The Price/Part Ratio: Licensed vs. Unlicensed

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Everyone knows that the price-per-part in licensed sets is way higher than in non-licensed ones, right?

Actually, it's not quite as simple as that. Our video review partner JANGBRiCKS has used Brickset's data to get to the bottom of it once and for all and presents his findings in a short video which you can view after the break.

His conclusions may surprise you although the clear evidence of a 'Lucas/Disney tax' probably won't...

 

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52 comments on this article

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By in Sweden,

Price per part isn't the best metric. Price per unit of weight is better. And you must exclude sets with special non-plastic elements such as EV3 brick, train motors, remotes etc.

To enable this, I wish the Brickset database would include the weight of sets. If you know how much each brick weighs that would be straightforward to calculate.

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By in United Kingdom,

@Dude45, yeah, you always need to remember how much an extra minifig drags the price up, and a lot of licensed sets (especially recently) include a lot of minifigs.

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By in United States,

Is it really a "Disney tax" if the theme in question has been around since before any such acquisition?

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By in United States,

It's also likely that Lego has been marking up the MSRP so that they still profit when the prices are reduced. Discounts on sets on sites like Amazon and Walmart are much more commonplace now than they were a few years ago.

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By in United Kingdom,

Pretty interesting stuff.

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By in Poland,

Just as in Playmobil - Lego now has 4 kinds of sets - and this works for almost every "system" theme.
- Amazing Cheap for what you have in set (The new set with Chase McCain from city)
-Normal sets that are dedicated for sales (Pizza van from city)
-Ordinary sets with good-to ok value (Battlepacks or smaller sets)
- VERY expensive sets that are clearly not worth the real price, but after some time are dedicated for sales (Battle for Takodana)

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By in United States,

If it is a 'Disney tax,' then that most likely means that the exclusive molds and parts that are used in sets such as Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar are more expensive to make and therefore Lego feels the need to sell them for more. I don't think it has to do with the Disney company themselves.

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By in United Kingdom,

@Dude45, your wish is my command.... it already does, for the majority of recent retail sets, although the figure includes the box and instructions which limits its usefulness.

Public data about element weights is not available, unfortunately.

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By in United States,

I'm surprised about the really high price of the City sets, and I have definitely noticed this myself. City sets are not licensed, and neither the pieces or the minifigs are special. Even if there are some special pieces (like boat hulls, vehicle parts, new animals, etc.) they do get reused over and over again. They are not the same as special moulds in licensed sets that may only get used one or two times. It's interesting that Creator, which is very similar to City in many ways, is usually a much better deal both in price and building experience (i.e. 3-in-1 sets). I'm just wondering what could be the reason for such a high price for City sets.

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By in France,

@Dude45 Well, you can access the weights of the sets on Bricklink.com. They allow to do some extract, so maybe it would be interesting to check the price-per-weight ratios on licenced and un-licensed.

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By in United States,

Very interesting data. I for one am sick of people complaining that Star Wars is crazy expensive, and LEGO's gotten money hungry and all that, so it's nice to have the empirical evidence that that's not the case.

For the small amount more expensive that Licensed sets are, I'd agree with @AdamDaLegoGuy, it's definitely a case of more exclusive and detailed prints and molds. But also I'm sure it takes much longer to design a Star Wars set than a City set, considering that the designers have to make sure that the licensed set looks accurate to the 'real' thing. With City, for example, if something doesn't look /exactly/ like a specific real life design of something it's no big deal.

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By in United States,

@akunthita: I'd imagine it's because City is more aimed at younger kids than Creator, and kids will still want to get those Police, or Fire, or Jungle, etc. sets. Meanwhile Creator's slightly older audience would be much more likely to actually look at the PPP and determine whether the set is worth the money.

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By in Sweden,

I'm more concerned about how wildly prices fluctuate between countries. Sure, some countries have better economies than others as far as median income and whatnot, but it sure feels really sour to be paying the equivalent of US$80 for a set that Americans pay US$50 for. Or paying the equivalent of £30 for a set that costs £20 in the UK. That grinds my gears far, far more than licensed/unlicensed prices.

