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The Mythical Price to Parts Ratio


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#1 Walter Kovacs

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 03:54 PM

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Before I dive in, I have no "agenda" with this thread. I just thought everyone would like to see the results of my number crunching. And a good frank discussion can't do much harm.

Also, I have no intention of hiding my data from anyone. If you want to see the spreadsheet I used, PM me your email and I'll send you my file. I have been known to make mistakes before. The file will be an Excel file, so you must have a way to open it.

There has been a lot of griping about the rising cost of Star Wars LEGO in recent months. I know I have felt the sticker shock hit my wallet. So I decided to look at the historical prices of my favorite theme and see how bad things have gotten in recent years. The numbers may surprise you.

First, the assumptions:

1. All figures are in US dollars.

2. There are four distinct categories: Ultimate Collector’s Series (any set with a display placard or stand, plus the Yoda and Darth Maul statues; Cloud City, Death Star, Tantive IV, etc. are not included here), MINI and Promotionals (including the ComicCon MINI Dropship and the Daily Mirror sets), Technic (includes the Droid and Dark Side Developer Sets) and System (basically everything else).

3. Brickmaster MINIs were assigned a value of $6. This includes the SDCC Dropship.

4. The upcoming Brickmaster MINI AT-AT is included. I assumed it would have 50 pieces to it.

5. All prices are MSRP as reported by Peeron.com, where available. The rest are from memory, which is admittedly spotty :grin: Also, I used the US MSRP.

Now, some raw numbers. By my count, there have been 203 sets released over the last 12 years. Of those 203, only 80 have been at or below $0.10/part. That is only 40% of the sets overall. There have been more sets at or under the magical $0.10/part ratio in the last 6 years of the license than there were in the first six years of the license, 46-34. The total MSRP cost of all 203 sets is $9,473, for an average cost of $46.67 per set. If you should be lucky enough to own one of all 203 sets, you would have 91,817 pieces in your collection. The overall average price to parts ratio over all of the sets is… $.10/part.

So let’s break things down a bit further. Most collectors and casual buyers are interested in the system scale sets, so we’ll look at those now. Over the duration of the license thus far, there have only been four years where the average price to parts (P2P, from now on) has been at or below $0.10 for systmem sets. Those years were 2004-2007. That’s right, for the first five years of SW LEGO, the average P2P was above $0.10/part.

The best year for collecting came in 2006, when the average P2P on system sets was only $0.08. In fact in 2006, 7 of the 8 sets had a P2P below $0.10. Now for the worst years. No one is going to be surprised to hear that 2010 has the highest P2P ratio at $0.13. But what may surprise you is that 2002 also had an average P2P of $0.13. 2000 & 2003 come in at $0.12/part, while 1999, 2008 & 2009 averaged $0.11/part.

Taken as a group, the MINIs have an excellent P2P, with 67% of the 33 sets having a P2P of $0.10/part or better. The Technic group has the same percentage, with 8 of the 12 having the better P2P. Ultimate Collectors aren’t quite as lucky, with only 60% of their sets below the $0.10/part mark, but that still is well above the System Group’s average, which is 29% over all of the system sets.

I know there was more I wanted to comment on, but my train of thought has jumped the track. So I'll let the discussion begin and see where that takes us.
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#2 BearHeart

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 04:07 PM

To me, it makes no sense to compare price to # of parts.
I mean, some parts, like a 1x1 round stud are tiny while others, like BURPS or animals are pretty big. I look at the set as a whole to decide wether its worth its price.

You're gonna pay a lot more for a horse piece on the second-hand market than for a 1x1 stud.

#3 fred67

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 04:13 PM

It's hard to objectively determine the value of a set, although I have my schemes, too.

While you've probably already realized this already, merely counting pieces and then calculating whether or not the set passes some price/part ratio is only a wild ballpark figure.

For example, the X-Wing minis available at Target earlier this year were a fabulous bargain... I forget the numbers, but it was like 50 pieces for a couple of bucks.  But then, every single piece in that set was TINY.  I'd built them from instructions before it was even released out of my stock.

