Tag Archives: Essay

Here at The Brothers Brick, we have some pretty strong opinions from time to time about news, trends, and events in the LEGO fan community. You can read our essays and editorials here.

What it is ... is beautiful – LEGO ad from 1981

I’m not generally one to look to the past as somehow superior to the present or future. Nevertheless, seeing this LEGO ad from 1981 struck a nerve.

What it is is beautiful

Most LEGO ads today emphasize action and playability. Both wonderfully effective attributes to sell toys, I’m sure. It’s not so much that The LEGO Group has changed as much as LEGO has had to adapt to a different advertising climate. I get it, I really do.

Still, I miss the days when LEGO emphasized the basics: quality, creativity, and — as in this beautiful ad — pride in accomplishment. (There’s also something to be said about gender neutrality, but I’ll leave that for another day.)

Hat-tip to Moose Greebles for the scan from the back of Decorating and Craft Idea magazine.

Lugging Pt. 3: Actually lugging (tips, etiquette and activities)

Now that you’ve become interested in LEGO user groups (LUGs) because of “Lugging Pt. 1” and have found a LUG because of “Lugging Pt. 2“, you’re thinking about going to your first meeting (I cling to the delusion that I’ve solved everybody’s issues). Here are a few tips on how to gird your loins for battle:

  • Join online ahead of time. I showed up over an hour early to my first meeting because I hadn’t signed up to the e-mail list, so I didn’t get the message about the meeting time getting pushed back. Brian Heins, the host that month, was kind enough to let me chill for a bit at his house ’til everyone else showed up, but still a little embarrassing.
  • Take money, just in case there’s something worth buying or doing that costs. Many LUGs also have membership dues, though collection methods vary.
  • Minors should generally be accompanied by a responsible adult, though some LUGs do not allow minors at all, and a few (rare) LUGs allow teenage fans of LEGO (TFOLs) to attend without adult supervision.
  • SandLUG and Co.

  • Expect it to take more time than you planned, my first two LUG activities were huge and some of us went to dinner after (4-8 hours total). My recent excursions to a group display at Star Wars Days at LEGOLAND California was 12 or more hours on both days. My wife has pretty much written off LUG days.
  • Don’t be cocky. Somebody there is better than you.
  • Don’t be embarrassed. Somebody there was cockier than you when they first showed up.
  • Be yourself. If you’re shy, that’s fine. After all, these are adults who sit indoors and play with toys. Watch and listen. Get to know the lay of the land if you’re not comfortable diving right in. If you’re comfortable, join right in.
  • DO bring your own creations.
  • Ask before touching somebody else’s creation.
  • Don’t bring a huge set or your entire LEGO collection and expect help with it. Most other luggers have their own massive projects they’re trying to deal with.
  • Don’t be surprised if the members are far more functional, intelligent, hot, wise, professional and kind than you might expect.
  • Somebody in any group is guaranteed to be or become a jerk at some point, take it in stride. They may just be awkward, and/or you may have misunderstood. Some are very aware of their foibles and take it well when you playfully point out their little quirks. I also raise my eyebrows and smile.

Most LUGs have some activity or activities to get involved in, some structured, some not. Here are some of the possible things you may run across at a meeting:

Maria Pini Browniefig

  • Show off your stuff and admire others’
  • Buy/sell/trade
  • Plan and create cooperatively
  • LUG business meeting: good LEGO deals, location of the next meeting, upcoming activities etc.
  • Play with LEGO
  • Talk amongst yourselves
  • Contests such as LEGO car races or building competitions
  • Food and drinks (this seems to be a Western US thing)
  • Dirty Brickster (a LEGO unwanted gift exchange)
  • A draft

Drafts are last, but definitely not least, they have been the core of my LUG’s monthly meeting so far, though we’ve branched out in recent meetings, just for some variety.
All you need:

  1. Enough boxes of a particular set for everybody
  2. Everyone participating buys a set
  3. Open everything up and sort by piece and color (bring lots of cups, trays and baggies)
  4. Determine an order for picking
  5. Everyone goes around in order and picks a particular pile of pieces until you run out (see below, photo courtesy of Ryan Wood)

Monster Draft

There are variations, fun sub-plots to insert in the middle, different ways of determining the order, ways of dealing with the runt pieces and whatnot, but y’all can pick that up as you go along.