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By in Puerto Rico,

This was a great video! Jang's the best!

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By in Germany,

I'm with Graysmith, the wildly varying prices from country to country annoy me the most. Many Star Wars or licenced sets in general are cheaper, sometimes far cheaper, in the US than anywhere else in the world. Even accounting for the sales tax that is included in most countries yet excluded in US RRPs. Also, there seem to be far more discounts/sales in the US in general. One can see this indirectly on BL, where prices from US sellers are often far lower than from any other part in the world. If it hadn't been for the very high shipping fees plus the annoying problems with customs, I would order most of my BL stuff from the US. As it is, I have to order from within the EU, and even though I tend to pay quite a bit more for the parts/sets themselves, factoring in the shipping costs I still come out ahead.

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By in Netherlands,

I think the high (average) price of City sets is because of the train(s) and large police and fire stations. Also, i'm seeing exactly what @lordofdragonss is saying; a lot more sets are higher priced but are "on sale" most of the time (like the police and fire station).

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By in United Kingdom,

^ It would be interesting to use € or £ prices and see how it pans out. I suspect the difference would be significant given, as you say, Star Wars in particular is vastly more expensive in Europe whereas City can often be cheaper than in the US.

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By in Poland,

A very important not is - In Poland (and in EURO countries for some reason, licenced sets are priced much higer than others - even if US they share the same price.
75173: Luke's Landspeeder = 60148: ATV Race Team
In US - they have same price - 19,99$ while in Germany (and Poland) Lukes speeder is more expensive - 29,99€ while Race team costs just 19,99€

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By in Netherlands,

Keep in mind that a lot of prices in the US are without tax (because tax differs per state), or at least that's what I heard (please correct me if I'm wrong). I don't know if that's the case with Lego prices too though.

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By in United States,

I like the unlicensed sets more whether the price/part ratio is better or not.

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By in United States,

Ha, watched this earlier today. I admit I am a little surprised, and I'm a little grateful that I don't buy many Disney-owned sets.

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By in United Kingdom,

I wonder if City sets are relatively expensive because they're reliable sellers. For a lot of people buying Lego for kids, City sets are what they'll think of when "Lego" comes to mind, and will latch onto while browsing sets.

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By in United Kingdom,

Nice job, Jang - a good, balanced review with appropriate caveats clearly pointed out.

@akunthita - I think the point about POOP in City sets is that one single POOP element uses a lot more ABS than, for instance, a cheese slope or 1 x 1 round plate which drives the high parts counts in other sets (e.g. Modulars). This not only increases the amount of raw material required per City set, thus driving up costs, but also increases the weight and box size which itself further drives up costs.

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By in Sweden,

This years Star Wars wave is at least 10-20 % more expensive in Sweden than in the US/UK. It's extremely disappointing that especially the smaller sets are more pricey, the smaller the set, the bigger the price difference between countries. A £20 SW/Marvel/DC set retails for £30-35 here, which is the reason I buy very few licensed sets in general.

It's a shame that the price of a heavily discounted set in Sweden is about the RRP in the UK.
Edit: The prices surely has to do with median household incomes, taxes etc.
I also think the population in a specific country, and therefore the consumer group, matters. Sweden has 10 million residents, USA 320 million. So the consumer group in america is probably more 30 times bigger than the Swedish one. Does that matter?

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By in United States,

It would be interesting to see price fluctuations between sets without big parts - I don't know how exactly that would be defined, but it would include stuff like prefab boat hulls. That way coast guard and harbor sets, for example, could be more fairly compared with sets like the Battle of Takodana.

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By in Sweden,

@The creative box, so true...

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By in United Kingdom,

^ i have no access to figures, but it may be worth considering in the background the purchasing power parity (PPP) of different countries. I'd imagine that there may be some sort of correlation between average wages of different countries and the average costs of Lego sets i.e. If your country pays relatively more in wages than another country, you can afford to pay more for your goods.

