I’ve always had this hunch – that LEGO Ideas no longer seems like an accessible, and affordable theme.
LEGO Ideas is one of my favourite LEGO themes, and a theme that I’ve always felt a strong affinity to because of how it works. Regular LEGO builders submit designs to the LEGO Ideas website, and regular fans like you and I vote on our favourite designs.
Fan-submitted designs who achieve 10,000 votes then go into a review round, where the LEGO Ideas team deliberate and select one (or sometimes more) projects that will eventually be turned into a LEGO set.
The theme has spawned many greats, from the Ghostbusters Ecto-1, to the NASA Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket to the immaculate Pirates of Barracuda Bay to last year’s Medieval Blacksmith which took out the Best Set of 2021 reader vote.
The LEGO Ideas theme has pedigree, and pound for pound, is responsible for some of LEGO’s greatest hits that have profoundly impacted the kinds of sets LEGO has produced. But in the last 3 years, LEGO Ideas sets have become bigger, and more expensive, which makes me quite uncomfortable, as they seem to now largely price out builders on a budget.
This realisation really hit me when I reviewed the upcoming 21335 Motorised Lighthouse, which for all intents and purposes, is a really fantastic set, but with a huge price tag.
In this post, we’ll go through the following:
- Charting how big and pricey LEGO Ideas sets have gotten
- When did LEGO Ideas sets get big and expensive?
- Where did all the affordable LEGO Ideas sets go?
- Is this a good or bad thing?
Charting how big and pricey LEGO Ideas sets have gotten
If there are questions to answer, the first place to start is with data. I pulled LEGO Ideas sets (minus the Shinkai Submarine and Hayabusa) beginning with 21102 Minecraft Micro World from 2012, all the way up to the newest release, 21336 The Office which comes out in October 2022.
As a long-time LEGO fan and observer, pricing and set size can sometimes get muddled by the passage of time. It’s funny how our brain works, especially when we expect to pay 2013 prices in 2022 because we were so used to it then.
The first graph decisively answered my question – that sets were indeed becoming bigger, which is quite clear when you look at the trendline.
There are a few very notable outliers – usually one or two very large LEGO Ideas sets each year that go way above their peers, but for the most part, LEGO Ideas sets are getting bigger on average.
As you can expect, with pricing, the trend as you would imagine follows the number of pieces graph quite closely.
All prices referenced are in USD ($), and reflect current pricing which has taken into
And here’s what happens when you overlay both price and piece count, and as you can see, they both track very well, but there are 2 notable outliers, one which I’ve never noticed which is Home Alone seems to be quite underpriced for a set of its size (just shy of 4,000 pieces).
The one I expected is 21335 Motorised Lighthouse, which has a very expensive pricetag because of the Powered Up elements included.
That said, price per piece is just a general guide of value, and there are other factors involved such as minifigures, size of the elements, volume of LEGO etc.
In short yes, LEGO Ideas are becoming bigger and more expensive.
When did LEGO Ideas sets get big and expensive?
LEGO Ideas sets being expensive and big wasn’t always the case – I know because I was a fan of the theme from early on, as the introduction of Cuusoo (what the theme was called before Ideas) coincided with my exit from my Dark Ages.
For the longest time, LEGO Ideas sets were on the smaller side, which is why 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V made such an immediate impact at launch. At 1969 pieces, it was the largest LEGO Ideas set yet, and that year also introduced the 21310 Old Fishing Store which broke the 2,000-piece limit.
To better illustrate the passage of time, here’s a colour coded version of the Price and Piece chart, with each year having its own unique colour.
This was an especially helpful exercise because I was able to pinpoint the year it all changed – 2020.
When it launched in February 2020, the International Space Station was the last time a retail LEGO Ideas set came in at below 1,000 pieces, and to me, this represents a huge shift upwards in terms of size and complexity of LEGO Ideas sets.
2020 is also when LEGO began seriously courting adults, and began slowly transitioning sets outside of Star Wars into the now ubiquitous black LEGO for Adults box.
