VirginiaLynne is a mother of five. She writes about parenting, crafts, games for children, family fun, and Christian ministry ideas.
Why Start a Lego Business?
You've stumbled over Lego bricks in the dark. You've wondered why you ever bought another set. You may have even pored over the instructions in hopes that you could somehow finish that creation.
Now the Legos are sitting on a shelf somewhere and you're wondering: Should I trash them? Donate them? Find an unsuspecting parent I can dump them on? (Who owes me?) Believe it or not, there is a better answer: have your kids set up a business to sell used sets and bricks online!
Do People Buy Used Lego Sets?
You may think this is crazy. Who would buy? I was certainly reluctant and unconvinced when my 13-year-old son Brenda approached me with the idea of selling his used Lego sets online
However, 13-year-old boys can be very persistent. Brendan had researched how to set up a store, but he needed my assistance as a co-store owner because he was not old enough to have a PayPal account.
Reluctant to get involved, I eventually decided to investigate what was required and found that the site he wanted to sell on, BrickLink, seemed quite legitimate and well-organized. Moreover, I realized that if he sold some Lego sets, we might actually end up with some space in his room!
He agreed to do everything to set up the store. My job was to monitor emails from customers, make PayPal arrangements, and do the shipping. When he priced one of his Batman sets at $350 dollars (he’d gotten it on sale for $20), I figured there wouldn’t be much work for me to do.
Some Sets Sell for Absurd Prices
I was wrong. He sold the set for that amount and several other sets at more than double what he had paid for them. After six months, Brendan had sold out almost his entire store and made about $900. Not bad for a 13-year-old kid. Moreover, he continued to sell all over the world. Over half of our orders have come from Europe or Australia.
Who are these customers? While some of his Legos were ordered by kids like him (with their mom's help), many were purchased by adult collectors who were looking for a particular missing piece or set.
On top of learning how to run a business, Brendan enjoyed getting to know people in other countries. He learned that sets easily available in the U.S. are sometimes rare elsewhere.
So one of the tips to making more profit is being willing to ship internationally. We've also discovered that these collectors are a talkative and enthusiastic lot. One young father from England bubbled over with his excitement at buying some Batman figures as collectibles for his newborn!
Kids Learn Business Skills
My husband and I are thrilled he has learned how to run a successful business, but we are even happier that he has also learned some lessons along the way. One customer wasn't satisfied with the mini-figure he received, declaring that the “mint” condition listing proved to be incorrect when examined by a magnifying glass.
As a 13-year-old boy, Brendan had never gone quite that far in his quality control efforts with his Legos, but he still didn't really think the mini-figure had the crack the customer claimed. Was the customer trying to cheat him? Or was the customer right in claiming that reselling to collectors required the piece to look new under magnification?
Like all small business owners, Brendan had to make a judgment call. Because customers at BrickLink can offer negative feedback that can affect whether future customers choose to buy from you, Brendan decided to go by the maxim, “the customer is always right,” and refund the money.
In another instance, he dealt with a customer complaint by giving a partial refund. In both situations, the customers were fully satisfied and left great feedback.
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Moreover, their complaints helped Brendan learn how careful he needed to be when describing the condition of his merchandise. My husband and I could have spent a lot of time lecturing him on these concepts, but real-life business experience taught him about honest advertising and handling customer concerns.
These lessons were more valuable than anything we could have said, and probably more than he would have learned by taking a business class.
How to Start Selling on BrickLink
BrickLink requires that store owners be adults, so parents will need to set up the store and also a PayPal seller’s account. Although this will take a few minutes, once your account is set up, your child can put items in the store and handle preparing the sets, pricing, sales, and shipping. When a buyer decides they want something on BrickLink, they will place it in their cart and BrickLink will send you an email.
As the store owner, parents need to have the emails sent to their account but the child can be involved in writing the replies and discussing the responses to questions. You can reply to them either through BrickLink (if you want to avoid letting customers have your email) or directly through your email account.
If you agree to the purchase, you will then tell the customer how much it will cost to ship the item and then give them the total amount they need to pay your PayPal account. Once PayPal has verified that you have received your money, you ship them the item.
I liked the fact that I was able to keep track of what Brendan was selling and help him decide about the shipping. It helps to either have a scale to weigh the items or take everything you want to put in your store to the post office and weigh it so you will be able to estimate shipping costs.
We also stocked up on the free shipping boxes at USPS and used USPS online shipping services to estimate and mail items. However, for some overseas packages, you will need to go to the post office to mail the package there and fill out customs forms.
No Start-up Cost
It doesn't cost any money to start a store selling online. So your child can start this business without costing you any money. They can learn all the lessons of running a business without having to risk costs. If they get further into the business, they may want to invest in buying Legos with their profits (maybe from friends or garage sales), but to start with, they don't have any start-up costs.
eBay Lego Selling and Buying
Not sure you want to part with your sets? Frequently, eBay has great deals on huge lots of bricks. You can sell your bricks in bulk packages that you won't have to sort or put in sets. You won't get the same return on your investment, but you will get rid of those Legos!
Additionally, since Legos tend to either retain original value or go up in price, they make a good eBay purchase. Ever lose one or two pieces or a set and then be unable to finish it? Of course! Many BrickLink customers are looking for those missing pieces to buy individually.