So what do you do if you either can’t find a LUG or the one you find bites? Try starting your own. That’s in the next and final installment of Lugging.

Lugging pt. 2: Finding a LUG

Sand Castle JediFor those of you who read Lugging pt. 1 or have been interested in finding a LEGO user group (LUG) for some time, this is my effort to help you find a LUG. At a recent event at LEGOLAND California where my LUG (SandLUG) hosted a display, a lot of visitors from the rest of the country and world had questions about how to find LUGs in their home towns. I was pleasantly surprised by all the interest, though I wish I’d been able to provide lugging first aid.

I was lucky enough to have my brother, Andrew, refer me to my local LUG that included people he knew personally. They knew to expect me and my path was smoothed by his sheer nerd fame. I cheated. My brother told me he was sick of me just making comments on TBB and that I needed to start DOING something. For those of you who were not so lucky, I’ve done some research.

At first, I tried compiling a list of LUGs by region and interest, but it just got ridiculously long, which is a very, very good thing. If I could find dozens, you can hopefully find one in your area. Remember though, even if you find a LUG, some cover huge swaths of territory (e.g. TexLUG, TurkLUG, Brickish Association) some are inactive, and others may be essentially an online-only group. Though to the credit of many of the online groups, they’re quite creative and active.

LUGnet logoOne of the challenges of finding LUGs is that they are based on multiple platforms. Some are basically just an e-mail list that the members have stashed away somewhere, some are discussion threads or groups within LEGO communities like LUGnet, some operate within larger online networking sites like Google, flickr, MySpace or facebook, and still others host their own sophisticated websites. Some groups have members and groups on multiple platforms, but use a single platform for group-wide discussions or announcements.

LUGmapA good place to start is the right-hand column on this very site, which has scores of communities and resources listed, including several LUGs. Look through them. See if anything looks familiar. If nothing pops out at you there, go to LUGnet, Eurobricks, MOCpages, Brickshelf or any of the other LEGO-specific “umbrella” sites and browse for a forum, topic, discussion or group that relates to you. LUGnet also has a map (though slightly out of date) that has pins showing the locations of different kinds of LEGO clubs throughout the world, with links to those clubs/LUGs.

If this doesn’t work, I’d search for groups on the non-LEGO networking sites listed above.

Bing logoProbably the easiest (you’ll inevitably get some junk) is typing “lug lego” or “lego user group” into any old search engine. If you want to get super-fancy, type in a city, region, state, province, country or interest as well (though not all), which may narrow your results. Avoid just typing “lug,” it’s too common a word and apparently entering “lug” and a German city name could also result in some fairly interesting, but non-LEGO related hits.

If you’re looking for something that relates to a specific interest area, like Star Trek or trains, change your search accordingly. Most train groups are called LEGO train clubs (LTCs), though that varies too. In some parts of the world, LTCs outnumber general LUGs. Other specialized LUGs will use a word or two to hint at their interest, such as TrekLUG.

If none of the above work and you’re up to some serious sleuthing/stalking, look for hints on other users’ profiles, postings or other things that might indicate that they’re near you, then drop them a quick message asking for guidance finding a LUG, but try not to pester.

LEGO flickrTBB has a fairly large readership, so questions about LUGs are more than welcome and there’s a good chance one of our other readers or contributors will have an answer. I also have a discussion thread in the flickr LEGO group that’s dealing with lugging issues.

Remember, some LUGs don’t have meetings and are mainly internet based, so if you’re thirsting for face to face contact, you may not be quenched at the end of the day. Also, some areas just don’t seem to have active general LUGs, like shockingly enough Chicago and New York City (CLB and NYCLUG don’t appear to be active, though I’d be happy to be disabused of the notion). That will be part 4 of the series, how to start or revive a LUG.

