This ebay auction guide is provided to help you make an informed choice (and hopefully avoid some of the common pitfalls) buying LEGO™ STAR WARS and CLONE WARS together with hot tips and links to web resources. The guide applies equally well to other Lego themes and film tie-ins such as the Indiana Jones, Batman, Ben 10, Toy Story or LOTR sets.
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Collecting Star Wars Lego is fun. I have bought, sold and collected the original sets and figures together with my sons. We have an extensive collection much of which has been bought from sellers on eBay many of whom are collectors themselves and appear to share that same genuine enthusiasm for Lego Star Wars. However, and just as for any other items on eBay, it is worthwhile being a little cautious and taking the time to research the items, their current values and their seller's reputation.
The price guide on the Bricklink website provides a handy reference to new and used values. The completed items via ebay gives a rough idea but can also be a little deceptive as auction prices can be quite variable. Make an informed choice: If a set or item is available direct from Lego Shop At Home or on line via high street stores then check out the prices. New sets can often be cheaper delivered direct from Lego than the same sets offered on auction sites. Why pay over the odds? The same is true of parts or mini-figures. Check the Bricklink price guide and items offered by Bricklink Sellers. Bricklink also provides current values for original set instructions, boxes and separate parts.
WHATS THE LOT?
Half of the battle using ebay to purchase and collect Star Wars Lego is finding out what is on sale. Try to ascertain EXACTLY what is being sold. Is the item new? With or without Instructions? Boxed? Complete? Any replacement parts? If it an expensive item then be sure to communicate with the seller well in advance of the auction end so that you gain a good idea of the lot, it's quality and the kind of seller. The listing itself can be fairly revealing although the opposite can be true too.
Often a poor photograph speaks volumes about an item and can set the alarm bells ringing.. It could be that the seller's family dog particularly enjoys playing with Lego Star Wars. An item could be constructed from a large bucket of used parts many of which are in bad condition or alternative parts may have been used. An instruction booklet may be good for children to create the model but in such bad condition that it isn't of any value to a collector. A model may be covered in years of dirt or suffering from degradation including over-exposure to sunlight.
On request some sellers are happy to provide more detailed photos.
Descriptions for Lego items are varied. Short and succinct can be perfectly adequate. Long winded descriptions which barely stop short of detailing your postman's shoe size are often more trouble than they are worth. I find the best ones fall somewhere between the two and offer the right amount of information and which is perfectly relevant to the article for sale. Some long descriptions actually say next to nothing about the actual item for sale but bombard the viewer with other information relating to the seller. Lazy readers can easily skim and miss important details hidden within an excessive description. A classic example in Star Wars Lego listings for mini-figures are verbose descriptions which slip into the small print the fact that they contain magnets (see notes on magnetic figures below). These items usually fetch a lower price and less collectable than those without. I, myself, have bought such items by mistake (doh) having not taken the time to READ THE LISTING adequately. If you do not want to buy Lego mini-figs incorporating magnets it is a good idea to have a list of the 'magnet' mini-figs that Lego have released. Please see the notes on these items below.
Another potential minefield is the addition of the term 'CUSTOM' to a description. The use of the word 'custom' effectively denotes an item that is not an official Lego release. Some expertly built custom figures, dioramas and designs can provide excellent additions to a collection. However the term is also used in descriptions as a 'get out of jail' card for someone to sell an item which purports to be an official Lego release but is seriously lacking in some respect ie. is constructed of the wrong parts. If you are only collecting the officially released Lego pieces then avoid 'Custom' items and look for the term in descriptions.
