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LEGO Online Shopping Guide: Top Tips

LEGO Land can be an exciting place, but you don’t have to be a pro at navigating to get around well. Nonetheless, I’m here with a couple top tips to help you feel like a pro, and to shop online like one. LEGO online shopping is a huge convenience.

Unfortunately, many of us have been cheated or misled at least once when buying LEGO online via sources other than the Official LEGO Shop. If you have not – well done! But I have.

When I was looking to add the rare remote-controlled Manas to my BIONICLE collection so many years after it’s original release in 2001 (it was around 2011), I hit a snag.

In my eagerness to finally have an opportunity to get this set, I made the mistake of taking a chance in buying cheaper than other offers. I bought it from an Amazon seller with few reviews when compared to other available alternatives.

LEGO Online Shopping, the BIONICLE 2001 Manas

When it came, you bet I was excited to finally have this set in hand! …Nope.

What came was the Manas BOX, with various BIONICLE pieces inside. Ugh. Confused at first, yes – but also you can imagine my displeasure…

I do not recall now if I ever got in touch with that vendor, or if I even heard from them after I completed the item return. Nonetheless, the second time around, I ended up getting the complete boxed Manas set for a reasonable price at the time. Glorious victory! And a lesson learned.

So let’s cut to the chase.

Mastering Shopping for LEGO Online. The Nitty-Gritty.

THE LEGO SHOP

A good baseline place to start when LEGO shopping is the source: The Official LEGO Shop. Get a feel for what is available and the sets currently in production.

See if you can find what you are looking for on there first, and if you can simultaneously qualify for any promotions. More on that in a bit. If you sign up for the free VIP membership, you can begin earning points by shopping, completing surveys, and engaging on social media.

LEGO Online Shopping - LEGO VIP Rewards Promo Keychain

eBAY

If you are looking for a rare, collectible item as a “one-off” occasion, eBay is a good place to check out.

You can find retired and current hard-to-find sets. Be open to engaging in a rowdy auction or two, as the “Buy It Now” option may not always be the best course of action, as I’ll caution shortly. Just do not let a win become a loss due to failing to set (and keep!) a price limit!

Finding bulk bricks is also commonly credited as one of eBay’s strengths. As of this writing, a search for “bulk lego” yielded over 13,000 offers! Be aware, however, that when buying loose bricks in bulk on sites like eBay or Etsy, you may get off-brand and miscellaneous imitation toys as part of the lot (Megabloks, K’NEX, etc).

LEGO Online Shopping - Loose LEGO bulk on eBay
Click to view current eBay listings.

Also be sure to vary your search query keywords when looking for a specific item.

Since eBay is not a LEGO-centric marketplace, sellers do not always use the full or proper name of a LEGO set. For example, if you were searching for 31120 Medieval Castle, try searching for the variations: lego creator castle, lego 31120, lego castle, or new lego castle.

You may be surprised!

AMAZON

Amazon is particularly suited for buying individual LEGO sets, and for sellers interested in selling large quantities of a single item. When searching for a deal on LEGO, it is not uncommon to have to exercise some patience in finding the best offer.

LEGO – and products on Amazon in general – are not always listed under a single product label. You may have to search under the product page’s “New & Used” offers, and “Other Sellers” in order to find your best deal.

UNOFFICIAL LEGO MARKETPLACES

Bricklink.com and Brickowl.com are two exclusively LEGO marketplaces to find, buy, and sell old and retired sets as well as new and used LEGO parts. However, these buying/selling sites can be less convenient and more challenging to navigate if you are not a regular LEGO fan who shops online. But for a seasoned LEGO fan looking for that special piece that used to be commonplace – it is a glorious place to browse!


Does LEGO Ever Go On Sale?


LEGO Online Shopping - Toys R Us and KB Toys logos

Well yes, kinda-sorta… sometimes, I guess. There can be seasonal discounts at major retail outlets on last year’s sets, but rarely additional LEGO-related promotions to stack on top.

Alas for the days of Toys “R” Us LEGO shopping!

Amazon may have sets “on sale” sometimes – but in actuality they are often just a little lower than retail price.