What I generally do is I place a value on the minifigures... say, $3/each for a classic Star Wars character (I don't count "cheap" figures like battle droids), then take off, say, 5 pieces per minifigure, and then recalculate the price per piece.

As an example, I was disappointed at Luke's Landspeeder being $25.00 MSRP (disappointed, not surprised), until I figured "you know what?  you get FIVE classic, desirable figures..." suddenly it made it a lot more worth it.

But even on top of that, you have to judge how many decent pieces you are getting compared to little common pieces... on top of all that, even if you miss your ratio, the value is subjective... some sets might be worth $0.10/piece to you, some might be worth less, some might be worth more.  I'm not a big fan of the PT or Clone Wars, so demand a much better price to make me interested... OT sets, though, I'm willing to pay a lot more for.

And my last thought: while it's a cool ship, I still have to laugh at $50 MSRP for the TIE Defender with all of 300 pieces and only two generic figures.  I will never pay remotely close to that.  It'd have to be a GREAT sale.  But then, that's my subjective opinion.

Edited by fred67, 17 September 2010 - 04:14 PM.


#4 KielDaMan

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 04:25 PM

Very interesting and informative topic! Thanks for doing this impressive job analyzing the historical price data of our beloved LSW sets, Walter Kovacz. As I'm only interested in system-scale sets, the results doesn't surprise me at all. It was kinda expected that the LSW sets had always been over the magical $0.10/part P2P (average-wise), and the trend is gonna be expected to rise every year. Just a quick question, based on your data analysis, considering there is a consistent trend in the rising P2P cost of the SW sets, how does the future look for LSW set prices? Can you somehow make a prediction (graphical interpolation?) based on the historical data on what will be the expected prices of SW sets in say, five to ten years?

#5 Masked Builder

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 05:11 PM

Most of this information surprised me.  I can't believe that the first five years were more though.  :hmpf_bad:

Edited by Masked Builder, 17 September 2010 - 05:11 PM.


#6 Rufus

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:01 PM

Fascinating topic, Walter!  :thumbup:  I love this sort of thing.  

I'm not at all surprised.  The only constant in Lego's pricing policy seems to be that, no matter what the price to parts ratio, AFOLs will complain about it!  :wink:

What would be very useful - and possibly answer KielDaMan's question - would be a graph of P2P per year.  Should be easy to do from your spreadsheet; I'd be happy to do that if you haven't the time!  PM sent.

#7 Fugazi

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 06:09 PM

Interesting analysis. As other mentioned, the P2P ratio does not tell everything about a set, but still it's interesting to compare. If you wanted to build an even more accurate model by including the devaluation of the dollar over the last 12 years (a dollar 12 years ago bought more stuff than a dollar today), you would probably obtain an even better ratio for the recent years. But don't ask me how to compute that! :wacko:

Edited by Fugazi, 17 September 2010 - 06:10 PM.

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#8 Tervlon

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 07:00 PM

Very nice info to have. Thanks for doing this. I am surprised by what you found as well.

#9 Vindicare

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 07:17 PM

View PostBearHeart, on 17 September 2010 - 04:07 PM, said:

To me, it makes no sense to compare price to # of parts.
I mean, some parts, like a 1x1 round stud are tiny while others, like BURPS or animals are pretty big. I look at the set as a whole to decide wether its worth its price.

You're gonna pay a lot more for a horse piece on the second-hand market than for a 1x1 stud.

That's how some people judge and justify the purchase or not. I've read here a few times how people are upset because they get X amount of pieces for X amount of dollars. I buy or don't buy a set based on personal preference, if I  like it, most often than not, I'll buy it. Of course, like a lot of us, space is now blurring my preference of bigger sets in some cases.

Edited by Legocrazy81, 17 September 2010 - 07:18 PM.

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#10 KimT

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 07:58 PM

I actually think the price to parts ratio is the wrong way to calculate.
We need to go price to weight instead.
With all the greeble in newer sets, it's just not right to count a 1x1 round plate as a 2x4 brick - when considering the amount of plastic used.

