This guide is written to share with fellow ebayers what I have learnt while travelling through the real life and virtual world of LEGO collecting and building.
world of LEGO inhabitants
The set collector may only collect MISB (Mint In Sealed Box) sets. The condition of the box is of utmost importance to these collectors, since that is what they are collecting. Set collectors may also just collect all the sets of certain themes or certain years. When buying sets their best options are MIB (Mint In Box) or NIB(New In Box), but since the definitions of these terms aren't written in stone, a doubtful eye may pass over auctions listing this way. Often a non-MISB set collector will purchase an incomplete set, in order to complete it by hopefully finding the missing parts somewhere else. Complete sets listed for sale may have elements substituted, or coloured elements substituted, the decsription should note this as well as noting the condition of instructions and box. Instructions for most sets can be found online.
The builder may be after certain parts in certain colours in certain quantities for their latest project or future projects. Many adults use LEGO as an artistic medium, which is quite apt in an increasingly pixellated world. Large sculptures, mosaics, castles, spaceships, train layouts or functioning robots/mechanisms are examples of their work.
The 'flubber' collector collects non-building element LEGO paraphenalia, be it catalogues, instructions, minifigs on key-rings, postcards and mementoes from LEGOLAND. As long as it is branded LEGO, they will often collect it.
The AFOL or Adult Fan of LEGO sometimes cover any or all of the above categories and are found frequenting many online forums dedicated to LEGO. Some have even formed clubs in cities around the world and meet in real life to share their obsession. Links to many of these can be found on the lugnet website.The term dark age describes the non-LEGO periods of their lives, usually between adolescence and adulthood. Adult relationships and marriages and travel often cause dark ages, until they have children and have an excuse to re-enter the LEGO world.
Children are numerically the largest consumers/users of LEGO and the LEGO group of companies' prime focus, but are often viewed with disdain by the types above for the damage caused to the building elements they purchase as used LEGO. But without children, LEGO may never have had a reason to exist.
some facts about parts
Parts come and go, colours come and go. Certain parts appear and re-appear in different sets in different amounts in different themes. Sometimes the molds wear out, for example the tall green cypress tree is no longer produced and it's value has risen. The last run of these disappeared as soon as they were produced a few years ago. The unpredictable nature of production means certain parts are considered more valuable than others. But this value may change if it appears in newer sets.
Printed parts have the image printed on the surface of the building element and may sometimes appear in only one set. Playwear naturally deteriorates the quality of the printing as does age.
Stickered parts are standard parts that have had the LEGO issued stickers applied. Of course the stickers are not always applied straight and playwear does take it's toll. Sometimes stickers are never applied and they remain on the original stickersheet.
UV damage causes most of the yellowing of mainly white, light grey and blue building elements. So keep your LEGO out of direct sunlight, since all colours are affected to some degree. At LEGOLANDS they actually abrade the surface of large outdoor models damaged by sunlight.
Washing parts can remove a lot of dust and grime. Keep the water lukewarm and use dishwashing liquid, hot water can damage the ABS plastic LEGO is produced in. Domestic bleach can get rid of hard to remove stains, but follow the instructions carefully and wash with detergent afterwards. A toothbrush can get into those hard to reach places.
The colour-change of 2003 At the end of 2003 LEGO changed the colours of light-grey, dark-grey and brown. The greys now have a cooler more bluish hue, while the newer brown is lighter than the original brown. As old stocks were used up, parts still appeared in certain sets in old colours until recently. Some colour variance occurs anyway since parts are molded from different batches of ABS plastic pellets at different times. The most notable example of this was in the Knights Bus set in the Harry Potter theme, where 2 distinct shades of dark purple appeared in the one factory-issued set.
Primary colours For many years LEGO was associated with building blocks in primary colours. In recent years duller shades have appeared in the many licensed themes like Star Wars and Harry Potter. Budget restraints are said to be behind a plan to produce a smaller variety of colours in future.
Sets or just a box of parts ?
The world of LEGO has 2 major forces acting upon it. The builders splitting up sets for the parts and the set collecters scouring the world for parts to reconstitute sets in their factory-issued configuration.
In the competitive world of toy selling, the production lives of sets are getting shorter. The coming releases are highly regarded secrets. Some LEGO sets are only available in certain countries. Sometimes different versions of sets are produced for different markets. Some airlines/shipping/food companies have their own branded run of LEGO sets produced. Some LEGO sets can only be purchased online through the LEGO website. But there is always...
eBay which enables people to bid on an infinite range of different LEGO items worldwide. The key to successful LEGO ebaying is to always read descriptions fully, look at any images carefully and then read the descrition again. If in doubt ask the seller a question. Adult sellers who are builders/collectors should be more than happy to share their knowledge and experience, which is more extensive with those people who actually use LEGO. Garage Sale trawlers are more likely to sell items with little or abbreviated descriptions.
But that's eBay ! You may score a bargain or get involved in a bidding battle with some of the types mentioned above.