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Verifying authenticity of sets bought on secondary market?


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#1 Blondie-Wan

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 04:13 PM

There are an awful lot of sets I've missed that I desperately want, but I'm wary of buying them on the secondary market. Once I would have assumed that any LEGO brick I find with "LEGO" marked on it would have to be a genuine LEGO element, and sets containing such bricks would be genuine LEGO sets, but with the rise of fan custom part outfits like BrickForge and so on, I'm not so sure. I do understand that it's probably cost-prohibitive for a much smaller outfit to try to recreate current sets with their own elements and pass them off as the real deal, but once sets are discontinued and the asking prices start to rise, that might change? What's to stop unscrupulous individuals from
making their own copies of long-discontinued elements and passing them off as genuine LEGO, perhaps combining them with actual LEGO elements to recreate discontinued sets?

If I were to buy a discontinued set on eBay or whatever, how could I be sure that it was really the genuine LEGO set, and not just a recreated box containing a mix of genuine bricks for the common elements and counterfeit ones for the rare ones?

#2 Captain Becker

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 04:26 PM

View PostBlondie-Wan, on 13 August 2010 - 04:13 PM, said:

If I were to buy a discontinued set on eBay or whatever, how could I be sure that it was really the genuine LEGO set, and not just a recreated box containing a mix of genuine bricks for the common elements and counterfeit ones for the rare ones?

Ah, you hitted in the gold mine, i have the same memory when i bought a couple of LEGO sets on eBay, the year was 2006 i was sure at i can get the real sets, and  readed the presentation very carefully, but what happened? i byued the sets name: Treasure suprise, theme was pirates and what did i got? Only the box and the set wasnt there. The second time when i buyed was a cpuple of years ago 2007 i guess. i buyed (again theme was pirates) But this time the set was Sea mates. i didnt ever get that set. Thats why i dont trust on internet anymore and buy my lego on LEGO stores in my capital city or in normal stores. So always be careful on internet, its a dangerous place and if you want and theres sellers email, take contac on him first and talk whit him at you can be sure at you get your buying

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Edited by Captain Becker, 13 August 2010 - 04:26 PM.

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#3 Blondie-Wan

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 04:44 PM

That's an alarming cautionary tale, and you do have my sympathies,  :sad:  but it's not quite what I was getting at.

My question is about this: If I buy a complete set secondhand, and it appears to be a new, complete set, how can I be sure all of it really is the genuine original LEGO set, and not at least partially faked?

For example, let's say I buy what purports to be a MISB copy of 10179, the UCS Millennium Falcon. Lots of the pieces in this are common things that nobody would bother trying to counterfeit because it's just impractical to do so, and that could be had really cheaply by anybody. However, it also has some unique elements - the big printed dish, the boat rigging in bley, the sticker sheets, etc. - that are available only in this set. If someone could forge just that handful of elements, along with recreated copies of the instructions and packaging, they could add a bunch of genuine bricks from other sources and pass the whole thing off as a genuine 10179, and the inflated price they might get for it could make it financially viable to do so.

If / when I buy a discontinued set, how can I be sure this isn't what's happening?

#4 CP5670

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 05:36 PM

Didn't you have another thread on this a while ago? As I said back then, you can't ever be entirely sure of something like this, but I think it's unlikely in the extreme with a set like 10179. It would take a lot of effort even to collect all the standard parts for it, and custom molding all the special parts on top of that (the molds often cost several thousand dollars) would only be profitable if they were able to sell the sets in very large quantities, which is hard to do on ebay.

That being said, there are actually some bootleg clone companies that copy Lego set designs of the past. However, they usually have different box art and are easy to recognize.

Edited by CP5670, 13 August 2010 - 05:37 PM.


#5 LegoDad42

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 05:49 PM

I never had a problem buying bricks or discontinued sets off of eBay.
You first have to read the descriptions very carefully so you know exactly what you're getting.Also only pick sellers with photos and if not sure, email them to send photos, ask specific questions if not sure, etc.
Second, read the buyers 'feedback' to see if he has a 100% rating or close to it with many satisfied customer comments/feedback.
Third, I use PayPal only...so if I get stiffed, which happened once (not with LEGO but on something else). Paypal refunded me the money. So NEVER send cash or check.
Then once you found a seller that's good to deal with, I stick to a few favorite sellers and have continued, honest transactions.

#6 Blondie-Wan

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:01 PM

View PostCP5670, on 13 August 2010 - 05:36 PM, said:

Didn't you have another thread on this a while ago?

