Polybag collecting: why do we do it?

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30059 MTTThis is my latest polybag acquisition: 30059, MTT. It cost me an arm and a leg to buy on BrickLink from a seller in Japan, which is the only place it's known to be available.

Now, excluding the 7 Shell sets that will be hitting UK shores any month now, I need just 6 polys in the 30xxx number range, one of which (30036) has only been sold once in the last 6 months on BrickLink so I guess there's little chance of getting it any time soon.

It got me thinking, why do many of us go to great lengths to buy and trade polybags? Often the sets are not that great, and this one certainly isn't worth the 30p per piece I paid for it. I have my own theories but I'd be interested to hear yours.

King of the polybag collectors among Brickset staff, atkinsar, will shortly be contributing regular articles about this aspect of the hobby so look out for his debut article in the coming days.

39 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

You paid how much? I've got 30 of 'em, you should have asked! Just kidding of course, this bad boy is tricky to get hold of. Thanks for the intro Huw, no pressure then, better get writing :-)

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By in Sweden,

You summarised it well...why do we do it....
for me it is several things...
1) takes less space than normal boxes...
2) fun to give to kids and see their reactions
3) easy build for younger ones
4) fun to trade
5) the "hobby" that make me look around the world to find the ones I do not have...

I made good friends through those "trades" and "hunt"

@Huw, I have at least 4 polys you are looking for in the 30xxx according to your "wanted list", so drop me a message on the forum so we can sort you out! :)

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By in United States,

I think it's like a quick fix. Even when you pay more than retail price they can be a bit cheaper than the larger sets. They also don't take up quite as much space, so it's easier to get a themed collection (holiday, star wars, etc.) that you can display on rotation without them taking up a lot of room.

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By in United Kingdom,

I assumed polybag collectors kept them sealed? Surely as soon as you open it, it just becomes a pile of pieces you could (potentially) pick up elsewhere? (not including the intructions I guess).

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By in Belgium,

I'm collecting polybags myself, but not all, I'm not interested in the SW ones for example, although I have a few of them. I've had some good trades with members on the forum.

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By in United Kingdom,

I have to ask why DO you collect them, as Andhe said they are just bricks. I made one of these about a year ago as soon as the instructions appeared. Thankyou. I can't remember how much it cost me but I reckon £5-£6 from various bricklink shops. Actually it may have been £10 with postage etc. I also made a 30036 last month, again very cheaply.
Do you make them, or just display them MISP ?

Ive also got the bits for one of the truck instructions you posted recently which has never been released.....technically thats priceless :-)

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By in United Kingdom,

Do you need any of the Star Wars polybags, Huw?
I have at least two of them all. I would be happy to help you out. They are not all sealed though.

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By in United Kingdom,

@supersympa, thanks, will do. Some on there are because I only have one of them, and I like to have two, one to build and one to keep sealed.

The ones I don't have even one of are 30036, 30063, 30084 and 30180.

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By in Denmark,

For me it's three things:
1) Polybags are a bit EXCLUSIVE...which triggers the collector!
2) Polybags are CUTE.... like kittens or puppies are cute!
3) Bulding polybag sets are RECREATIONAL... somehow!

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By in United States,

I think, better yet, believe, that polybags are both an interesting and unique facet of the whole LEGO collection/hobby environment. A box is a box, a set is a set, etc etc etc. A polybag is as everyone seems to agree, small and simple. You can have 100 polybags and probably fit them all into a large box, maybe an Imperial Flagship one? : ). At any rate, I think it is more than this. If you open a polybag, heck, you don't even need bricklink, but I do fully support it, you could probably go to pick a brick on the LEGO website and find all the pieces you need and with shipping still be able to "make the model". So I think it is about something deeper, I think it is about the bag, the instructions and the uniqueness about it all. Sure, bricks are bricks too, but when you collect an entire theme's worth of polybags, MISB, instructions and all, you have some "different" and I think for the polybag collector out there that is exactly what they are looking for...

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By in Austria,

It's not the having, it's the getting!

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By in Japan,

This is Japanese only?! I got one months ago, and figured it was no more special than the other four it was packed with...Living in Japan that it. Now it's way too late to track down more. Oh well.

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By in United Kingdom,

Why do people collect stamps, comic books, toys, bottles, everything-Madonna, you name it, anything?! It's not because of the actual value of the "raw material" (paper, tin, plastic etc.), it just gives them a goal which is trying to get hold of everything available in their category of interest/choice. The harder it is to complete a collection (most of them never are!), the more dedicated people get to do just that and the more time and money they are willing to spend. People are collectors and LEGO knows it! ;-)

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By in United States,

Why do we do it?