Keen sellers naturally want the best price for their items and will describe them in their best light. A seller may dress an item in a selection of superlatives such as 'amazing' or 'fantastic!!!' but these subjective statements are in themselves worthless and to be taken with a pinch of salt. I have seen a Jango Fett mini-figure described in such glowing terms and its description photographs revealing it to have been chewed to pieces and kicked to kingdom come. However where an article received is significantly different from that detailed in the listing Paypal does provide some insurance and protection to the buyer. Items that are described as 'rare!' or 'super-rare!' often need to be viewed in comparison to the many other exact same items being sold on ebay and elsewhere. I also wonder sometimes if a poor description including bad spelling is simply a way of deliberately 'acting dumb' to slightly mislead and unload poor quality items. But it is too easy to be cynical.
It is up to the buyer to contact the seller to bring clarity to a listing and given some of the humungous prices that some Lego items reach it is almost mandatory to get more information before bidding and parting with hard earned money. Do not be afraid to ASK QUESTIONS. A good seller will quickly respond and be keen to promote their item and their reputation. Try to be fairly concise. Vague questions can produce vague answers and can be worthless. A good question should be specific. e.g.. 'Is the set 100% complete with any damage or part substitutions?' 'Does the mini-figure contain magnets?' ' Does the instruction booklet have any creases or tears?' 'Is it possible to view more detailed photographs?'
The sellers reply to a question can, just like the bad photograph, be useful in sorting out the wheat from the chaff. There is, however, always the exception and shrewd judgement is always required. Not everyone can take a good photo or write a good description. As with all ebay auctions take note of the sellers reputation and feedback in previous transactions including the sellers own feedback to buyers. It is a jungle out there and be particularly wary of arrogant, rude sellers. An aggressive seller is likely to care less about the service they provide to buyers. Also bear in mind that buyers and sellers of Lego Star Wars can be be both young and old and often hard working mums!
ALWAYS READ THE THE LISTING..
Failure to read a listing can result in buying something quite different to what is expected. Beware the 'halo effect' whereby buyers read an auction description to be what they would like it to be. A good example are listings for INSTRUCTIONS to sets rather than the sets themselves. Many people have bid on such items thinking they are the actual sets based on the accompanying picture only to be disappointed and hugely out of pocket.
INSTRUCTION BOOKLETS, STICKERS AND BOXES
Ephemera such as Lego set boxes, instructions and stickers often crop up on ebay. Collectors are keen to obtain good examples to augment and complete their collections. Such items can increase the value of a collection considerably. For these reasons brand new items are highly sought after. Check the Bricklink website for prices and availability. Sometimes stickers are un-applied either for aesthetic reasons or to keep them in the best condition. If the item you are bidding for requires stickers then note if they are present. Some sticker sets are very rare. Replacements may (but not always) be obtained via Bricklink or the Lego companies service facility (see web link below). In a similar manner the condition of Lego boxes or external packets is an important factor for collectors. Some sellers will use good packaging to prevent damage in transit. However it is not uncommon for items to be shipped without adequate protection resulting in considerable damage to the Lego box and always a disppointment especially if the item is unopened or new. Contact the seller with a friendly note concerning protection and if a priority it is worthwhile offering additional payment to ensure protection of your Lego investment. If bidding for instructions then ensure that it is in the correct format. If you want to buy original instruction booklets then ensure that auctions are not for 'electronic' versions or PDFs. Incidentally electronic copies violate Lego's own material copyright and Ebay prohibit their sale. Always check the prices of Instruction booklets available for purchase via Bricklink sellers. Many original Lego instruction booklets are easily purchased for very little via Bricklink.
On the subject of instructions; scans of nearly all the Lego Star Wars sets instructions are freely available on line either direct from Lego.com or via Peeron or Brickfactory websites. Personally I use the Brickset website as a portal to find instructions and Bricklink for inventories.