Happy hunting!

Coming soon . . . Lugging Pt. 3: Actually lugging (tips, etiquette, and activities)

Lugging pt. 1: Why LUG? (And what the heck is that?)

Part of why I’m here as a regular contributor is to provide a sort of guide to emerging from the “dark ages.” Over the coming months I plan to write a little bit about various ways that people can become more active in different kinds of LEGO communities or activities. The order may not make sense for other people, but it’s autobiographical. I could start with how to write comments on TBB, but that would just be silly. I’ll just lead by bad example in that arena.

So I’ll start with LUGs. A LUG is a “LEGO user group,” and they take many forms, but mainly fall into three types: special interest (Battlestar Galactica, etc.), train, and geographical.

I am a member of a geographical LUG (SandLUG) that covers mainly San Diego, CA, though members travel from as far away as Los Angeles to attend our monthly meetings.

Some of the great things I’ve experienced in my particular LUG are:

LEGO Admiral Akbar

  1. Interaction with real people, including great builders who may not be very active online.
  2. Seeing fabulous creations in person.
  3. Family and food.
  4. Diversity in the backgrounds of the builders, their experience levels, skills and interests.
  5. Group activities like trading, contests, drafts and cooperative builds (more on those later).

(Above Right: SandLUG member Matt Armstrong’s [monsterbrick] bionicle Admiral Ackbar)

There is a lot of diversity in the dynamics of the LUGs out there, with some people having mediocre to bad experiences (complete with schisms and cliques). Some are just very different from my LUG because they’re more structured, exclusive or engage in different sorts of activities as well as regional or national variations. The good things I’ve experienced and described above could potentially exist in any LUG. I’d really appreciate feedback in the comments section about those differences because, well, I just like to learn stuff.

Think. Consider. Is this something you’re interested in doing? I know it is. You can’t hide it from me.

Next on an all-new Lugging: How to find a LUG.

How to get blogged on The Brothers Brick, in 3 easy steps [Editorial]

The Brothers Brick vignetteOne of the most frequently asked questions we get here at The Brothers Brick is how to get your LEGO creation featured on the blog. We’ve answered this tangentially with Linus’s LEGO is communication series and Tim’s blogging standards, but I thought it was time we helped all of you out there understand a bit better what makes a LEGO creation “blogworthy” to us.

Now, in three easy steps, here’s how to get blogged on The Brothers Brick…

Step 1: Build something awesome

Arvo's LEGO ChestbursterAwesome is a fairly subjective word, but it’s a good word to encompass all the different types of cool LEGO creations we like to blog. Several factors can influence how awesome a LEGO creation is:

A few LEGO creations combine several of these factors to achieve a truly unique mashup, like these awesome examples:

Step 2: Take good pictures of your LEGO creation.

LEGO photography is hard. You can’t just use your mom’s low-resolution camera phone to take pictures of your MOC on your computer desk. Putting some effort into your LEGO photography will highlight your creations to their best advantage, and help get them noticed.

  • The right things in focus: If you’re taking a picture of a minifig, the minifig should be in focus. If you’re taking a picture of a diorama, the foreground (or whole scene) should be in focus. For close-up shots, make sure you turn on your camera’s macro setting.
  • Good lighting: A well-lit LEGO creation shows off all its great colors and intricate details.

    One Stormy Night in October by Alex Eylar on MOCPagesNatural daylight is perfect, though diffused daylight is even better. A full-spectrum fluorescent bulb can stand in for daylight, but they can be expensive and hard to find. If you’re like me and you live somewhere that gets 55 days of sunshine in a year, a combination of “warm” incandescent and “cool” fluorescent lighting can work.

    Very low or focused lighting can also complement a LEGO creation, giving it a cinematic feel, as Alex Eylar demonstrated in One stormy night.