Actually, I only collect the ones that come with something unique, such as the Lex Luthor game promo, Shell polybags. The vast majority of polybags can be made with parts that are easily obtained, so I collect those types of polybags casually.

That said, I collect the hard-to-get ones for the thrill of the hunt! ...and that can come with bragging rights, some comes with a story to tell your kids, kids of friends and relatives, how you met some of your Lego friends, the list goes on.

Polybags also presents the opportunity to build in the pouch, which is fun, I recommend every AFOL give it a shot at least once. After that, try to build without making too many wrinkles to the pouch. =) It's our version of a ship in a bottle.

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ I think you are spot-on about he motives, but I don't think LEGO makes these for collectors: the main 'customer' in the case of polybags are the companies that want small sets to help promote their brand in one way or another, be it newspapers, fuel, rescue helicopters or whatever.

I think another reason is that, thanks to Brickset's database and the fact they now have their own numbering system, it's easy to see the 'goal' and to know which ones are out there and which ones you have/don't have.

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By in Canada,

I have collected many other things in the past and it's the thrill of the hunt that gets you excited. Being able to track something down and being able to pick it up adds to the enjoyment of it.

As well, from a money standpoint, it would be a little bit cheaper to try an get the entire series or, say, Star Wars polybags than to buy every SW set that came out this year. A small victory I know, but a victory none the less.

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By in United States,

It's Lego

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By in United States,

Yea I think that everyone is right on the money with this, the only thing that I can think of is its like currency man. The trading aspect and selling is just thrilling. I have just started trading polybags and have seen how lucrative this business is and well its fun to do.

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By in United States,

Polybag collecting has always stricken me as a curious phenomena.

It begs the question (to me anyway), does anyone collect boxed sets of a certain MSRP or size? It seems nearly as arbitrary. Just sayin. :)

What about the tiny boxed sets that Lego used to (still does?) sell in parallel with respective polybags (sometimes, merely the same set, repackaged, but sometimes not)? Collectible as a genre as well? Like this little guy:

http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=3054-1

Or, what if Lego releases larger or more costly polybag sets at some point - will those become the focus of current polybag collectors as well? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sometimes Lego packages larger sets with multiple independent components each in their own bag (such as trains, for example). Do people collect those (sealed in bags)?

Finally, I'd like to confess that I collect the follwing types of sets:

- those that feature red models
- those with at least one faceless minifig head
- those that contain the word "surprise"
- those that I find placed on the top shelves of my retailers on a given day
- those that are good for scaring a cat

I kid. :) Just having a little fun folks. :)

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By in United Kingdom,

Aw, man! I one the set in billund last year. I didnt think it was worth anythin so i gave it to my friend. Sorry, bro.

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By in United States,

For me I think it has a lot to do with the "Thrill of the Hunt." Most new sets that come out are easily obtained, if one has the money. With the polybags, one faces a more difficult challenge in obtaining them. That, for me, is part of the fun of collecting. I once spent an entire day driving around to every Target, Walmart, and TRS in my area, looking for polybags, because sometimes each different store carries a different selection of polybaged sets. For me this was a day well spent.
There is enjoyment in finding something you have been looking for or an even greater enjoyment in finding something that you did not know existed.
My two cents . . .

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By in United States,

First off, nice choice of topic.

Thrill of the hunt!

I've also enjoyed the trading aspect with international people lately too with regional exclusives.

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By in United Kingdom,

I collect only Star Wars polybags and any others that take my fancy or are going cheap, but I suppose I only do it since the 'gotta catch 'em all' mentality kicks in! I would agree that the sets are generally poor and the good or rare Minifigures are quite few ad far between. I pilfered one of those MTTs on eBay for £4.80 only about four days ago, I have yet to receive it but tracking says it is in the UK somewhere at least.

I am looking forward to Atkinsar's articles.

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By in United States,

Having a goal of collecting "every polybag ever!" -- while certainly an ambitious undertaking, is way more feasible than collecting "every LEGO set ever!" So, I think some people gravitate toward polybags for that reason. It's a clearly-defined subset of LEGO that some of us can settle our focus onto.

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By in United States,

i guess i would have to say that i am sure some people would want a complete set of a given collection. and that is fine and i know that there are some things that i would or do have a complete set of, but Lego's is not one of them. i collect only the sets that i like, mainly vehicles and a lot of the city sets. i can see that there are some people that would want all the poly bags because most of the time they are small and inexpensive to buy. but as some people have posted its the rare ones that are the issue.

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By in United States,

Is there a way to filter a "polybag only" set search on Brickset? I'm curious to see them all!

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By in United States,

It has less to do with the polybags themselves than the fact it is a thing to track down and collect. By definition, collecting anything--stamps, coins, Lego--is something of an obsessive compulsion. It is not just a matter of buying a few you like, or having something to pass the time. A collector NEEDS these things. Not having all the polybags creates a sense of loss, as if you are not whole.