The first LEGO Ideas set to make the switch was 21323 Grand Piano, and thanks to the pandemic-induced lockdowns, LEGO’s ramping up of adult-targeted sets was simply perfect timing.
Similarly, when you look at price, the ISS was the last time LEGO sold an Ideas set for under US$70.
When you take the median number of pieces of a LEGO Ideas set, or the median price of a LEGO Ideas set in any given year, the steep jump in piece-count AND price from 2020 becomes even more apparent.
Price is the big one for me – before, you could easily pick up a LEGO Ideas set for less than US$100, with plenty of change leftover, but from 2020 onwards, when the typical price of a LEGO Ideas set becomes US$150… you suddenly realise that this once beloved theme full of unexpected Ideas and concepts is now exclusively targeting deep-pocketed AFOLs.
But these deep-pocketed AFOLs keep buying these larger, more expensive LEGO Ideas sets, and some of these sets has seen LEGO bring their A-game to the table, so can you really blame this marriage of convenience?
Where did all the affordable LEGO Ideas sets go?
I miss small, affordable and accessible LEGO Ideas sets. I’m almost nostalgic for this era where you could expect to pay about US$50 for a LEGO Ideas set and still walk away with a novel experience.
The obvious answer is that they’ve been turned into GWPs like the Space Rocket Ride, Sailboat Adventures or Vintage Car, but that isn’t entirely accurate as these fan-submitted designs were part of LEGO Ideas contests, and didn’t exactly go through the 10,000 vote review process.
Looking at previous review results… might clue you in on the answer. It doesn’t seem like there are many small submissions that make it to 10,000 votes. In the most recent review results where Hocus Pocus was selected, the
smallest set was Terrariums, and it had 2,000 pieces although most are 1×1 studs used for the soil.
Minor correction: Stargate was the smallest set, at only 850 pieces.
Because of LEGO Ideas’ democratic platform, it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle, where fans end up submitting bigger and more elaborate ideas because the typically gain the most attention, and are awe-inspiring which are almost requirements for gaining enough public support.
It could also be that the success of sets like Barracuda Bay, Saturn V, Tree House and more have also encouraged builders to go bigger, and even if they don’t make it through a Review cycle, they could gain a second lease of life in the Bricklink Designer Program.
And maybe, just maybe the paradigm has shifted as LEGO continues its relentless pursuit of AFOL money. The perception of what is a small set could ultimately be shifting, and what LEGO considers small could be in the 1,000-piece range for LEGO Ideas.
Is this a good or bad thing?
I don’t think there’s a definitive answer here.
LEGO Ideas has been one of the most consistently impressive themes because of the large body of ideas it can draw inspiration from, and LEGO fans just can’t seem to get enough of these ambitiously large sets.
When sets like the Tree House, Home Alone, Pirates of Barracuda Bay, Saturn V rocket, Vincent Van Gogh are among your best sellers, it sends very strong signals to the LEGO Ideas team that fans want bigger, and more complex sets, and that appetite is not being satiated.
Because of the unique nature of the LEGO Ideas platform, which yields a ton of data about consumer trends, and desires to LEGO, it could be a good thing that not only are fans expressing strong intent with how they vote, but they also demonstrate strong commercial demand for bigger and more expensive LEGO Ideas sets.
The downside of course is that when the median price of a LEGO Ideas set is US$150, and there are now about 6-7 LEGO Ideas sets in a year, that begins to add up really quickly.
LEGO Ideas is one of the shining beacons of LEGO’s portfolio, and I think it’s a great disservice to LEGO fans if sets that are selected become increasingly out of reach.
Obviously, still having relatively small sets like 21331 Sonic the Hedgehog Green Hill Zone is a great thing, but my hope is that we’ll see LEGO (and fan designers!), make efforts to greenlight smaller models and builds to ensure some accessibility.
LEGO Ideas works because fans vote, and fans buy, and so this trend could ultimately be what we all secretly want.
What do you think of the LEGO Ideas sets becoming bigger and more expensive? Is this a positive or negative?
In case you missed it, check out some of my recent LEGO Ideas reviews! I have the Jazz Quartet review coming up soon, so keep an eye out for it!
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