Get your scales and get working people :grin:
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#11 Brickdoctor

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 08:00 PM

View PostBearHeart, on 17 September 2010 - 04:07 PM, said:

To me, it makes no sense to compare price to # of parts.
I mean, some parts, like a 1x1 round stud are tiny while others, like BURPS or animals are pretty big. I look at the set as a whole to decide wether its worth its price.

You're gonna pay a lot more for a horse piece on the second-hand market than for a 1x1 stud.
It's a rough guideline.

I remember the MINI wave one sets of the podrace and AT-ST and snowspeeder had 76 parts for $3.99- nearly twenty parts per dollar.

Edited by Brickdoctor, 17 September 2010 - 08:01 PM.


#12 Walter Kovacs

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 08:39 PM

View Postfred67, on 17 September 2010 - 04:13 PM, said:

It's hard to objectively determine the value of a set, although I have my schemes, too.

While you've probably already realized this already, merely counting pieces and then calculating whether or not the set passes some price/part ratio is only a wild ballpark figure.

For example, the X-Wing minis available at Target earlier this year were a fabulous bargain... I forget the numbers, but it was like 50 pieces for a couple of bucks.  But then, every single piece in that set was TINY.  I'd built them from instructions before it was even released out of my stock.

What I generally do is I place a value on the minifigures... say, $3/each for a classic Star Wars character (I don't count "cheap" figures like battle droids), then take off, say, 5 pieces per minifigure, and then recalculate the price per piece.

As an example, I was disappointed at Luke's Landspeeder being $25.00 MSRP (disappointed, not surprised), until I figured "you know what?  you get FIVE classic, desirable figures..." suddenly it made it a lot more worth it.

But even on top of that, you have to judge how many decent pieces you are getting compared to little common pieces... on top of all that, even if you miss your ratio, the value is subjective... some sets might be worth $0.10/piece to you, some might be worth less, some might be worth more.  I'm not a big fan of the PT or Clone Wars, so demand a much better price to make me interested... OT sets, though, I'm willing to pay a lot more for.

And my last thought: while it's a cool ship, I still have to laugh at $50 MSRP for the TIE Defender with all of 300 pieces and only two generic figures.  I will never pay remotely close to that.  It'd have to be a GREAT sale.  But then, that's my subjective opinion.
It's funny, but that same TIE Defender that you passed on because of lack of parts was my one "must have" of that wave.  Of course, I am a certified TIE nut, so that probably explains a lot.  

I like your method of re-evaluating the ratio.  That would be interesting to number crunch someday.  But not today.

View PostKielDaMan, on 17 September 2010 - 04:25 PM, said:

Very interesting and informative topic! Thanks for doing this impressive job analyzing the historical price data of our beloved LSW sets, Walter Kovacz. As I'm only interested in system-scale sets, the results doesn't surprise me at all. It was kinda expected that the LSW sets had always been over the magical $0.10/part P2P (average-wise), and the trend is gonna be expected to rise every year. Just a quick question, based on your data analysis, considering there is a consistent trend in the rising P2P cost of the SW sets, how does the future look for LSW set prices? Can you somehow make a prediction (graphical interpolation?) based on the historical data on what will be the expected prices of SW sets in say, five to ten years?
While I have no doubt that prices will continue to rise, I don't think there is much we can predict on how high they will go.  Prices could plateau at their current level, or the rate of increase could remain at the same rate.  I think only the execuatives at LEGO can answer this question, and I doubt they're talking.

View PostRufus, on 17 September 2010 - 06:01 PM, said:

Fascinating topic, Walter!  :thumbup:  I love this sort of thing.  

I'm not at all surprised.  The only constant in Lego's pricing policy seems to be that, no matter what the price to parts ratio, AFOLs will complain about it!  :wink:

What would be very useful - and possibly answer KielDaMan's question - would be a graph of P2P per year.  Should be easy to do from your spreadsheet; I'd be happy to do that if you haven't the time!  PM sent.
And an e-mail sent.  Enjoy!