Almost, but not quite; I posted about this in a different but related thread, but the discussion veered off into other areas and I never got a really good answer to this.

View PostCP5670, on 13 August 2010 - 05:36 PM, said:

As I said back then, you can't ever be entirely sure of something like this, but I think it's unlikely in the extreme with a set like 10179. It would take a lot of effort even to collect all the standard parts for it, and custom molding all the special parts on top of that (the molds often cost several thousand dollars) would only be profitable if they were able to sell the sets in very large quantities, which is hard to do on ebay.

Thanks for the reassurance. 10179 is actually one such set I very much want, but there are lots of others, some recent, some not. Would your answer change if applied to other sets, or do you think it works for pretty much any set?

View PostCP5670, on 13 August 2010 - 05:36 PM, said:

That being said, there are actually some bootleg clone companies that copy Lego set designs of the past. However, they usually have different box art and are easy to recognize.

Yes, I've seen some of those (online, not in person). I'm not worried about them, since they don't actually try to pass themselves off as LEGO with the name and all.

#7 Flare

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:30 PM

What LegoDad42 said is exactly what I was about to suggest :wink:

Good luck with finding the sets you want. :monkey:

Edited by Flare, 13 August 2010 - 06:30 PM.

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#8 CP5670

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:43 PM

Quote

Thanks for the reassurance. 10179 is actually one such set I very much want, but there are lots of others, some recent, some not. Would your answer change if applied to other sets, or do you think it works for pretty much any set?

Yes, I meant that for sets in general. I have not encountered any such fake parts in my own purchases, even after buying a couple hundred vintage sets on ebay and Bricklink over time. (although I first got the bad quality, genuine Lego pieces from a Bricklink seller, and thought they were certain to be fakes :tongue:)

The only place I can think of where counterfeiting would even be practical is with rare parts that are sold individually, such as rare licensed or custom minifigs. However, I have not heard of any actual cases of that either.

#9 hoeij

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:47 PM

View PostBlondie-Wan, on 13 August 2010 - 04:13 PM, said:

If I were to buy a discontinued set on eBay or whatever, how could I be sure that it was really the genuine LEGO set, and not just a recreated box containing a mix of genuine bricks for the common elements and counterfeit ones for the rare ones?
I've bought lots of stuff on eBay using Paypal.  I've rarely had a problem (maybe once or twice in about 100 transactions) and when there was a problem, I've received a refund.   So my advice is, if you see a set on eBay that you really like, just bid on it.

#10 brickzone

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 09:37 PM

Although you can get some genuine deals at times, another good rule of thumb if you are being cautious is "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!"

A lot of con-artists really are relying on people's greed or rather the person who is suckered, has gone for the deal because they expected to sucker the seller/con-artist (i.e. get something for less than its worth).

It sucks that some really cool sets cost a fortune secondhand, some even not in MISB, but you can't really get around it! Even looking for a deal, really it's about giving up time to crawl listings over months just to save probably 10% max of the usual price (and the occasional steal on failed auctions).

All that said, I don't think the forgery thing would ever be an issue - but just as much a concern would be people passing off non-mint as MISB, or other sets as complete when incomplete, and so the advice above stands. Of course, especially with sets going cheap that later turn out to be incomplete, sometimes there is no maliciousness - just the seller is clueless about Lego (and indeed often about selling on ebay). Again though, you can tell by listings/lack of feedback. Sometimes I'm happy to go for those lots as they are still good value even if not quite as good as made out to be.

#11 AndyC

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 10:03 PM

Producing the molds to replicate pieces is expensive, probably prohibitively so in 99.9% of cases (the piece would have to be extremely rare to justify it). More likely to happen is for clone brand pieces to be mixed in with a genuine set (either intentionally or accidentally), but looking for the Lego logo on them is probably sufficient. It's a much greater offence to falsely reproduce a trademark, so even the cloners who blatantly ripped off Lego designs are unlikely to have copied those.
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#12 DLuders

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 11:42 PM

Making the molds for Lego parts is EXPENSIVE!  In the Nov/Dec 2009 Brickjournal magazine (Volume 2 Issue 8, pages 13-14), there was an interview with TLG's Chief Executive Officer (Jørgen Vig Knudstorp).  He was asked about what it took to introduce new Lego parts.  His answer was "The mold cost can vary but is generally around $100,000 US."   *oh2*  So, it should be assumed that any cheap "imitation" Lego pieces will be substandard and easy to spot.