The more widely available or plentiful a Lego set is, the less sense of fulfillment you receive from it. Buying a common City set from your local toy store does not provide the same sense of completion or achievement.

It also does not provide the same "king of the hill" feeling of having something rare that most of your fellow collectors do not have. That is why, for example, a Star Wars collector might track down some rare 1970s velvet painting of Chewbacca. Having the same stuff as everyone else is not enough; they need MORE, something even more rare and more unusual to set their collections (and by extension, themselves) apart.

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By in United States,

I paid, I think about $13 for the Battle Wagon poly, I could have gotten the pieces for probably $8.
Reason: I wanted to have the full line of Kingdoms(minus the Chinese stuff).

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By in United States,

Polybags are just fun! I remember a while back on a special occasion when my dad bought me some polybags that I'd been wanting & he hid them throughout the house. I was so excited when I found the 1st one & then I kept finding them!

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By in United States,

I don't know why people think they need them all, but I'm glad they do. I make a killing on them with Bricklink.

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By in Australia,

I collect polybags for one of two reasons: 1. Because they are part of a theme I want a complete collection of (eg. It took me a while to track down the two TLotR polybags here in Australia, as they weren't widely available, particularly the Uruk-Hai with Ballista -but I am now a proud owner of every TLotR set from the first wave!). The second reason is because I want certain minifigures, either because I need the fig for something and aren't in a position to buy a full set at the time, or because I am interested enough in a theme to want the minifigures (just to have them really), but not so much that I can justify buying a number.of sets just for the figs (eg. When the toy story theme came out, I had to have the figs as it was my favourite movie as a kid. And as there were only four polybags, it was a much simpler option - as I don't like buying figs on their own, I disagree with separating figs from their sets.) So this is why I buy polybags. And although they're small, the short and sweet build is always enjoyable. I usually have a line of a few on display on my desk :)

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By in Australia,

I don't actively seek them out, but I'll definitely grab them when I can. Sadly, there aren't many opportunities to get them where I am. The only one I'm desperate to get my hands on is Heroica Ganrash 30170, and as far as I can tell the only place I could have gotten it was TRU in Canada...

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By in United States,

I don't try to get them all, but if I stumble apon one that I want. I will for sure buy it. Oh! Newsflash! The mini bat-mobile is now avaible in the U.S at Target. (It is found in the Christmas Decoration area)

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By in United States,

And at $3.99 for the Batmobile mentioned above , it's quite cheap for a car that could be also used for a Racers scene as it's the correct scale. They haven't got there as of last week, may be in now though. Plan to get one for a minibuild before Christmas.

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By in United States,

I hated polybags when I was younger, but now I am into them more than sets at times. Same with books, I like books and polybags, probably because they don't cost $89.99 retail. I see them being very sought after in time. Most already are.

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By in Germany,

I slid into polybag collection by access to the Sun promotion polybags. In the UK, they are obviously very cheap and easy to get.

From there, it was small step to pick up spares and swap for other polybags from other countries. This is still a comparatively cheap way of collecting Lego: If you obtain the polys originally for the cost of The Sun (GBP 0.40 - 0.50), even when you add shipping costs, trades often work out for less than GBP 2.00 per poly.

After I did that for a while, it felt that there were certain "gaps" which the OCD-affected part of me just couldn't let go... so now I'm a polybag collector of sorts.

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By in Canada,

I agree with @mkoesel and @Almaras22 .

If you collect polybags just because they're polybags... You're one step closer to OCD.

I collect mini-SW models, many of which happen to be in polybags, but I do open them all, display them, and play with them with my kids. I've even hung a few from the ceiling for mock battles in the basement. It made my life a lot simpler (and cheaper) to buy these used and opened!

Got the 30059 in Japan a few weeks ago myself for 800yen. You can get them in capsule machines for 400yen, but you only have one chance in four (unless the ratios are not equal...).

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By in United States,

I decided to start collecting polybags after reading this post :O. I went to my local Target today and found 1 lonely #30111 sitting there on the shelf. I didn't see any Harry Potter lego sets in the store for ages! So that's decided it :) I picked up #30152 and 30161 for good measure and 30013 at the same Target. I also got 2 extra 5000202 today with my game, "for being patient" and waiting 3 extra days to get a Wii version :) After I came home I realized that I actually already have quite a few polys, but most of them are open. Anyways, I think collecting polybags Lego would be a good hobby for me just because of the price factor and a rarity of some of them.

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By in Australia,

I only collect them if:

1) It's in a theme I'm collecting.
2) It has good pieces
3) Good resale amount
4) It has zombies or ghosts :3

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