Kid Businesses: Selling Lego Sets
Why Start Lego Business?
You've stumbled over Lego bricks in the dark. You've wondered why you ever bought another set. You may have even poured over the instructions in hopes that you could somehow finish that creation.
Now the Legos are sitting on a shelf somewhere and you are 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 son, Brendan, approached me at 13 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 get 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.
Indeed! Some Sets Sell for Absurd Prices
I was wrong. He sold the set for that amount and sold several other sets at more than double what he had paid for them. After six months, Brendan had sold out his almost his whole store and made about $900. Not bad for a thirteen-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!
How Many Lego Sets do you Own?
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 thirteen-year-old boy, Brendan had never gone quite that far in his quality control efforts with his Lego, 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 re-selling 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.
Moreover, their complaints helped Brendan to learn how carefully he needed to be in 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 more about honest advertising and handling customer concerns more than anything we could have said, and probably more than he would have learned by taking a class in business.
How to Start Selling on BrickLink
BrickLink requires that store owners be adults, so parents will need to set up the store and also set up 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 it 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.
Do You Have Valuable Mini-Figs?
E-Bay Lego Selling and Buying
Not sure you want to part with your sets? Frequently, E-Bay 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 E-bay 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 E-Bay, 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.
Update 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 at garage sales. He estimates he has an inventory of over $2000 dollars, even though he has only spent about $300 on buying the sets. Since he is now over 18, he can run his store on his own to help him 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 Comicon 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 $2000 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. I'm ready
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.