However, there is typically a continuous round of exclusive sales and promotions going on at the Official LEGO Shop, which typically include seasonal freebies and tickets to the Legoland Park.

LEGO Online Shopping - LEGO Mania Magazine Promotional Coupons
Oh the days of LEGO Mania Magazine’s exclusive coupons!

Discounts on actual sets however, are usually neither that large nor varied. Check frequently as special events or holidays approach – you may just find something that fits your desires (or someone you know)!


A Word of Caution When LEGO Online Shopping.


Like I mentioned earlier, scams do crop up.

LEGO has a lot of value in resale, so proceed with caution if you are looking for a rare or retired set and do not know the proper value.

If something is much higher or lower in price than retail, or if you see a “set” that is not listed or documented elsewhere – chances are you may not be getting what you’re paying for.

LEGO Online Shopping Guide: Top Tips - The scammer thief LEGO Brickster mugshot

Without exception, regardless of which marketplace you use: check the sellers, their product inventory, and their feedback; positive feedback should always outweigh the negative. If on there is minimal feedback or a negative downturn, contact them directly and ask some questions or request more images of the item.

On eBay, retired and currently hard-to-find sets are frequently offered as “Buy it Now”. If such an offer is exorbitantly priced (based on your prior cross-checking), hooray! You have likely encountered a scalper! Steer clear.

Another Red Flag:

If on there are multiple listings (or large quantities under a single listing) offered at a large discount, the item may be stolen! Proceed with caution. In any case, if shopping on eBay, review their Buyer Protection policies.

So to Reiterate:

  • Check seller feedback.
  • Be prepared to hold your seller accountable, in the case they misled or deceived you.
  • If there is no clear way to do so, or they are not responsive during your transaction – maybe think twice about what you’re getting!
  • Look for honest, non-generic, up-front images of the item, as well as a description of the item – ascertain whether it has been modified in any way.
  • If satisfied, help your seller establish trust! Leave specific positive feedback for them. Make it easier for the next buyer!

Simple as that.

Online Shopping and Spending Safety

If you take these basic steps to ensure legitimacy, you will avoid those seeking to exploit buyers who do not know the real value of a set.

The recent controversy about scalping – resulting from the BrickLink Designer Program, which allegedly utilized artificial scarcity – rubbed many fans the wrong way. Additionally, theft and LEGO trafficking rings in the Pacific Northwest of the US – and specifically Seattle, WA recently – have also brought a seedier side to light.

With that said, generally speaking, sellers who have a stocked inventory of LEGO to sell are truly LEGO folks themselves (again, except for aforementioned scalpers)!

So be cautious. But at the same time, do not fall into the trap of viewing the process of looking for good LEGO online as a “dog-eat-dog” wild west of unscrupulous Bricksters.

If someone is selling LEGO and they are in it for the fun and shared passion, you will certainly be able to tell the difference from fraudulent activity. Ask questions if you are unclear about anything, and go from there.

One last note on this topic: Analysis Tools.

Product Comparison and Evaluation Analysis Diagram

If you are interested in seeing how sets are valued over time, check out BrickEconomy.com. Analysis tools are available on there. Simply type in the name/set # that you are considering, to get helpful evaluation information to gauge an online LEGO listing.

It is not always 100% accurate – you may be able to find some older sets at lower prices than they show – but it is very interesting to see how LEGO set prices change as time goes by.

LEGO Online Shopping – Alternatives to the Same Ole Same Ole.

If you are buying LEGO for a young one, don’t get it for them just ‘cuz it’s Star Wars, or just ‘cuz it’s Harry Potter, or just ‘cuz it is whatever licensed IP they happen to like. I do have various complaints with excessive licensed themes, just so you know.

If you choose to follow my advice and gift a youngster an original LEGO-themed set rather than a licensed themed set, make sure you don’t completely avoid the Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc… especially if they want it!

Keep it in mind for a future gift opportunity. Get the imagination kick-started with an original LEGO theme (ie. City, Classic, Creator 3-in-1, etc.).

Then watch the magic happen when they finally receive that Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter set.