View PostFugazi, on 17 September 2010 - 06:09 PM, said:

Interesting analysis. As other mentioned, the P2P ratio does not tell everything about a set, but still it's interesting to compare. If you wanted to build an even more accurate model by including the devaluation of the dollar over the last 12 years (a dollar 12 years ago bought more stuff than a dollar today), you would probably obtain an even better ratio for the recent years. But don't ask me how to compute that! :wacko:
Feel free.  I certainly am not going to attempt it.  Like you, I have no idea where to start.


As many of you said, p2p isn't the best way to judge whether a set is worth buying or not.  I myself have never used it as a factor in my decision to purchase a new set (now used sets off Ebay or BL is a different story; there I'm all about best value).  But the fact remains that many people here are stuck thinking that p2p is a valid and good way of determining a set's value.  I think this data shows how far off that opinion really is, depending on which sets you are looking at.
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#13 prateek

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 09:39 PM

I agree with KimT. Even though the P2P varies, it depends on the actual piece. Now regarding the actual P2P. At the beginning of the license, the sets weren't that big, so it's understandable that the prices were a bit off. Things got way better in 2004, when we saw awesome Hoth sets, etc... This continued up till 2008, where CW became a factor. It was okay in my mind that the prices went up because of the additional licensing to Cartoon Network, but as soon as this hike kicked into the OT sets, I snapped. :tongue:

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 11:21 PM

View Postprateek, on 17 September 2010 - 09:39 PM, said:

I agree with KimT. Even though the P2P varies, it depends on the actual piece. Now regarding the actual P2P. At the beginning of the license, the sets weren't that big, so it's understandable that the prices were a bit off. Things got way better in 2004, when we saw awesome Hoth sets, etc... This continued up till 2008, where CW became a factor. It was okay in my mind that the prices went up because of the additional licensing to Cartoon Network, but as soon as this hike kicked into the OT sets, I snapped. :tongue:
Has anyone calculated an example of a good grams-per-dollar ratio? It would be an inconvenient way of calculating value in-store, but I'm just interested.

#15 Sinner

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 02:26 AM

View PostKimT, on 17 September 2010 - 07:58 PM, said:

We need to go price to weight instead.
But why stop there?  :tongue: The actual price of a part is a factor of many things, such as;

1. Amount of plastic used.
2. Complication of mold. (Some require 4 sides, some only 2)
3. Newness of mold.
4. Oldness of mold (some molds are so old they they don't work on the newer machines.)
5. Reliability of manufacture.
6. Color cost.

The funny thing is LEGO do have an internal price list that take these things, and probably more, in to consideration. It's a shame they won't release it!  :laugh:

I personally assess sets based on my need of the parts. Minifigs come into account to a degree, but I won't buy a big set just for 2 or three figs.





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#16 Destroydacre

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 06:25 AM

View PostKimT, on 17 September 2010 - 07:58 PM, said:

I actually think the price to parts ratio is the wrong way to calculate.
We need to go price to weight instead.
With all the greeble in newer sets, it's just not right to count a 1x1 round plate as a 2x4 brick - when considering the amount of plastic used.

Get your scales and get working people :grin:

I've made this argument before as well. Unfortunately Lego doesn't list the weight of their sets on their boxes. I would guess that the amount of plastic used is what Lego uses to set their prices for the most part, with them bumping the price up a bit if the sets are very large or if there are large printed pieces. Take the Tantive IV and the Republic Cruiser. The Tantive has 500 more pieces and cost $60 USD more at retail. But a lot of those pieces are small. Put the ships side by side and they are the same size. The Tantive certainly doesn't have $60 worth of plastic more than Republic Cruiser. It's pretty interesting.

I've also said before that the 10 pieces per dollar ratio has not been the historic norm for Lego sets. Look at a catalog before probably 2002 or so and extremely few sets hit that magic ratio. Now I know back in the 90s, in the US anyway, the price in the catalog included taxes and S&H. But still shipping prices were not as high back then and taxes have also risen. If you account for that, the Lego sets still don't even come close to being 10 cents per piece. The prices that we see on sets now, more closely fit the historical norm for Lego sets. It was fun for the few years while it lasted, but there's really no point in complaining about it, because we likely won't see very many sets hit that ratio again.

