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I suppose if I was going to make a depressing thread about regret, this positive one should accompany it. I'd love to hear about your most triumphant purchase. Triumphant is obviously left vague, so it could be the case that it was an extremely rare item, tremendously great value, most memorable set, etc.
For me, it would be a collection I bought on eBay of Classic Town. It's not often that one sees a substantial vintage collection go up for auction because, for anyone that cared enough to collect and maintain sets from so long ago, the sentimental value easily outweighs the monetary value. The sets in this collection were from 1979 to 1989, were all originally purchased by the owner, and in excellent condition. Moreover, he had two of every set! It wasn't a cheap auction win by any means... I think I paid $1500 for it, but I could have easily kept one copy for myself and sold the duplicates and actually stand to make a profit. There's nothing better than "free" Lego. Of course, I haven't yet let go of a single one ;)
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When a collection like that is complete and boxed, I know the condition is probably pristine. It's increasingly harder to find "steals" like that because of the availability of information regarding their value. I've never had much luck at garage sales, and haven't brought myself to look into estate sales yet.
I distinctly remember a period of my childhood where I would run and just stare at the 6990 Lego Futuron Monorail on display every time I went to Toys R Us. I would study its picture in the catalog from the smaller sets I owned, also.
Mine would probably be buying 381 - Police Headquarters and 6970 - Beta 1 Command Base from a guy at work for £50. Both were boxed in great condition and 100% complete. He even chucked in a boxed set of 2 crater plates. I think he thought I was nuts paying him that much :0)
Long story, but I was also able to pick up a Death Star (10188) for about half-price. (Thank the Maker). Never would have got it otherwise.
And then sometime down the road I'll get the Armada ship just to say I have it...
I would have to say my most "triumphant" purchase would be to find the last two sets I required to complete the Star Wars UCS range - well to complete at the time. It was two and a half years ago and a second hand 10026 Naboo Starfighter was listed on Ebay. It was in good condition and so contacted the seller asking whether or not he could apply a Buy-it-Now to the listing. During negotiation he added the fact that he had numerous sets he was getting rid of since he was moving home and was done with the Lego scene. The last set I'd then need to complete the series was 10018 Darth Maul. Can you believe he had that also? Although it was in excellent used condition, the seller confessed he'd mislaid three or four pieces and couldn't ask any more than £40?? What's more, he then went on to offer eveything he had (including the two we'd just agreed on for £220....and that included driving 350 miles to deliver it to me!! Well, you drive a hard bargain......but go on then!
When he arrived the next day with his very happy girlfriend, it turned out the majority of sets he had were in mint sealed condition dating between '99-'02. Well, two years on, coming up to the Christmas just passed, I decided to list individually on Ebay all but the two UCS sets - I'm not interested in any of the smaller sets. They sold for just under £2,000. Where did the money go? Depends whether the wife's within earshot!
Though reacquiring two of my sets from childhood (6890 Cosmic Cruiser and 6941 Blacktron Battrax) was a little triumph...
It wasn't uncommon to see Lego stay on the shelves until the 75% off level. I would drive a circuit of about 5-6 Targets on the markdown days. Eventually I got friendly enough with the staff that they would price adjust clearance items for me even though it was against their policy. So I'd buy at the 50% level and if it fell to 75% within 14 days, they'd adjust the price. 3451 Sopwith Camels for $15, 10019 Tantives for $50, lots of other SW and HP sets.
Nowadays, many more people are vigilant with the clearances and the stock barely survives the 30% discount level.
Lego 7662 (MTT) for £30 :)
I purchased 6 of them on clearance at the end of their production run for ~$40 apiece.
My most satisfying one is buying a complete Santa Fe train (2 locomotives, 5 cars), in near mint condition (built, but in always stored in ziploc bags out of the light) for €550. It almost felt like sacrilege to touch them... The kids definately do not get to play with them!
On the downside I was filthy about missing out on http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=384-1 384 London Bus by someone who jumped in with a last second bid.
With the RKC, I won the auction with a final bid of little over $100. Considering how wonderful of a condition the "used" set (complete with box and instructions) was in, I think this was a steal AND a huge moment of joy for me. I had wanted this one castle since I first laid eyes on it in 1995. The little Lordling inside of me thinks it is the greatest castle Lego every produced.
The Technic Super Car and L&LS were not deals. After shipping, I paid $378 and $298, respectively, for each set. BUT, both were brand-new, never-opened time capsules of pure Lego nirvana. These were sets that I saw back when I first discovered Lego in kindergarten, and they always seemed beyond my reach because they were so big and expensive. To finally have those sets in my hands over a decade-and-a-half later is still mind-blowing for me. I just wish I had time to sit down and build them!
The same goes for a MISB Victory Cup Racers set I got last summer off eBay for $48. Again, not a deal, but this was a set I wanted really, really, REALLY badly as a kid. It was even more frustrating because even back in 1993-1995, when it was still available in stores, it wasn't even all that expensive for my parents to afford. It could've been mine, but I was too distracted by the sheer amount of other awesome sets Lego was putting out, especially the new Aquazone in 1995. I managed to get everything from that theme's first wave, but somehow, I couldn't get a Victory Cup Racers. I would groan, but I have the set now!
My most distinct memory of drooling over a Lego set as a child was the Toys R Us display of 6990 Futuron Monorail. After coming out of my dark ages in 1999, I bought multiple copies of 6990, 6991, and 6399, as well as lots of spare track, stanchions, and motor assemblies.