LEGO Online Shopping - Custom LEGO Alternatives for a Unique Gift

I speak from experience. As a little LEGO maniac, when I got a little LEGO, I made use of it even while wanting more, and how sweet and memorable it was to finally (sometimes) get “that one” that I wanted!

Nota bene: If there are currently no sets available in your desired theme (or if there are, but they do not meet your budget) consider picking out some meaningful alternatives.

Many custom items are created by passionate LEGO fans for fans – I made a post all about this. Head over there to overview Brick Loot, FireStar Toys, Build Better Bricks, and others. Additionally, check out my review for a more detailed look at some of the best custom LEGO manufacturers on the market today.

Basically, if you are looking for a castle-themed LEGO item – or spacecraft, or fantasy, etc. – but no official set currently satisfies your tastes, look for comparable custom LEGO memorabilia.

LEGO stationary, jewelry, LEGO picture frames, niche memorabilia, custom figures, LEGO lamps – you’re bound to find something unique.

So don’t just settle for a licensed themed LEGO set “just cuz that’s all on there is”. And don’t feel like you have to wring your budget to get quality LEGO-stuff that fits your interests, or those of your own young LEGO maniac.

How to Make That Price Tag Work for You!

Custom LEGO lamp on Etsy

So to wrap things up here, if your kid wants that Big Set, don’t just get it for them and call it good. (Heck this could even be useful for disenchanted grown-ups who have gotten too used to immediately ‘getting what they want’!)

Maybe get a comparable set in a different genre/theme that will whet the appetite and ease the immediate disappointment. And then in the meantime, help them realize something that is personally valuable to them. Help them invest that valuable thing (i.e. time, creative energy, perhaps even money) into getting “that set”.

I know from experience when I say that getting “that set” in that kind of circumstance will be much more memorable and meaningful long-term. Create magic – not just fleeting amusement!

Hopefully TALM’s rambling here will help you in some way. Perhaps in figuring out what would truly be the best introduction (or advancement) of your own – or your child’s – LEGO interest.

LEGO is still a glorious goldmine of imagination. The magical wonder and idealism may have waned from yesteryears, but one of the aims here is to point out what LEGO is doing wrong – thematically – to make it clearer what they did and are doing right.

Happy shopping, aspiring maniacs. }B^ ]

Hey Go Ahead, Share With Friends

TALM

Born to build ! Gotta build like crazy ! Passionate about sharing what I enjoy about LEGO and using that to highlight the magic in LEGO System and LEGO BIONICLE. Sharing tips, opinion, commentary, and the little things relevant but perhaps overlooked about our favorite building bricks.

14 Comments

  1. We have a house full of Lego and now that my boys have flown the nest, I was starting to sort through all the bits and pieces and gathering the instructions to have it all in one place. I was wondering if I should try and sell it. So this is interesting to find this post and see that people do sell them as lose bricks. And I also now know what to be aware of and look out for when I see Lego being sold online. Thanks for sharing. 

    • Thanks for sharing, Line. It sounds like you have a very fun house! 

      Absolutely, you could sell them as loose brick assortments. Or you could tackle the challenge of sorting the pieces and recreating each model to ensure that they are complete, and sell those sets as “used”. 

      Another alternative is to donate your old sets to the Lego Group’s RePlay program. Which donates the bricks to places like Teach for America and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. The RePlay site also provide a form to print out a free shipping label.

      Of course be sure to check with your boys first – they may have a favorite or two!

  2. Wow, I actually didn’t know that. I mean, I feel well aware that many industries are being plagued by counterfeits. But for some reason, I didn’t think that was the case for LEGO. I really appreciate that heads up. And I absolutely do feel your displeasure as far as that painful experience goes.

    Yeah, we were actually looking at a bulk set with my wife the other day. I want to get something like that for my girls. But, yeah, knowing that eBay or Etsy can bring off-brand bricks, I’m not interested in that. I feel that LEGO official shop is what I will start with. Not sure if they have LEGOS in bulk but it would make sense that they would. And then, yes, I will be bookmarking the Bricklink and Brickowl, too. And BrickEconomy, I will be saving that one, too.

    I genuinely appreciate all the tips. Literally money savers. Can’t thank you enough. 🙂

    • Happy to help Matiss! Good on you for taking steps to minimize your chances of getting gypped. You’re on the right track and I’m sure you’ll find the right LEGO assortment. 