  • Neutral or appropriate background: Take a look at the LEGO creations we blog. One thing you probably won’t notice is their background. Neutral backgrounds don’t distract from the LEGO creation. Many builders use a large piece of card stock paper, while others achieve some interesting effects with bedsheets or blankets.
  • Complementary or immersive camera angle: Take at least one vehicle photo from a three-quarters angle that showcases the top, front, and one side. For LEGO creations that depict a scene, like dioramas and vignettes, take photos from a “minifig’s-eye-view.” Bonus points for having minifigs looking into the camera.

If you don’t have a good camera or you live somewhere that doesn’t have good natural light, you can still make your LEGO photos presentable by post-processing the images through software like Adobe Photoshop, GIMP (free), and even the photo management suite that came with your computer. More specifically, you can improve the colors and exposure, enhance the contrast, and sharpen the focus a little bit.

Apocalypsis by Mark Kelso on MOCpagesOnce you’re familiar with these programs, you can even use them to combine elements from multiple photographs to create a single cohesive whole — a process called compositing. Mark Kelso used this technique for many of the images in his Apocalpysis: A Journey Inward (right).

There are a number of excellent resources in the LEGO fan community about improving your presentation skills:

Step 3: Help us find your LEGO creation.

If you want others to see your LEGO creations (and get them blogged here), there’s no point in hiding them away somewhere nobody will find them. Gone are the days of firing up a free Geocities home page, hand-coding a bunch of HTML pages, and waiting for people to find you when they search Alta Vista in their Netscape browsers. Seriously, personal websites are a thing of the past.

Instead, we recommend that you upload your LEGO creations to one of several specific photo-sharing sites active today:

  • Screen shot of MOCpages.comMOCpages: A dedicated (LEGO-only) photo sharing site maintained by LEGO Certified Professional Sean Kenney. Identify and befriend your favorite builders, get comments on your creations, and receive e-mail alerts when one of your favorite builders posts a new LEGO creation. The best LEGO photo sharing site on the Web today.
  • Flickr: A general (non-LEGO) photo-sharing community site owned and operated by Yahoo! With groups, tagging, contact management, and syndication (RSS and Atom feeds for just about everything), Flickr enables LEGO fans to stay connected and have a fairly LEGO-specific experience on an otherwise non-LEGO site. A free account is limited to 200 photos, while a Pro account costs 25 USD a year.
  • Brickshelf: The original LEGO image hosting site. The site lacks many features of the modern Web (such as feeds and support for apostrophes), and experienced a major outage in 2007 that caused a mass exodus to other image-hosting and photo-sharing sites. Lack of updates and intermittent minor outages since then make the future of this site unclear. Still, many builders choose to post their LEGO photos only on Brickshelf and many LEGO fans continue to check Brickshelf for new and updated creations.

Yes, we know that there are a whole bunch of other LEGO and non-LEGO photo sites on the Web. Given how much time we already spend finding the best LEGO creations to feature for our readers, we just don’t have the time to pay attention to sites like Photobucket, MOCshow, and YouBrick. If you run one of these sites, it’s truly nothing personal.

Once you’ve uploaded your photos, you can do a few more things to help us find them more easily:

  • Tag the photo “LEGO” (Flickr): Tagging your photo adds keywords that help us find it. The most important tag for a LEGO creation is, naturally, “LEGO”. You can also add other relevant keywords, including foitsop for your main “announcement” photo.
  • Add one or more Brothers Brick contributors as contacts (MOCpages & Flickr): Many of us rely on notifications and feeds from our contacts to know when they’ve uploaded something new. By adding us as a contact, we’ll take a look at your LEGO creations and might add you back.
  • Screen shot of LEGO group pool on FlickrAdd the photo to the LEGO pool (Flickr):
    The LEGO group pool on Flickr is one of the primary places where I personally look for new LEGO creations from previously undiscovered builders.
  • Use meaningful folder and file names (Brickshelf) or photo titles (Flickr): A series of DSC_0119.jpg photos in your Brickshelf folder or Flickr photostream doesn’t tell us anything about the creation, and it’s hard to tell which is your main “announcement” photo — the one we should blog.
  • When all else fails, send us a link: If you’ve built something that you really think is good enough to be highlighted on The Brothers Brick, you’ve done everything we’ve suggested here, and we still seem to have missed it, you just might be right. You can use the Contact Us page to send us a link to your LEGO creation. We get a lot of suggestions, so we can’t always reply individually, but we’ll try.

