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Say if you planning to gather parts for a small set, say #6879 Blizzard Baron (click the set number to see it ;o)), you are better off buying a complete set just above original retail ($8). The combined total would well be above that with multiple sellers and shipping.
On the other hand not all small sets are like this, most small sets can go without being "Bricklinked", and just be bought from a reliable source, complete.
Now for some of the larger sets, this isn't exactly true. You may very well pay over than what you could Bricklink a set for. Most Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Series sets can be Bricklinked for just over original MSRP, but, like #10179 Ultimate Collectors Series Melenium Falcon, you may as well just be happy with double the MSRP (some people even pay triple!)
Other larger sets can be bought complete at or just above MSRP as well, but some people think that a particular set, like #6195 Neptune Discovery Lab, is just somehow "rarer" and needs to have a higher price than even double MSRP. Even though its an older set and its beautiful, it is not worth double MSRP.
But don't let this scare you. In fact, many of us here in the forum will gladly answer any questions that you have on whether you should Bricklink a set or not. To be honest we are in need of a thread like that, unless, of course, I missed it.
Hope at least some of my rambling helped!
But as the other posters have said - its best to check the value of a complete set first, because if you're looking at BL'ing one, you have to take into account buying from multiple sellers, as it will be unlikely that one seller has every required part, which means extra shipping charges.
So the brand store #3300003 would be a case in point, which costs about £60-70 minimum to buy as a set on the secondary market but only £10-15 maybe to buy the parts (although of course you don't get the box and instructions, so depends on how valuable that is to you).
But as suggested doing your research is key to working out which sets are cheaper to buy, which to bricklink.
To clarify, are you talking about a 1000+ piece set through Bricklink? It's only a pain on the rarer parts. The more common the part, the better chance a Bricklink store has it. Although it might be good to distribut the more common pieces among retailers to get more value out of you shipping.
On that note, try to order from within or in very near the proximity of your country.
1. Part Set into new wanted list
2. Delete items you have (sometimes it is easier to do this after you upload the whole thing)
3. Keep searching for parts and deleting as you find them
4. When you're ready, search for your list By Shop
If you do a forum search for "Bricklink cost minimization" you may find it useful.
It is a learning process, but once you start you will likely be hooked. Good luck!
5. Print out the set inventory. As pieces get delivered, I cross them off the inventory list.
A key factor also where do you live... In the States, somewhere in Europe, or... Sudan...
Also, what is your time worth...
I happened to bricklink 3300003-1 (Lego Brand Store) - and when I decided to do it, I decided to get more than just one, to make it cheaper. But after all, more wasn't much cheaper than one...
Bricklink's "Price Guide: Part Out Value" is your friend and it is telling that currently the 3300003-1's parts "Current Items For Sale Average" is around EUR 35.
There is no way you can buy all parts from one seller, there are some "rare" pieces that would make you buying parts from 4-5 or likely more stores, optionally involving a PAB and/or a replacement order to LEGO, thus adding 4-5+ shipping costs, which would make the final price go around the EUR 60-70+ range. No box and no instructions. And not counting your time.
If you need the stickers, currently there are 2 sellers for that on BL, one of those being me.
Since this is a "new" set, all parts could be gathered eventually, but with older sets, you can run into the "replace it with different color/size" dilemma...
If the lots/parts numbers go up, your time spent on minding the BL list will exponentially grow. And expect missing pieces at the end or multiple orders of a part... BL's list management is not the best, so all done manually then prone to error...
And, as was suggested, check out:
Automated BrickLink cost minimization program available
Because a few older sets can shock you at the cost for just a few parts.
Some retired sets are expensive because of just a few items.
If you're talking about anything recent or current, generally just buying the set, even for over MSRP, is a better way to go.
UCS Falcon is the example most often given, it is really expensive no matter how you do it. Most of the parts are basic and cheap, but there are a ton of them, then there is almost $800 in "rare" parts that are fewer than 100 out of the 5,197 parts in the set.
6 months ago, those same parts were $300. The jump has been huge.
Back on topic
Yes it can be used that way. You might just stay under MSRP by choosing a different color (Its the sand green color that makes Green Grocer so expensive)
I would suggest either blue or red as an alternate color, by the way.
If you want to do one in the original colors, just buy one, you wouldn't save anything by doing it in the natural colors as Penkid11 said.
The trick of course is to download the PDF instructions from LEGO.com's web site, then load the inventory into Bricklink, then start swapping out the parts you want to change over. The back of the instruction manual has the parts list, which can make it easier to see what's what.
It is a process, that is for sure! :)
Earlier in the year, I bricklinked, #10018 Darth Maul sculpture. I figured that as this was mostly "normal" bricks, it would be easy and cheap. Certainly the part out cost is about half that of a new set, and there are very few sets for sale in any case.
Postage is an issue, of course, so my personal justification here was to get the parts over time, as I placed other bricklink orders, at least sharing the postage cost over my normal bricklink orders and making me feel happier about buying just one part if the seller also had a chunk of Maul.
I was able to get the 2x4 black bricks from the Pick-a-brick wall, but I had to do a few intelligent substitutions. Firstly almost everything that was brightly coloured is designed to go inside and not visible, so I didn't have to worry about getting 2x2x3 bricks in blue. Also I found it easier and cheaper to buy (say) 3 4x6 plates than 4x6 bricks.
I chose to replace old brown with reddish brown.
The only visibly different substitution I had to make was the 4x4 quarter circle panels, which were only in black in this set. They are round the back of the neck in a tube, so not that visible. But I went of dark bluish grey.
There isn't a happy ending to this tale though. My cleaner, whilst house sitting was so freaked out by Darth Maul staring at her, that she moved the sculpture. It then got knocked over and smashed to pieces on the floor. One piece - a 16L technick brick was broken - but I haven't managed to face rebuilding it yet because of the nature of the instructions. These layers where you build up a bit at a time, but don't know if you've missed anything until the end mean that it's going to be a job of taking everything apart and starting again I think.
@sipmart242 It should be relatively easy to change the sand green to something else. After you upload the inventory to your wanted list, you can sort it by color, then all the sand green will be lined up and you can just change each one. Just remember to hit "submit changes" at the bottom! Can't tell you how many times I've forgotten that little necessary step.
I've put together a sand blue grocer (which I've turned into a sort of butcher's / fishmonger's shop) - sand blue is pretty easily available at the moment from the pet shop, for example, including the modified 1x2 brick with the groove.
Dark blue may be just as expensive as sand green because of the availability of anything bigger than a 1x4 brick - which themselves seem to set you back at least 50 cents a piece. There isn't much quantity of 1x8s although you can get 1x10s. The dark blue 1x2s ain't the cheapest either. I haven't found any sand blue in 1x8 so also had to substitute a mix of 1x6s and 1x4s for the 1x8s.