It is useful to look for postage reductions on multiple item purchases from a single seller. If it is not stipulated then ask the seller or in the last instance request an invoice for all the items together and ask the seller at the same time. Some sellers state that they do NOT combine postage. I try to avoid buying from these people who often IMO try to profit from postage whilst avoiding e-bay fees on the final sale price. Excessive postage charges are not good at all and considering the size and weight of Star Wars mini-figures I personally find some charges for these items unacceptable. New standards introduced in 2008 by ebay should, hopefully, help reduce over-charging. Many sellers no longer charge postal fees in order to improve their seller performance ratings. However this tends to reflect a higher initial starting price, reserve or Buy It Now Price. Carefully read the auction details concerning shipping costs to avoid any dispute over postal charges. Sometimes the postage can be over the odds and easily missed when seduced by a particularly low auction price. If particularly concerned about delivery time contact the seller. Given the nature of the items it is not unusual for young sellers to be very slow posting and may require a polite reminder. The best sellers often contact the buyer informing them when they have posted the item as a matter of course.
When looking to buy Star Wars Lego items bear in mind that prices in the US can be very much cheaper than the UK and consider buying overseas as an option. Some of the major store outlets in the US will ship to the UK. Some excellent bargains can be obtained from US outlets having stock sales.
It is well worth buying items from US ebay sellers who are more than happy to ship to Europe. However, the shipping cost can be prohibitively expensive. Ensure that you get a quote on shipping costs from overseas sellers prior to buying otherwise it is quite possible to get a nasty shock!
Personally I have rarely bought from sellers outside of Europe and the US but have not experienced any problems where I have done so.
An important fact to remember with overseas purchases is that items outside of the European Union may be liable to import charges and a handling fee. Legally buyers have to pay taxes and import charges on every item over a minimum value (currently over £15 inc.) imported from outside the EU. Couriers actually show some discretion on wether or not to levy charges on packages. If charged the cost is likely to be 15% vat plus 3-5% duty in addition to the couriers fee for making the calculation. Charges are on the total value, including shipping costs and has to be paid before the item or package can be received. Consult the inland revenue website for the latest tariffs. These charges can easily wipe out any advantage in buying cheaply outside of the EU. Some resourceful sellers buy their stock as sets cheaply from the US market and 'part them out' as separate items on ebay uk.
NON-RECEIPT, POSTAL DAMAGE AND MIS-DESCRIBED ITEMS
From time to time problems may occur with transactions: Slightly off the subject of Lego but important for bone fide collectors buying items on Ebay some sellers state that they 'cannot be held responsible' for items once posted with regard to either loss or damage and state that it is up to the buyer to make any claim concerning such issues directly with the postal service. Note that this is NOT the case regardless of any statement made by the seller to this effect and the seller remains responsible for the item both in the eyes of the Post Office and, more importantly, Paypal. Sellers are likely to be very much aware of this. In the event of loss Royal Mail is likely to pay compensation to the Seller within a few months providing the item is sent with proof of posting or insured to the appropriate value. Do not be persuaded by the seller that you are liable for any loss or damage.
As a buyer you are entitled to a replacement or refund from the seller if the item is not delivered, arrives damaged or is significantly different from what has been advertised. Maintain polite communication with vendors and where necessary use the Paypal Resolution Centre or Ebay's new Resolution Centre to resolve disputes. Be aware of the time scales required to make claims. In addition transactions with ebay business sellers are covered by the 'distance selling regulations' which allow for the return of goods without question during a 'cooling off ' period. http://www.oft.gov.uk/advice_and_resources/resource_base/legal/distance-selling-regulations/ When returning items ensure that you do so using registered post in order to have documented proof of delivery.
There are over 200 Star Wars Lego mini-figures to collect varying in availability and price from just a few pounds to over £30 for some of the rarer mini-figures. In addition 'unofficial' custom figures are widely available; more so on the US ebay rather than the UK auction site. Ensure that you have researched current prices and try to avoid paying over the odds unless you have more money than sense. Rare or not be sure that the minifigures you would like to 'win' will appear for auction time and time again on ebay.
There are many visual guides to the official mini-figures available on the internet. Once again Bricklink excels and provides a comprehensive catalogue along with inventory for the separate parts that make up each figure. It is worthwhile printing their listing with thumbnail photos and which currently runs to 5 pages of A4. Another handy visual guide is provided at minifigs.net online. The listing of mini-figures and sets detailed on wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Lego_Star_Wars_sets also provides a quick easy reference as to which mini-figures belong with which sets.