Conclusion

Okay, so not quite as easy as 1-2-3. ;-) Still:

  1. Build something cool.
  2. Take a few decent pictures.
  3. Put them somewhere we’ll find them.

…and you’ll be in pretty good shape to get yourself blogged on The Brothers Brick.

Questions? Ask away in the comments.

The story of LEGO

Recently an article was published on guardian.co.uk (one of the world’s leading online newspaper sites) condensing the history of LEGO in an objective but heartwarming fashion, highlighting its current success amidst the sweeping economic crisis. Click here to read it.

Never mind the recession – Lego is now so popular that there are 62 little coloured blocks for every person on the planet. Yet only five years ago this family business was on the brink of ruin. Jon Henley reports from the Danish town where it all began

This comprehensive yet condensed article touches on all the significant historical events in LEGO from Christiansen’ production of the wooden duck to the upcoming new LEGO board games. Also included are interesting facts about LEGO. Did you know that the company estimates about 250,000 adult LEGO fans around the globe and that the fastest time to build the 3104-piece UCS Star Destroyer by a team of five is only 1 hour 42 minutes 43 seconds?

Five things you may not know about LDraw: Guest editorial by Matt Wagner

Today we feature a guest editorial by Matt Wagner on virtual building. As some of you may have noticed I share a lot of these thoughts with Matt and find the prejudice against LDraw to be quite thoughtfree.

Anyway, I’ll pass you over to Matt.

Thanks to Andrew and Tim for the chance to share some of what I know about LDraw. First off, I want to make it clear that by no means do I represent the entire LDraw community; I’m only one of many virtual LEGO builders out there.

What I’d like to share is this:

Five things you might not know about LDraw:

  1. LDraw is free. Anyone can download and use LDraw (and MLCAD and all of the associated programs), and the most often-used rendering program (called POV-Ray) used to create the 3D images is also free. Get started at http://www.ldraw.org/Article126.html
  2. LDraw’s parts library is both unlimited and limited. Anyone who’s used the program knows that the extensive part library allows you to click and drag into your virtual model to your heart’s content. But since LDraw is not officially licensed by LEGO, all those parts files are created by everyday users out of polygons and groups of polygons called primitives. And since nobody’s getting paid for their work, the creation of parts is slow and up to the community. LDraw.org takes these parts and releases official parts updates periodically after ensuring that each part meets their quality requirements; however, no official parts updates have been released in over 5 years. Parts that are created in the meantime get placed in the “unofficial” parts library on the LDraw website, but have varying degrees of quality and mistakes until they are approved as official, and some parts that you might hope to find simply haven’t been created in LDraw yet. For example, the minifig heads with facial expressions other than the benign-looking smile, as well as all of the new male and female hairpieces, all pieces that have been available for years now in real life LEGO pieces, are still unavailable in LDraw.
  3. LDraw has its own unique challenges. It is true that gravity and tension are not something you need to worry about in LDraw: as the program is basically placing bricks in a 3D space, it is possible to place a 2×4 brick going right through another 2×4 brick, something virtual builders call “impossible building.” This may be why some people consider LDraw to be less of a challenge than building with actual LEGO pieces. But building pieces at an angle, something that may require only the positioning of a hinge piece or the click of a bracket in real life, is much more difficult in LDraw. Anything built using SNOT is harder than in real life. Large models become very cumbersome in LDraw. Doing these things is possible, but they require complicated extra steps involving multi-part files and careful aligning of connections and angles.
  4. Publishing LDraw models can also be a challenge, something that can become more complicated than photographing with a lightbox. LDView is a great program that creates a clean-looking image of your virtual moc in seconds. But for those who want to approach the realism seen in some of the virtual modelers who’ve been featured on Brothers-Brick before, you need to learn how to use POV-Ray: a free ray-tracing program. POV-Ray allows you to place light sources, floors, skies, backgrounds, and other tools to enhance your model’s presentation. POV-Ray also has a feature called radiosity which is something that adds a lot of light and realism to a render, but also stretches out render times to several hours or even days. There are a few tutorials out there on how to use some of these advanced features with POV-Ray; Brichkhelf user Koyan’s tutorial is one that I have used.
  5. Virtual LEGO and real-life LEGO can complement each other. Say you’re wanting to build a new model, but you don’t have all of the pieces you need. You want to make sure you can fit everything together the way you’re imagining. You can build it in LDraw first to best visualize your model. Then you know exactly which parts you need to order on Bricklink. Or here’s another scenario: you’ve just built an amazing model out of pieces that you have, but another contest comes along that requires the use of pieces that are tied up in that last creation. You hate to have buy new pieces this time, so what do you do? Build it in LDraw and save a virtual version of your model, so that you can archive it forever and free up those precious bricks. Thanks.

