With many fans rejoicing at the return of LEGO 10256 Taj Mahal, some are feeling a little more apprehensive. Brick Fanatics Editor Graham Hancock shares his view on the possibility of more LEGO re-releases
10256 Taj Mahal has resurrected an interesting – and as far as LEGO collecting goes, important – argument. Whether or not re-releases are beneficial or not. My view is not that the LEGO Group re-releasing sets is fundamentally wrong or a bad idea, just that there needs to be more consistency. If sets are going to be retired after a few years but a re-release is likely, then the buying habits of fans will drastically alter.
As things have stood for the last decade, since mass use of sites such as eBay, Amazon and Bricklink allowed the secondary made the secondary market explode, fans did not expect LEGO sets to be re-released. On the occasions that they were, slight changes were made due to changes in the parts portfolio, leading to frustration and disappointment from fans who wanted a pure version of the original set.
The release of 10256 Taj Mahal, as with the release of 10249 Winter Toy Shop, it confounds the expectations of LEGO fans. Just last week, someone could have paid thousands of pounds to a reseller to own a copy of the original 10189 Taj Mahal, only to find out that it will available shortly for £299.99. Based on previous experience, fans could safely assume a reseller would be the only option.
Remakes are of course a different thing entirely, and with a line such as LEGO Star Wars almost at the end of its second decade, it is entirely understandable that certain sets return – but difference is expected. It allows long term fans to justify buying the new sets, it demonstrates the inventiveness of LEGO designers and means that those who insist on having the ‘original’ version accept the notion of heading to the aftermarket to pay a bit more.
The return of the Death Star is a good example of the worst of both of worlds – 75159 Death Star was not a re-release, but not a remake either. It fell into a strange middle ground, retaining the general build and features of the original but with new minifigures and modern parts. This was not a good solution for those who owned the original 10188 Death Star who prefer to own the ‘ultimate’ version, as they would have waited to buy it had they known an upgrade was on the way. For those purists who prefer to own the original version of a set, the new 75159 Death Star will never be the same as owning the first release. At least a re-release can be skipped by those who own the original, at least a remake is clearly a different product.
If the LEGO Group are going to continually re-release sets now, that would be great for LEGO fans – it would mean much less need to resort to the aftermarket, so prices would be driven down. But if that is not the case, and re-releases continue but are also sporadic, then it will be a huge problem. If resellers are too wary to invest in large sets, because of the risk of an unpredictable re-release, then the sets that the LEGO Group do not re-release will be unattainable to fans.
It is an unpopular view, but resellers are an absolute necessity for LEGO collectors. Without resellers buying sets to keep sealed, fans would have no way of obtaining retired sets. Yes, some of the prices become absolutely beyond reason, but it at least it gives collectors the option of getting hold of these sets. The alternative, if resellers are not incentivised by massive potential profit to stash these sets, is no opportunity to get the sets after retirement at all. If the LEGO Group scare resellers away from investing in LEGO sets because a re-release could come at any time, and do indeed destroy the aftermarket, it will be to the detriment of all collectors and fans more broadly.
So hopefully things will become clearer in the next six months – whether the rumoured LEGO Star Wars Super Star Destroyer is a re-release or a remake will reveal much – but collectors should hope for some consistency from the LEGO Group. Consistent, predictable re-releases could be great. But occasional unexpected ones could be to the detriment of getting hold of other retired LEGO sets. Fans should hold on to the much maligned resellers, until they know that the LEGO Group definitely has this properly covered.
Convinced – not convinced? Read the other side of the debate, in which Daniel argues that re-releases are a great thing.