If bidding on the Lego Star Wars mini-figures sold on ebay ascertain exactly what is for sale. Mini-figures on auction can be made from a mixture of custom parts or colours differing from the official released versions. Badly lit photographs or digital processing can make an item look very different. For example a grey Super Battle Droid can be made to look like a rarer blue one and it can become difficult to see if any colour substitutions have made such as brown for reddish brown or grey for blue-ish grey and vice versa. Mini-figures can be in very different states of condition with possible defects such as cracking (arms and torsos) and fading or yellowing. If looking to buy an authentic mini-figure then pay close attention to the mini-figure parts on offer including accessories such as weapons, tools and clothes. As an example a missing or wrong colour cape could work out quite expensive to replace (via Bricklink) once one takes into account minimum fees and postage.
Be aware that occasionally some Star Wars mini-figures for auction may actually consist of plain parts with pasted transfers and replicated designs unlike the authentic printed parts used by Lego. Usually the description states that the items are custom made using decals. As already stated; READ THE LISTING and ask the seller specific questions.
As mentioned above Lego have released a selection of Star Wars minifigs as novelty fridge magnets and keyrings. These items looked exactly the same as the collectable versions except the torsos are inseparable from the legs and either contain magnets or in the case of keyrings incorporate a metal rod anchored to their bodies directly through their heads.
The released magnet sets with (3) figures incorporating magnets are:
M228 - Yoda Magnet Set - Yoda, Anakin Skywalker and Clone Trooper (Green Markings)
M229/4269242 - Chewbacca, Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi Magnet Set
851939/4508087 - Stormtrooper, Rebel Pilot Y-Wing, Imperial AT-ST Pilot Magnet Set (30th anniversary special edition)
852085/4508133 - Boba Fett, Leia, Royal Guard Magnet Set (30th anniversary special edition)
4524535 - Anakin Skywalker (Young), Darth Maul, Naboo Fighter Pilot (30th anniversary special edition)
Some sellers do not state in their descriptions that their mini-figures for auction are these novelty versions.... much to the chagrin of collectors of the official Lego mini-figures. It is a bit of a 'grey area' which can prove problematic. Contact the seller if you have any doubts concerning this issue relating to an item on auction.
*From 20th March 2008 The Lego Company discontinued selling mini-figures incorporating magnets following new health and safety legislation arising from some unfortunate accidents where small children ingested the parts and suffered medical problems..
The later (2009) 'magnet' minifigure sets have the magnetic part incorporated into brick stands or pedestals which are separate from the minifigures. More recently (2011) Lego have returned to attaching these magnetic figures to their bricks and cannot be separated.
SPECIAL EDITION MINI-FIGURES
Lego released (2000) four collectable 'Star Wars Minifig' packs each consisting of three figures together with collectors cards and display stands.
Lego released special anniversary 'metallic' minifigures; 'gold' C-3PO (2007), 'black chrome' Darth Vader (2009) and magnetic base 'chrome silver' Stormtrooper (2009). In collaboration with DK publishing Lego produced a 'medal ceremony' Luke Skywalker to be included with ' LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary' (2009) Once again if aiming to buy these items at auction ensure that they the genuine article and not the keyring or magnetic equivalents.
LEGO™ STAR WARS SETS
Apply the same scrutiny as detailed above when looking to buy Lego sets on Ebay. It is even more imperative to ASK QUESTIONS to really know what you are bidding on.
Lego have issued over 200 product releases relating to the Star Wars theme including the Clone Wars cartoon series, Star Wars Force Unleashed game and special edition collectors items ; www.bricklink.com/catalogList.asp?pg=1&catType=S&catID=65
Complete details of all the sets and their component parts are mostly available on line at Peeron, Brickset, Lugnet, Bricklink and Wiki.
