Earlier this month, LEGO announced the one and only promotion so far for LEGO VIP Program “Black Card” holders. The Black Card is a special VIP card given to people who’d purchased 75192 UCS Millennium Falcon the first several months that it was available after its release last September. The Black Card and this “exclusive” promotional gift is limited to a relatively small number of LEGO builders and collectors — even among the “hardcore” LEGO builders on staff here at The Brothers Brick, only two of us purchased the UCS Falcon last year during the time when LEGO was issuing Black Cards — so we wanted to share our observations about the promo set as well as our experience as Black Card holders so far.
The Black Card VIP frame
The Black Card frame comes in a resealable polybag with the instructions and parts loose inside the bag. LEGO typically uses this type of packaging for low-volume sets that they pack by hand rather than spinning up full manufacturing lines in their factories. This was the case, for example, with the interior bags in the limited-run New York Toy Fair exclusive Boba Fett & Han Solo last year, ahead of the mass-market LEGO Star Wars BrickHeadz released this year.
One immediate surprise is that the package includes a copy of a Black Card. Before the set arrived, I was wondering what the point of the frame was, since most people would probably carry their card in their wallets to actually use in person at LEGO Stores. We’ll come back to the card in this promo set in a moment.
The instructions are in a staple-fold booklet that isn’t anything particularly special. Rather strangely, the Black Card in the instructions themselves is printed at an oddly low resolution, appearing smeared or blurry.
And yes, you build the copy of the Black Card right into the frame — there’s no slot as such to insert it or remove it from the frame.
When complete — and it’ll only take you four or five minutes to build it — the frame stands at an angle, with a spot for the unique minifigure included in the set.
Let’s take a closer look at the unique elements of the set. The most notable element that’s completely unique to the set is the black minifigure with a torso printed with the Black Card logo (a silver Millennium Falcon logo sweeping upward).
The otherwise all-black minifigure has yellow hands. At first, we thought this was extremely odd — LEGO, after all, does indeed make black minifig hands and even black torsos with black hands as recently as 2012. But one thing LEGO builders love doing is creating minifig avatars for themselves, and it seems likely that we’ll be seeing lots of LEGO “sigfigs” featuring this new torso. Still, the otherwise all-black minifig feels a little, uh, gimpy… The minifig carries a 1×2 black tile, which presumably represents the black card. As such, it’s a little disappointing that the Black Card design isn’t also reproduced on this piece.
Black Cards sent earlier this year to LEGO VIP Program members who’d purchased the UCS Falcon have their names printed beneath the VIP Program logo, and the back of the card features unique identifiers like a bar code and a spot to sign your name. This “reproduction” Black Card meant for the frame is generic, with the LEGO Star Wars logo on the back instead of the unique details that would be on your personal card. Otherwise, the front of the card is indistinguishable from cards issued previously.
Overall, the build itself feels slapdash, with the absolutely minimal number of unique parts necessary. Similarly, whereas the sleeved box that contained the hand-picked parts for the NYTF-exclusive Boba Fett made that set feel “artisanal,” the same type of interior bag used as the set’s outer packaging makes the whole thing feel cheap. If we were designing something like this ourselves, we would also have included a message of appreciation to Black Card holders for their loyalty.
More about Black Card promotions for VIP Program members
It’s important to acknowledge up front that LEGO had no obligation to provide UCS Falcon purchasers with anything special at all. And yet, LEGO made a number of promises after the release of the Falcon — again, promises that they were under no obligation or expectation to make. First, they promised to send everyone who was part of the LEGO VIP Program at the time they purchased the UCS Falcon a special, new VIP card that would come with a number of special benefits over the following twelve months. (I ordered my UCS Falcon in early December, but didn’t receive my Black Card until several months later.)
Then, in early February 2018, five months after the release of the UCS Falcon, LEGO sent Black Card holders a message titled “<your name>, your first LEGO VIP Black Card offer is here!” The special offer was simply double VIP points on LEGO Star Wars purchases. Like many LEGO Star Wars builders and collectors, I had already purchased all of the LEGO Star Wars sets released in 2018 that I wanted (in my case in particular, to review the sets for TBB), so double VIP points off the usual schedule of (fairly frequent) double VIP point sales didn’t get me to click through to spend more money on sets I didn’t need.
The email also promised “Exclusive contests, Exclusive rewards, Exclusive access” and encouraged recipients to stay tuned for more.
Many LEGO Star Wars fans expected some type of major promotion for May the 4th, but “Star Wars Day” came and went with the only promotion being a free Y-wing blueprint that you had to use a special code for on purchases over $35, with a chance to win 18k white gold R2-D2 minifig.
Both of these promotions were so utterly forgettable that nobody we talked to in our circles of fellow LEGO fans remembered them, invariably calling the Black Card frame promo we reviewed above the “first Black Card promotion in 15 months” (see the comments on Facebook in response to the frame’s announcement for more discussion). This promo was also rolled out inconsistently, with some Black Card holders never receiving the notification email from LEGO. Since that email also included a unique code in order to have the frame added to your shopping cart, this inconsistency forced Black Card holders to contact LEGO Customer Service in order to get their code or have the item added to a qualifying order. This Black Card promo also required a separate Star Wars purchase. Again, many of us already have all the Star Wars sets we want from earlier in the year, and forcing us to make a purchase in order to redeem our promo item resulted in many orders like mine: The cheapest possible item in the Star Wars category, purchased with existing VIP points (I still had to pay shipping).
So, let’s summarize what LEGO has delivered in the past 15 months to VIP Program members who purchased the UCS Millennium Falcon:
- Unique Black Card (generally delivered several months after purchase of Falcon in 2017)
- Double VIP points on Star Wars purchases (once, in February 2018)
- Y-wing blueprint with $35 Star Wars purchase (on May the 4th 2018)
- Black Card frame with Star Wars purchase (in December 2018)
Overall, then, the promotions that LEGO promised in the months following the UCS Falcon’s release — “Exclusive contests, Exclusive rewards, Exclusive access” — have arguably not come to pass. We can’t emphasize enough that LEGO was under no obligation to make any promises to begin with, but one tangible reward in the 15 months after the Falcon’s release feels like an utter failure to execute on unasked-for promises. In other words, LEGO set high expectations and failed to deliver much of anything at all.
One of our readers responding to the extremely brief LEGO Star Wars box promotion noted correctly that, if LEGO had wanted to unload a backlog of minifigures in polybags (several of which were only available as part of previous LEGO Star Wars promotions and are thus indeed “rare” as I described them earlier this week), they could certainly have sent Black Card holders a box without forcing yet another purchase. There is certainly an element of privilege in being able to afford the UCS Millennium Falcon to begin with (as we noted in our original review). It’s a prestige set, and it seems like LEGO intended the Black Card program to reinforce the elite nature of their most loyal customers who’d purchased the Falcon. But by forcing a new purchase to get each tiny little (forgettable) promotion, the whole enterprise feels much more like a cash grab than a reward.
Over the past 15 months leading up to the most recent Black Card promotion, the entire program has been disappointing. We can only hope that LEGO will learn from this process and improve on the delivery of promises that they make (or simply not make unnecessary promises) for future programs like this one.