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By in Greece,

Actually, according to most people, "city" themed trains don't quite match with the rest of the city sets as far as prizing is concerned. They are more or less a category on their own as trains have many expensive parts and this at least is heard at some point of the video. So, I am eager to see the results if trains are left out of the "normal" city sets.
Plus, as many said above, there are some discrepancies regarding sales policy of certain themes around the world, i.e. SW sets being A LOT cheaper in the US than in Europe.

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By in Canada,

If I understand it, LEGO charges the consumer for every piece individually, charges for the instruction books, and even charge for the box it comes in (rounded to the dollar). The value bargain sets (ie: 10704 - 900 pieces for only €35) usually contain mostly inexpensive parts, while sets like 60139 (€40 for 374 pieces) generally have more expensive pieces in the set. This remains true, even if the pieces are not rare in the set.

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By in Canada,

Interesting video, good stuff.

I don't see how price-per-weight is a good measure. Additional individual bricks are useful because those are the basic elements of building and with more bricks I can do more. Additional volume of ABS is an indirect and less accurate measure of what I can build. The hull piece is a case in point - I can do way more with half the hull's weight of 2x4s than I can do with 1 hull, yet a price-per-weight measure suggests the latter is a worse deal. It presumes that more ABS = better than, which is highly doubtful.

And back to price-per-piece, you might argue that it renders 100 1x1 round plates equivalent to 100 2x4 bricks, but given the variety of elements in any set, that point is moot.

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By in United States,

To tie into some other comments above: can some of the European posters comment if the LEGO MSRP prices include VAT, and if so what the percentage is in your country? I've often wondered if that is a reason for the generally higher European prices.

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By in United States,

This all assumes that the source(s) for Brickset's data is accurate and reliable.

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By in United States,

I'd also like to say, it's not like Disney sets are running something like 5c more expensive than non-Disney sets, it's barely 1c more per piece than other sets, with is admittedly much lower than most of us would have expected.

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By in Puerto Rico,

Thanks for this video.

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By in United States,

Jang is the best! As always, he uses a ton of facts to put together high quality content. You should really consider letting him write articles for the site, he'd be great at it.

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By in Canada,

Informative statistics! Thank you Jang for putting in the time to gather all that data.

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By in Japan,

I think all of this too depends on where you live. Some regions really get sets at a considerably higher marked up price than others. Battle packs for example cost me around 22$ USD when converted. And that for a set that only packs around 100 pieces. Other themes though are much cheaper than USD retail but it takes some months for the price to drop. Usually 4 months will shave $5 to 7$ USD off a City set, specially on Amazon.

Star Wars on the other hand, remains incredibly expensive regardless of length of time on market and gets more expensive the longer they seem to sit in inventory. Boggles the mind.

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By in New Zealand,

Having been privy to wholesale pricelists over the last few years, and noting that there may well be a license component to the wholesale pricing, the other interesting observation is that the RRP vs wholesale markup is quite a bit less for licensed sets.

The pricing I've seen runs licensed typically at around 25-30% RRP mark-up, whereas self lines like city, technic, Ninjago etc run at closer to 35-40%.

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By in United States,

We should be talking about the Juniors tax! A 29.99 marvel spider man Juniors set has 137 while the latest marvel guardians of the galaxy 29.99 set has 323. Almost double! heck even the 19.99 set has 197 pieces and the same amount of minifigures!

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By in Croatia,

Nice review, surerly it is a lot of work behind it.
But, I would like to see not only ppp bar charts between themes, but also box plot for each theme (so, not only the average ppp, but also median, p90, p10) as well as scatter plot (numer of pieces vs ppp). Also, some corrections by minifig price should be applied.

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By in Belgium,

@jhuntin1 > Indeed, European prices usually include all sales tax, i.e. VAT that is around 20% (a little below or above, depending on the country).
@MrFlame > at least Juniors have all printed parts :D I guess the higher price-per-part is also due to the bigger parts.