#13 davee123

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 05:44 AM

View PostDLuders, on 13 August 2010 - 11:42 PM, said:

Making the molds for Lego parts is EXPENSIVE!

Indeed. It would be ludicrous to come up with a mold for the purposes of making fake LEGO elements. The lowest mold cost that I've heard mentioned was $10,000. In order to break even, you'd have to sell a hell of a lot of them. And if you're scared that MULTIPLE pieces would be fakes, that's another $10,000+ that the person had to spend to fake the element. And if LEGO ever found out that you were minting elements with the LEGO logo on them, you'd be in serious trouble. So it would be an incredibly stupid risk for anyone to take to fake elements.

If you're talking about faking things that sell for $100+ per element, then maybe it might be worth your time to fake something like that. But in the LEGO world, individual elements just aren't that valuable. Pricey elements are generally in the $5.00-$20.00 range, not in the $100+ range.

The bigger risk in buying secondhand is that you get crap. Some companies make cheap knock-offs using LEGO images, but it's REALLY easy to tell as soon as you look at the elements themselves that they're not LEGO. But most of the time, buying secondhand results in things like broken, chewed, yellowed, and missing parts. Any way you slice it, get pictures first-- unless you're buying from BrickLink, in which case you can get a pretty good idea of the seller by reading their feedback. You might still want pictures anyway, but sometimes a seller's reputation is good enough that you don't need to bother.

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#14 vynsane

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 06:09 AM

Unless the set is sealed in the bags, in the box, you have absolutely NO guarantee that any of the pieces you're getting were the exact pieces that came in the original box. That said: What does it matter? As long as they're the correct pieces for the set, it shouldn't be a big deal that it was pieced together. Rule of thumb is: If you're looking at an out-of-box set, but it comes with the original box, instructions, etc (I got a set that even had the promo 'LEGO Club' inserts and such) then it's probably the original bricks that all came together.

If you're looking at an out-of-box set that has no instructions, no box, nothing but bricks, you're never going to know if it's not the same exact pieces that came together in a box, unless something has been swapped out for a similar color mistakenly (or on purpose). I bought a LEGO Space 6890 Cosmic Cruiser (one of my favorites as a kid) that had all the right pieces except the two gray antenna on the back were new light bley. I was annoyed, but it's not a huge deal - I'll just swap them out when I get the chance to BrickLink some. Frankly, I was more annoyed by the waft of stale cigarette smoke that billowed from the box upon opening it!

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#15 Blondie-Wan

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 07:42 AM

View PostCP5670, on 13 August 2010 - 06:43 PM, said:

Yes, I meant that for sets in general. I have not encountered any such fake parts in my own purchases

I appreciate the reassurances (I really do!), and hope you'll forgive me if I pester you with one more question: how would you know if you had gotten something non-kosher? Is it just a safe assumption?

View PostDLuders, on 13 August 2010 - 11:42 PM, said:

Making the molds for Lego parts is EXPENSIVE!  In the Nov/Dec 2009 Brickjournal magazine (Volume 2 Issue 8, pages 13-14), there was an interview with TLG's Chief Executive Officer (Jørgen Vig Knudstorp).  He was asked about what it took to introduce new Lego parts.  His answer was "The mold cost can vary but is generally around $100,000 US."   *oh2*  So, it should be assumed that any cheap "imitation" Lego pieces will be substandard and easy to spot.

View Postdavee123, on 14 August 2010 - 05:44 AM, said:

Indeed. It would be ludicrous to come up with a mold for the purposes of making fake LEGO elements. The lowest mold cost that I've heard mentioned was $10,000. In order to break even, you'd have to sell a hell of a lot of them. And if you're scared that MULTIPLE pieces would be fakes, that's another $10,000+ that the person had to spend to fake the element. And if LEGO ever found out that you were minting elements with the LEGO logo on them, you'd be in serious trouble. So it would be an incredibly stupid risk for anyone to take to fake elements.

If you're talking about faking things that sell for $100+ per element, then maybe it might be worth your time to fake something like that. But in the LEGO world, individual elements just aren't that valuable. Pricey elements are generally in the $5.00-$20.00 range, not in the $100+ range.

That's what I thought as well, but if it's the case, how are BrickForge and other fan-run custom parts shops able to turn out what I understand are really nice, high-quality elements at affordable prices?

(Sorry to keep asking! I'm just trying to come to grips with the fact I'm going to have to go to secondhand sources for some of the sets I want, and I'm trying to do everything I can to ensure that as long as I'm going to pay "excessively" for some of those sets, I'll get exactly what I'm paying for.)