I hope I’ve helped broaden your views on LDraw and virtual LEGO in general, and hopefully I’ve dispelled some of the misconceptions that cause virtual entries to be prohibited from competing in LEGO contests.

RAILBRICKS Issue 5

It’s time for issue 5 of RAILBRICKS magazine and once again Jeramy Spurgeon and the team bring another feature packed edition all about LEGO trains. This time it’s dedicated to steam

This Steam Issue focuses on all things Steam with tips & tricks on building steam trains as well as ideas on incorporating Power Functions into you creations. There are also interviews with Anthony Sava and Ben Fleskes. As always, there are great articles from our editors on creative challenges, flashback reviews, and MOC creations.

Check out the website to download a copy. Check it out.

Breaking even: sustaining your LEGO-building hobby through selling on Bricklink [Essay]

LEGO is expensive; we all know it. For us builders, we always need more bricks to complete that big project sitting on our desk or in the back of our minds. More bricks cost more money, and that’s where the problem comes in. Luckily, we builders have an extremely valuable asset that only a few have begun to exploit. For the first time in the building community, I will show you the benefits of opening your own Bricklink store, turning that once cash-consumptive marketplace on its head to bring you a dependable supply of money and free bricks.

So what’s the trick? Sell minifigs. What if I told you that since December of just a month ago I’ve a grossed a revenue of $1,500? Would that be enough for you to buy every set on your holiday wish list and finally get the parts to complete those half-finished creations growing cobwebs on your desk? I would think so. I have operated a Bricklink store for a bit over a year now, and I have acquired the experience to confidently say to you that “yes, you could maintain your LEGO hobby at zero cost.”

Let’s get started. First and foremost, you are a builder who is interested in the noble effort of funding for your expensive hobby. If you’re not the aforementioned type, things could go very differently for you at suboptimal outcomes. Now that we’ve established our common grounds, you will need to let go of your sentiments for minifigures. See them as the livestock you must consume to fight off starvation. You can choose to remain a peaceful vegetarian, or you can start eating meat.

Why minifigs? Because they sell high and are easy and cheap to ship. Plus, you don’t need them to build a castle wall or the hull of a spaceship. Here are two enticing examples from my recent sales. 1). I purchased about 40 new 2009 Star Wars Battle Packs at $10 each, sold nearly all of the minifigures, made a $200 profit and kept all the bricks and accessories for free. 2). I also bought Count Dooku’s Solar Sailer for $50 (after coupons), had fun writing a review, and then sold the Count for $37 and put up the Magna Droids for sale at $10 each. In the end, you can see that I’m easily making a profit while keeping all the parts from sets for free.