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By in United Kingdom,

It is also easy to turn this around and show that it is the customer that drives the prices. Answer two questions ...

How much would you pay for a city minifigure?

How much would you pay for a Star Wars (or other licensed) minifigure?

I would pay more for most licensed minifigures than the figures that come in creator and city sets. Thus it makes sense to charge more for the sets that they come in, or to include lets parts for the same set cost, as people perceive them to be more valuable than plain, generic figures.

For anyone that doesn't agree, I have loads of generic City firemen and police that I will gladly trade 1:1 for SW and LOTR/Hobbit figures.

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By in Hungary,

Do not forget 60132 service station.
89.99$
515 pieces
Price per part: 17 C
FOR A CITY SET! Omg...

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By in United States,

I have my own metric I use which tends to serve me pretty well--I subtract $2.50 per minifig (counted as 5 pieces), $8 for a bigfig, and count every other part the same, then do a PPP calculation. It's not perfect (and it relies on my own preferences in a set), but I think it helps me determine value in a set. But of course the real question aftet that is "am I willing to spend $.xx/piece for this set and be happy with it?" There are some sets/themes I would gladly pay a higher premium for, and others would have to have a remarkable discount to have the same value for me personally.

I think it's entertaining to watch people debate the topic as if there were a universal method of determining value. Diff'rent strokes, people.

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By in Romania,

To respond to jhuntin1 request. I am from Romania and the VAT tax here is somewhere between 18-21%. I collect mainly Star Wars sets so that is the example I will give. Lets take the 20$ set: https://brickset.com/sets/75173-1/Luke-s-Landspeeder . In Europe it costs 30 Euro. In Romania in the Lego Official store the price its somewhere 35 Euro. That 5 Euro I think is the VAT tax.

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By in United Kingdom,

If you consider any product, not just Lego, you need to factor in every stage that adds to cost. Once you start that its amazing everything in the world dosnt cost more. For example-
Premises for factory and taxes for that
Basic materials-to make the product
Utility bills-gas,electric
Staffing- designers,maufacturers,accounts,human resources.
Packaging-including printing, third party costs (buying the cardboard boxes etc)
Delivery-fuel costs, drivers wages, insurance, overseas taxes
Sales staff-someone has to find the reatailers to sell the product.
Merchandisers-to display and promote
Advertising-tv,magazines,radio etc
Then licencing costs-if third party
Failures-returns, unsold stock, damaged,lost/stolen.

I can go on, as not exhaustively. So when you think about a battle pack at £11.99, hows the value look now?

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By in United States,

In addition to train motors and sensors, another part type that can drive up the cost of City sets is tires.

I remember reading an article on here a while ago in which a Lego designer was discussing a set, and talked about how they needed to keep the price down even though the set had 10 tires - because the tires basically blew through most of the part budget for that set.

Most City sets have wheels, which would imply that they incorporate this apparently pricier part type more often than perhaps other set themes.

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By in United States,

@antp and NaghiArmin - Thanks for your answers. I had hoped that was the case since Euro prices are higher usually than USD. As someone said above, U.S. prices do not include tax, which ranges from about 5-9% depending on the state. It doesn't fully explain the usually cheaper U.S. prices, but there are many factors that play into it as some posters have commented on.

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By in United States,

No one seems to be stating that LEGO City has really stepped up their game in the last year. They have new torsos in nearly every set. The volcano and jungle sets have great minifigs. 60103 Airport Air Show is a perfect example of how well City has done. This figs are amazing. Perhaps new prints are one of the reasons that City has gone up in price lately. I price I do not mind paying.

Way to go City realizing that every figure in your town does not need to wear the same clothing.

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By in United States,

Jang!

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By in United States,

@HUN_Sector: And as clearly proved by the video, City sets aren't so cheap and well valued as everyone thinks. ;)

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By in Netherlands,

There's no doubt about the ridiculous Porsche tax on the 42056. Flaky instruction bookLET doing 30€ alone. You can't even shop separate rims at buy-a-piece because of license crap.

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