#16 jamtf

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 03:21 PM

View PostBlondie-Wan, on 14 August 2010 - 07:42 AM, said:

(Sorry to keep asking! I'm just trying to come to grips with the fact I'm going to have to go to secondhand sources for some of the sets I want, and I'm trying to do everything I can to ensure that as long as I'm going to pay "excessively" for some of those sets, I'll get exactly what I'm paying for.)

If you buy sets second hand, anything could have happened. You might be lucky and buy a 100% original set with all the correct pieces that originally came with that set. Some people have been really careful with their Lego and stored all the pieces back in the original boxes after building.

On the other hand you might run the risk of getting a complete set that has been picked together from a huge Lego tub. Many people throw their Lego bricks in a tub that is being used as brick fodder for creative building. As soon as these people want to sell their collection, they simply take out the instruction leaflets and start picking bricks randomly that seem to match the set. In other words, you will most likely receive a complete set but it might consist of a mixture of 1980s, 1990s and bricks from different era's. More than once I received very old pat.pend. bricks (from the 1960s if I am correct) in more recently released sets. That is usually an indication that bricks that belonged to the kids were mixed together with much older Lego bricks from their parents.

Edited by jamtf, 14 August 2010 - 03:22 PM.

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#17 davee123

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 05:53 PM

View PostBlondie-Wan, on 14 August 2010 - 07:42 AM, said:

That's what I thought as well, but if it's the case, how are BrickForge and other fan-run custom parts shops able to turn out what I understand are really nice, high-quality elements at affordable prices?

You'd have to ask them for the overheads and profits that they get-- but I expect it takes years to make back the money that was made on individual pieces. Plus, the elements that they're making are unique. They're making molds that LEGO has never made, so they're effectively guaranteed to get 100% of the income from people buying those elements.

Suppose instead that someone were faking up old-brown pitchforks or something. You'd have to compete with all the other sellers that are selling genuine LEGO pitchforks. But by contrast, if you're selling LEGO-compatible grenades, you're probably the only one selling them.

But you're even going one step further into the realm of crazy. If you wanted to fake up LEGO pitchforks, or crater baseplates, or something similar, and sell them individually, that's reasonably feasible. There's not much money in it, it's illegal, and it's a bunch of effort. But it's plausible. And in my 11-or-so year history in the fan community, I've never heard of it happening or having been even suspected of happening.

But you're worried that someone's selling ENTIRE SETS with various faked elements. And yes, I understand that you don't mean to imply that the entire set would be comprised of fake elements, but rather that various elements would be fake in the sets. That's just crossed the border into lunacy. Sure, you can knock out that 1 rare pitchfork, and maybe that rare brown plastic cape from 6040-- but now you have to scrounge together all the OTHER pieces of GENUINE LEGO to package with that set to sell it. Now you've got what you can only describe as a "used" set (which will lower the value), and you still won't be able to put together all that much money. And the overhead of selling the set means that you'd have to sell thousands of them in order to make back your investment of $20,000+ on the molds, AND the cost of the other genuine LEGO that you needed.

By contrast, selling individual elements is much more cost effective. Selling 1000+ pitchforks individually at $5.00 per probably makes back your investment in the mold, and from then on makes you a profit (assuming LEGO hasn't sued you by this point, and that LEGO hobbyists haven't black-listed your items as fakes). But selling 1000+ complete SETS, which have to be of roughly the same type would be FAR more difficult.

But suppose for a minute that we're all wrong. Suppose that that thousands of fake LEGO elements have been making it into the market for years, and NOBODY out of the thousands of LEGO experts out there has ever caught on. So what? If it's good enough to fool everyone else including me, I honestly can't say I care if it's fake or not. To go even slightly off-topic, what about newly re-molded LEGO elements that are genuine? The new green head wrap in the minifig collector's series? It's made in China, probably from a different mold, with crappier plastic. It's ACTUAL LEGO, and it's probably worse quality than anything that's going to fool collectors. So again, if it's good enough to fool us serious collectors, it's fine in my book.

In the end, if you're still worried about it, your only recourse is going to be to ONLY ever buy MISB sets, and you'll pay a HUGE premium for that if you're buying sets from before, say, 2000. In the early 2000's, people have stockpiled MISB sets to collect and re-sell later, with the popularity of eBay and a growing collector market. But prior to that, there's an incredibly short supply of MISB sets, so you're going to have to pay some serious top dollar!

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