      Places like eBay and Etsy are great for finding personalized and custom LEGO-themed items, and sellers are usually clear about whether or not their product is actual LEGO or not. But you’re right, starting with the LEGO Shop is a good idea to get oriented to the newest sets and those getting retired.

      If you decide to go with the official LEGO Shop, they do have a variety of bulk options, at various price points. Check out the LEGO Classic lineup: https://www.lego.com/en-us/themes/classic

      Happy building 🙂

  3. I have some nephews that are really into everything lego. They always want the most recent thing. You mentioned star wars and they are Star Wars fanatics. I would like to get them something along these lines but not the new stuff because they already have them. Are there vintage Star Wars lego sets?

    • Hah – totally understandable! Star Wars LEGO launched in 1999, so anything “vintage” would come from that year or subsequent years circa 2000. 

      So yes you could get them a classic LEGO Star Wars set but be aware that many of these sets (new, unopened) are rare and generally carry a higher price tag these days. 

      But if you do a little digging on eBay, (search for “lego star wars 2000 sets” for example) you may be able to find a complete, pre-owned classic LEGO Star Wars set. 

      If not, perhaps consider getting them a LEGO Star Wars encyclopedia. I mentioned a few in the post here:

      http://thesavantbrick.com/best

  4. This was a fascinating article.  My boys had lego sets as kids but I’m afraid they have gotten lost.  I would love to still have them and try to sell them.  Another missed opportunity.  I bet my grandkids would love a set of legos.

    You covered the topic well.  It was a very detailed buying guide.  The cautions on scams and ripoffs are important reminders to perform “due diligence” before buying or selling.

    I like the table of contents you have for each of your articles.  I clicked on the internal link, “Wondering What to Build out of Lego” and if I decide to buy my grandkids some lego sets, I will definitely provide this guide to their parents.

    I’m grateful for the tips on buying since I may be in need of them soon.

    Thanks again.

    • Thank you Lilly for your comments, and I am pleased you found something useful for yourself and family. Who knows, you may find one of those lost LEGO sets one day – let me know if you do. Could very well be some buried treasure!

      Best of success inspiring your up-and-coming builders!

  5. My kids used to love Lego. Now they are adults and they still build with Lego with their children. It is a great bonding tool for adults and children.

    • Absolutely. LEGO building is a great hands-on cooperative (or competitive!) activity, and can be the starting point for a lot of spontaneous fun, or ongoing traditions.

  6. You made me curious when Lego began and I looked it up. Apparently it was in the 30’s in Denmark during the depression. I didn’t have any Lego’s when I was a kid but I made sure my kids all had big boxes full.

    I actually had a lot of fun making things myself while they were taking naps, lol.

    I like this information as I now have a granddaughter that I can buy for and she is great at building things. I hate getting scammed when I think I have really done my homework. Your information will keep me buying Lego’s safely.

    Myron

    • Yes, the LEGO Group’s history is great to review from time to time! The company has has been kept in the family and passed from father to son up to the present day. You might be interested to check out some more reading on the subject, which could also be of interest to your younger family members – I have a post here!

      That’s great you have kept the LEGO fun going for your own, and that this was helpful to you. Best of success staying scam-free in your shopping!

  7. I was born in the 80’s and my first LEGO set came from Toys’R Us. Still have it to this day, with some missing pieces of course. The idea was to pass it on to the next generation but they don’t seem to like the older version of LEGOs. They are more interested in the new models like Star Wars and stuff. So I’ve been wondering if there’s any resale value for my old set. I checked on Brick Economy as recommended but can’t seem to find any evaluation from those early years. I guess my set could have been obsolete. 

    • Hi Cathy, I’m very curious about the set that you referred to! Do you have the name and/or set number? 

      If not Brick Economy, you could also check on BrickLink.com. Just search for your set, and navigate through to the current listings that are offered by other sellers (new/used, complete/incomplete). That could give you a pretty good idea of what the set is worth nowadays! 

      If nothing else, don’t give up on your younger generation! 🙂 LEGO is never obsolete!

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