Research used and new values using either the completed listings feature in Ebay or Bricklink price guide.
A major distinction with sets offered for auction is between discontinued sets offered as 'new' ie; unopened in sealed boxes and used. The former achieve high prices on Ebay auctions. You will have to compete at auction with shop resellers that pay top dollar and are happy to sit on this kind of stock until they find a buyer for their own higher prices. For unopened sets expect to pay high values but ensure that you have fully researched alternative sources to get the best price. Avoid Amazon like the plague for the older discontinued sets as it would appear that some sellers offer sets there for hyper-inflated prices hoping to fleece the unwary.
If buying CURRENT SETS in production check prices at retail outlets such as Lego Shop at Home, Amazon, Toys-R-Us, Argos, Woolworths (was good!), John Lewis etc. Some resellers may get new stock directly from Lego Shop at Home (on line) and then sell for a profit to the unsuspecting!
Lots for used sets for auction on Ebay vary greatly in terms of content and condition. Some are for sets which include the original (opened) box, instructions and parts. However most sets on offer are usually the original pieces with instructions. Other lots offered may be incomplete sets with missing parts or replacement pieces and often sold as a job lot consisting of several sets. These mixed lots may be useful as spare to complete sets or may simply require parts usually obtainable from Bricklink sellers.
Be warned that some sellers appear to apply their own definition of the term 'complete' and rather than potentially becoming embroiled in a dispute focusing on the item not being 'as described' it is wise to confirm the precise contents of the lot with the seller before bidding. Even this, however, is no guarantee. Pay close attention to the sellers feedback and in particular their rating in this respect. I, like many Ebay buyers no doubt, have a bit of an axe to grind with this issue having been blatently defrauded by unscrupulous sellers: Illegitimi non carborundum est. Descriptions can sometimes be totally at odds with what is being sold. Where sets have been overtly misdescribed by rogue sellers Paypal will refund users of their payment service on the basis that items are 'not as described' and provide some insurance against this kind of fraud. Hopefully Ebay's improvements to the feedback system (15th May 2008) will provide greater transparency and reduce the number of sellers who are economical with the truth in their descriptions. No doubt some over-enthusiastic sellers reading this guide might rate it as a little unhelpful to them.
Some sets are sold without their figures. Although this may reduce the auction value for the set considerably be aware that the figures themselves can be worth as much or even more than the set, ie: Jango Fett's Slave I. Sellers may 'part out' sets in order to increase their overall resale value and figure collectors may sell off brand new sets without their figures. Unless specifically after sets without them ensure that the lot includes the original figures.
The condition of Lego sets in ebay auctions can vary considerably. Occasionally shop displays of sets are offered for sale. The pieces in these sets have been glued together by the Lego company. Unless stored or displayed carefully sets often show some degree of wear. Models can be badly damaged by over-exposure to direct sunlight (white, grey and brown bricks in particular) and parts become stained and brittle. These damaged sets have a low value without extensive part replacement. In addition adhesive stickers that have been applied to bricks can, over time, peel and become badly damaged with replacements expensive and difficult to find.
Naturally some sets demonstrate 'play wear'; cracking, stress marks, bite marks, denting and scratching. Children actually play with these things! The term 'Used' covers the whole range of conditions including the addition of plasticine or chocolate to the set. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Take special note of the term 'played with condition' in descriptions. Furthermore sets can be very dusty or dirty and conscientious sellers will either describe the item as such or clean the items before posting. However and on balance, many sets for auction simply show moderate or light wear and many, although described as used, are as good as new having simply been displayed for a while and then stored.
CONGRATULATIONS if you managed to read the whole of this guide without falling asleep! Zzzzzzzz. With a little shrewd judgement and armed with the invaluable information contained in this guide I hope that the novice buyer or collector will be better able to make use of Ebay auctions as an excellent resource for buying Lego.
If you have any questions or would like independent unbiased advice I am very happy to respond to messages.
Good luck and happy building!