieces from different decades fit together with consistent clutch power—which is not always the case for its competitors’ offerings (i.e. MegaBloks) from the same set!— but its high-priced molds are ridiculously accurate with tolerances as minute as 0.0005″. You’re not gonna be pumping out LEGO-quality bricks with a 3D printer anytime soon. You’re also not gonna find this special sauce in MegaBloks bricks, either.

Besides quality, the size of sets is a major factor in the perceived expense of LEGO toys. The aforementioned Death Star is one of the top-five largest LEGO sets with over 3,800 pieces. The more advanced Architecture series LEGO sets often have over 500 pieces with a few over 1,000 pieces. By contrast, the top-of-the-line LEGO set in 1980, the Inter-City Passenger Train Set (7740), had  786 pieces and the classic LEGO Main Street (6390) had 591 pieces—these sizes are now commonplace.

6390_Main_Street

LEGOLAND Main Street — a classic of its time…

Higher quality production, the ever-increasing size and complexity of high-end sets and the impressive resale value of LEGO all contribute to its high price tag. But the number one reason is, of course, demand. We’re still willing to fork over more cash for LEGO sets, and that’s that.

Watch for LEGO deals on Ben’s Bargains and be sure to set your Deal Alerts!

About Joe Warner

I'm the senior editor of The CheckOut. I am an aficionado of shiny gadgets and classic Hollywood movies and can also tell you the names of the late '80s Swedish Davis Cup team members.

2 Comments

  1. Will

    May 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    That Deathstar 10188 is never going to retire, is it?

  2. Matt

    December 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    5.5 cents vs 7.5 cents isn’t a lot more expensive? It’s 36% more expensive.

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