Hmm, I might even offer to send you my opened sets as a loaner just so you leave yours intact :P
The unassuming exterior belied the treasure awaiting us inside. It was like stepping out of a time machine. There were seemingly all the great toys from the 70s and 80s in pristine condition. I quickly scanned the tightly packed shelves for Lego but didn't see anything.
The storekeeper greeted me with an "Aloha". I asked him if he had any Lego and his face lit up as if he had been waiting all this time for me and only me to make the 2500 mile journey to ask him. He pulled a small, crisp set out from behind the counter. Even before seeing the image clearly, I knew by the color of the box art that it was from the late 70s. He pulled out another box, and another. "Lemme kno' which ones you gonna' want" he said in his Hawaiian pidgin. "I'll take them all," I said, without even asking the prices.
He then voluntarily took out a pen and started marking down discounts for all the sets. That was really the only shame of it: he had affixed yellow price tags to each of the boxes.
Here was the haul, and all told, I think I paid ~$40 USD:
It was like all the stars had aligned: vintage sets in great unopened condition, voluntary reduction of prices that were already a steal, and finding them of all places during a tropical paradise vacation :P
Besides that, I benefited from all the great sales last fall/winter - especially the LEGO Store sales - 50% off or more.
In all the time I have been buying online it has maybe happened 3 times that I didn't pay enough attention to what I was doing. So now I had spent a little more than I had intended.
The day after that I read an announcement that the Death Star had been incorrectly priced on the Lego website and that effective immediatly it would go up in price by €100.00. However, people that had ordered the item before the price increase would be charged the lower price.
When I read that I did a little dance in my head.
And about ten years ago I went into a shop and saw the 7317 Aero Tube Hanger with the same price tag as the 7316 Excavation Searcher. When I wanted to pay, the cashier said that the set had the wrong price on it, when I said that in that case all the boxes had the wrong price on them, she went over to check and gave me the set for the lower price. She then had to give my friend the same treatment as he was standing behind me with the same set.
As we were walking out of the store they were repricing all the remaining sets and a week later I started to see notices appear at cash registers stating that the scanned price was the correct price.
Also last week I bought the 5985 Space Police Central set for €29.00. Original price €79.99.
Which was nice.
My other great purchase was the entire first series of Batman Sets for 75% off at Wal-mart. I bought 2 of each but I could have bought 5-8 of each set for that price (wish I would have now that the prices are insane).
Also, same store, 2 10040 Black Seas Barracuda Legend sets for $75 each(when selling for about 150-200 on eBay) and the 10039 Black Falcon's Fortress for $40
ALSO 6 of Slave 1's from that store at about 55 each right when the had been sold out for about 1 month at Lego, and 7 train shed's too, for 65 dollars each..
Sadly they have moved their store to an online location as well, so little chance of finding deals like that at that store again...
LOTS of good deals from that place though.
Back when LEGO's North American distribution was done at Enfield, they would have a once-a-year tent sale for employees. They'd get rid of old sets for big discounts, or so we were told. Jake McKee told us a few days before that he might be able to get us an invitation. But first, they'd make sure there was "enough" LEGO to be worthwhile, because if there were only a couple dozen sets left after the employees had ravaged it, it'd hardly be worth it for AFOLs to drive down to Enfield.
So we were told on that SATURDAY that we were good to go. That's the Saturday before Father's Day, mind you, so a lot of people on short notice, with plans for Father's Day, couldn't make it. But those of us WITHOUT plans (luckily I was one), managed to drive down.
We had no idea what to expect. Based on Jake's description, we figured maybe there'd be a couple tables or so of LEGO left over, and they'd be things that we didn't want like DUPLO or Jack Stone. I carpooled down (as did a few other people) with other AFOLs (BIG MISTAKE!).
They had a tent set up. A LARGE banquet tent. When we showed up, we peeked inside, and could see PALLETS of LEGO. It was massive. Then we were handed a "price sheet". We gawked.
Star Wars Final Duel: $0.50
Statue of Liberty: $50.00
Dobby's Release: $0.50
Droid Developer Kit: $10.00
Minifig Sculpture: $25.00
The list went on. Sets were between 75% and 98% off. And as we started making our way through the tent, we saw, hidden behind the FIRST tent was a SECOND tent, ALSO filled with grossly discounted LEGO. There was an entire bin of sets for $0.25 each, and one right next to it that was a bin of $0.50 items.
It was insane. We literally filled the car to the brim. We bought until the car couldn't stand to FIT any more. I rode home with LEGO by my feet, in my lap, and LEGO on the rear windshield dashboard.
Best. Sale. Ever.
The best deal that I can recall is back in 2000 when an online toy store was going out of business and sold off its stock at half-price.
Very sad for the store, but good for me.
I bought the following:
5206 Speed Computer £14.99
9731 Vision Command £37.49
3409 Football Challenge £14.36
4561 Railway Express (with controller) £50.00
7181 TIE Fighter (UCS) £37.49
8457 Power Puller £34.50
7190 Millennium Falcon £37.49
8458 Silver Champion £50.00
7191 X-Wing Fighter (UCS) £57.50
I can't find any pictures of the 2003 tent sale, but I recall some of people's trunks spilling over with LEGO bags. Anyway, the 2003 sale looked very similar, except there were far fewer people present.