#17 KimT

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 10:11 AM

Here's an example of parts weight calculation.
It's from a review that I never finished:

Quote

Weight / Price Ratio:
Set MISB = 331 grams
Bricks = 143 grams.
Which with a little math gives:
29.99 USD / 143 grams = 0.21 USD per gram of bricks.
Expensive? Yeah, I'd say so, especially if we compare to the 8092 Luke's Landspeeder which costs 24.99 USD and weighs XXX grams, giving 24.99 / XXX grams = XXX per gram of bricks.
Clearly the "Limited Edition" tag pushes the price towards the skies :hmpf:

I know I calculated the Landspeeder for comparison, but the numbers have been lost.
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#18 Fugazi

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 10:25 AM

I need to have a talk with my dealer, he definitely overcharges me for a gram... :hmpf_bad:

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#19 angel06

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 12:49 PM

hello
The prices do not complain in France are the worse for the sets and thus the price of parts increase  :devil:

#20 Clone OPatra

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 04:28 AM

I like your data Walter, but of course I've noticed the same thing myself just by looking at my old catalogs.

The truth is that, based on P2P, LEGO is not getting more expensive overall, it's just getting more expensive then the golden P2P years of 04-07.  And that goes for all themes.  If you look at the prices of some of the old Castle sets or Classic Space, you'll see that it's a lot of money for not many pieces since, and the models (space anyway) were not even spiffy like Star Wars is today.  LEGO has always been a premium toy.  It's just that around '04, when LEGO apparently started not doing so well financially (I'm not up on details, though), the P2P got really pleasant.

The question now is, will Star Wars continue to rise and rise, and eventually become more expensive then it ever was before?  I suppose it seems that that is the trend, but there are still some sets that with minifigures factored in are pretty reasonably priced (Battle Packs, Echo Base, Luke's Landspeeder, to name some).
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#21 prateek

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 04:31 AM

View PostDestroydacre, on 18 September 2010 - 06:25 AM, said:

I've made this argument before as well. Unfortunately Lego doesn't list the weight of their sets on their boxes. I would guess that the amount of plastic used is what Lego uses to set their prices for the most part, with them bumping the price up a bit if the sets are very large or if there are large printed pieces. Take the Tantive IV and the Republic Cruiser. The Tantive has 500 more pieces and cost $60 USD more at retail. But a lot of those pieces are small. Put the ships side by side and they are the same size. The Tantive certainly doesn't have $60 worth of plastic more than Republic Cruiser. It's pretty interesting.
You could just go to Bricklink, which has the weight of the sets.

#22 Hewman

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 04:36 AM

Walter Kovacs, thanks for your detailed analysis.
last year I produced some multivariate statistical models of the prices of the 2009 and 2008 Star Wars sets. Without going into the boring details, the only factor that was statistically relevant in determining the price of the sets was the overall weight. Number of pieces was completely useless at predicting price. This is something that I'm sure many had suspected, given one large piece might take as much resources to make as 100 technic pins.

Anyway,thanks again for bringing this up.

#23 Destroydacre

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 06:18 AM

View Postprateek, on 19 September 2010 - 04:31 AM, said:

You could just go to Bricklink, which has the weight of the sets.

I suppose. Doesn't help me much when I'm in a store though.  :tongue:

#24 drdavewatford

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 12:32 PM

View PostKimT, on 17 September 2010 - 07:58 PM, said:

I actually think the price to parts ratio is the wrong way to calculate.
We need to go price to weight instead.
With all the greeble in newer sets, it's just not right to count a 1x1 round plate as a 2x4 brick - when considering the amount of plastic used.
This is exactly right - while I complain bitterly about the huge parts in some sets ("Fight on the Flying Wing", anyone ?) I do have to acknowledge that the cost of producing such pieces in terms of raw materials alone means it's not equivalent to a 1 x 1 round plate.

Parts to price ratio is not a scientific way of doing this; even weight doesn't work due to the 'minifig factor'.....

Let's face it - we instinctively know when LEGO are pushing their luck, the new Slave 1 set being a perfect example.... To conduct a meaningful analysis requires more than just the price and number of parts.

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