At first, it’s hard to believe why minifigs fetch such high values, but if you think about it, it makes sense. In addition to the builders, there are also collectors – people who want to own their favorite minifigs but don’t want the building blocks. Thus, why should they buy whole sets when they can get the figs individually? Plus, LEGO costs a whole lot more outside the States as most of us know; thus buying minifigs makes perfect sense to collectors.

To start your Bricklink store, dig up your pre-existing minifigs and find their market values on Bricklink through the price guide for each fig. It is highly worthwhile to sell Star Wars figs and almost useless to sell your non-franchised Exo-Force or Power Miner dudes (Indiana Jones falls in between).

Next, and this is important, list your minifigs at the lowest prices! There is no shortage of competition on Bricklink from large scale sellers. If you don’t beat their prices, why should anyone buy from a small store like yours or mine? But do not despair, even at the lowest prices, your Darth Vader will still make you over ten bucks richer and Yoda can buy you a medium sized set. So how low should you go? Here’s what I learned from over the months: note the lowest sale price in the US (provided you live in the States), then note the quantity available and the store’s feedback count. If both are low, then you can price your minifig at near that price, but if both are high, you should start by pricing your fig at 50 cents cheaper. At the same time, you need to take concern the popularity of the minifig. Check the number of times the fig was sold recently; the lower the quantity sold, the cheaper you must go to tempt buyers to buy your unpopular figure.

Shipping – it’s not as hard as you think and definitely cheaper than you’d imagine. Minifigs ship in tiny bubble mailers, which cost you a little over $1 to ship in the US and around $2 to ship internationally. You can buy the smallest bubble envelopes from Walmart at $4.44 per 10-pack. However, I recommend buying 100 from Amazon for $16. When it comes to charging your customer, you will not receive complaints if you start your shipping rates at $2 for domestic and $3 for international orders. Find that balance and you’ll end up actually making a profit on shipping that will compensate for your 3% Paypal and 3% Bricklink fees.

Fortunately, time is not an issue. As a minifig seller, it takes no time to package an order of just a few figs in contrast to an order of hundreds of parts. And since you’re already sorting your pieces as a builder, taking out the minifigs from sets should be no problem. However, the largest time consuming factor is shipping; you must be willing to make trips to the post office unless you are adept with shipping from home.

Last and most importantly: be aggressive in buying sets to supply your inventory. Once you target a set with minifigs that sell well; don’t hesitate to get it. The worst that can happen is you end up selling the minifigs but still fall $20 short to fully pay off your 1000-piece set (for example the Republic Gunship around the time of its release). But “oh my god,” $20 for 1000 pieces, what a bummer!

There is one major caution to be on the lookout for. Minifig prices dip fast and then rise fast once the set is out of production. Thus, you should strive to be among the first to sell a minifig from a new set (that’s when no one in the world has it and everyone wants it). Once people have gotten their hands on new sets, prices for new minifigs drop significantly by up to 50%. If you have not sold your figs yet, you may consider holding onto them until the set goes out of production in a year or two (and that’s risking re-releases of the same minifig). Unless you’re very patient, your biggest bet is to sell fast, or you’ll send up selling low.

These should be the basics. It is now up to you to spend a few hours to open your store and get acquainted to the procedures of selling. At first, things may start low (especially when you have a feedback count of less than 30 and not much in your inventory), but be patient and invest when the next wave of Star Wars and Indy sets come out (yea Taun-Tauns!). Wait for it like your birthday, and then go all out on the party.

Here’s a list of do’s and don’t’s to wrap things up.