That means you can expand a BrickLink business by buying bricks in bulk on eBay, cleaning and sorting them, and re-packaging them for sale. This takes time and the ability to identify individual pieces to sell. Bricklink resources can help you do that.
Another tip: Since sets sell for a higher price than individual bricks, you can buy up a lot of mixed sets, put them together (using the instructions available for free on the Lego website), and buy any missing parts on Bricklink to have a full set to sell.
Updates on Lego Business Results
Better than the money he has earned, Brendan has learned how to run a business. He learned how to research the competition, evaluate buyers, handle customer complaints, and create customer loyalty (by giving “freebies” with his orders).
None of those skills are taught in school, and all of them will serve him well in any future career. I was a reluctant participant at the start of Brendan's business venture, but now I'm eager to see what he decides to do next. I've seen him mature in this process and learned a lot of lessons that I could never have taught him any other way. It was well worth my time!
Update 2016: Since his first venture in business, Brendan has been selectively buying Lego sets at local sales and garage sales. He estimates he has an inventory of over $2,000, even though he has only spent about $300 on buying the sets. Since he is now over 18, he can run his own store to help pay for college.
Update 2018: When he needs some extra cash and has the time, Brendan opens up his BrickLink store. He has purchased several lots of Legos, once at a Comic-Con and frequently at our local outdoor "Treasure City" market. I've lost track of how much he has sold, but I know that one recent venture netted more than $2,000 from some Legos he bought in a lot for $100.
Update 2020: Now a senior in college with a Mechanical Engineering major and a minor in Business, Brendan says that his Lego business was one of his best learning experiences. As he gets ready to graduate, he is opening up his store again in order to whittle down his Lego collection to the sets he wants to keep for his own children.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on September 08, 2020:
Much luck to you Emaa! My son is going to graduate from college this year with a mechanical engineering degree. He would definitely say his interest in Legos and his business helped him to be ready for his career.
Emaaa on September 07, 2020:
Thanks for a such wonderful article. My son is a HUGE Lego fan and I am trying to find a way to promote his interest. I am so glad to find this. Thanks much for sharing!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 14, 2013:
Lego--you are absolutely correct. However, I have used the incorrect word, Legos because that is often how people search for this information!
LEGO on January 14, 2013:
Interesting article, FYI it is LEGO not Legos, an important thing to know is your business is based around this brand.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 21, 2012:
You are right pbrown--while lots of college guys have told me they still had a box of Legos under their bed, I've been astonished to find how much adult Lego fans will pay for some of the old pieces.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 21, 2012:
You are right Mereleigh--I think that parents need to help kids get a start in thinking both about how to use what they have to make money, but also about how to recycle what they have to give to others. In fact, my son just cleaned out his room and his sisters are playing with an old robot and transformers right now! They probably won't want to use them for long, so we will either sell them on Ebay or just donate to the Goodwill.
pbrown93 on August 20, 2012:
This was a really cool article because it reminds us that "one man's trash is another man's treasure." When I was in elementary school, I defiantly had all sorts of Legos and we probably just threw them away or donated them. I wish we would have thought of some creative method like this to sell them and maybe make a little extra money. This business shows that the American Dream is still alive and if you set a goal and have support and motivation your goal can be reached. This is also an example of how the technology can be used to improve our daily lives.
mereleigh on August 20, 2012:
My initial thought is simply, "Wow!" As such an early entrepreneur, Brendan learns valuable skills many adults still struggle to learn. Also, I appreciate that the website does not cost anything to start a business. For many kids, an initial fee could be discouraging and inhibit children from learning valuable tools for the workforce later in life. Regardless of what occupation Brendan chooses, the skills of money management and customer service are priceless. Many sophomores and juniors in high school spend their summers applying for jobs and hope to catch some cash to pay for a car and gas. However, Brendan already has a great start financially and controls his profit by determining the prices of each Lego set. Overall, Bricklink appears to be a beneficial site for both the children learning entrepreneurial skills and for the collectors on the opposite end.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 29, 2011:
Yes Ihchan--I feel a lot better about buying my son Legos now that I know they will be part of his business later!
lhchan on October 29, 2011:
Very interesting hub, a very good idea, thanks very much for the useful info. Can play, re-sell and earn money.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 06, 2011:
It is interesting you should point that out, because I really don't like kids being used to sell things for schools etc. Brendan actually give away a lot of his Legos to other kids. However, he wanted to make sure that some of his more valuable sets went to someone who appreciated them (and wouldn't just take them apart a put them in a box with other Legos). He also wanted to see if he could learn how to price, sell and ship. Right now he has closed his store because he doesn't have anything else he wants to sell yet.
? on October 06, 2011:
i believe children that young shouldn't be selling anything, but then again it might teach them for their future!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 30, 2011:
Charlotte--Keep on trying! At the same time that Brendan started his business. I started at craft business at Esty. I sold nothing--but I finally realized that the product I was trying to sell was probably too heavy to ship. So now I'm working on making lightweight products for shipping and I'm planning to sell my Mexican Tile Crosses at a local shop. Reading stories of lots of people selling at Etsy made me realize my mistake. Researching the market and what other people are doing is important, I think. Brendan knows everything there is to know about Legos, used Legos and selling.
Charlotte B Plum on August 30, 2011:
This hub is inspiring and I really enjoyed it - reading how Brendan found success and how you supported him. I have yet to find success in my online endeavor!
Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on June 16, 2011:
What a clever business idea for children ... and they would love getting into this business, too!