Do
• Sell low – or you’ll be driven into oblivion by large scale competitors.
• Sell minifigs – especially Star Wars and franchised ones.
• Sell fast – you have a small time frame when new minifigs are released until their prices drop.
• Sell internationally – approximately half of your buyers will come from outside the US.
• Sell new – new minifigs are more likely to be sold and fetch higher values. Displayed minifigs can pass as new, but played-with minifigs should be marked used.
• Become best friends with the price guide – although it’s not possible to actually do so, nevertheless you’ll be relying on the price guide for every minifig you plan on selling.
• Frequently adjust prices – market prices are dynamic, and you should keep up.
• Be kind to your customers – and grant their requests for small discounts if they ever contact you before ordering. A small bit of pocket change is worth an order and a satisfied customer.
• Buy now, think later – I have abided by this simple axiom on purchasing sets and it has paid off. I suggest you do the same because LEGO does not depreciate in value.

Don’t
• Don’t sell parts – there are plenty of large Bricklink stores that do that, and besides, you’re a builder, you need the parts.
• Don’t sell sets – they’re a hassle to ship and are also costly and space consuming. Shipping a large set outside the US will cost you nearly $50. Selling minifigs give you cheap or free leftover parts. Selling sets don’t.
• Don’t offer free shipping – buyer’s aren’t much more tempted to buy from you if you offer free shipping. I have done this for several months without increases in sales.
• Don’t sell if you’re underage – Bricklink requires you to be at least 18 years old to be a seller.
• Don’t worry – it takes time to build the experience from selling and gain the confidence to invest. I am just experiencing both after a whole year. Nevertheless, any income at all is better than no income.

With these tips and advices, you’re off to start a new adventure, one that will someday break even the income and expenditures on your LEGO hobby. I have almost reached that point, having sold $290 in the past week and $350 the week before. It is then that you truly appreciate your capability to buy bulk parts without damaging your wallet, to build large scale creations as a student or without upsetting your wife, and perhaps to have some leftover cash to go partying with friends.

See it like this: when you spend Paypal cash like Monopoly money and see Bricklink as just a board game, you have found your way to a self-sustaining hobby limited only by the breadth of your imagination.

Questions? You can contact me via Bricklink.

Announcing the Brothers-Brick.com Terms of Service [Editorial]

Somewhere during our tremendous growth over the last couple of years, I feel that The Brothers Brick has taken a bit of a wrong turn. Yes, there are things we could do better, but no, I’m not saying that we’ve done anything wrong.

Rather, our audience has shifted from the people we first began blogging for — adult fans of LEGO like ourselves — to a vast silent majority and an active minority of apparently younger LEGO fans. Let me say this once and for all: The Brothers Brick is written by and for adults, as well as for those who are capable of behaving like adults.

As I said last week in my editorial about not posting leaked poor-quality photos, I want our contributors and readers to lead the LEGO fan community toward a more mature, constructive, informed level of discourse.

Over this past week, I’ve been more than a little disappointed in some of the comments our posts have received. I expect more from our readers than vitriolic furor over our straightforward coverage of the LEGO fan community’s reactions to the inauguration of a new president. And particularly confusing (and hurtful) have been those comments assuming that The Brothers Brick is our “job” — when in fact each of us gives up our spare time to do this. For free.

I frequently get home from my real job at near 8:00 in the evening, and then I spend the next three hours poring through my RSS feeds, answering your e-mail, checking forums, and blogging what I find. And that’s just weeknights; I probably spend more time per day on weekends. It’s hard work, even when I only find one or two things that are “blogworthy” in a day.

Still, we do this because we like to, not because we’re obligated to.

I never wanted to codify any rules about how I expected Brothers Brick readers to behave, but with intervention seeming like it’s necessary more and more frequently, I’m today announcing the Brothers-Brick.com Terms of Service.

As a legal document, the Terms of Service page is long, so here’s a summary of the most important points:

  • You must be 13 years old to use the interactive features on Brothers-Brick.com.
  • Don’t be a jerk. Play nice.
  • We don’t guarantee availability of Brothers-Brick.com now or in the future.
  • We reserve the right to take whatever action is necessary to keep The Brothers Brick a civil, safe place for all our readers.
  • We reserve the right to change our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy at any time.
  • The Terms of Service now encompasses our existing Privacy Policy.

The Terms of Service are not up for discussion, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments on this post. Let us know what you think, and don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.