Those Legos under the tree might be worth more than gold one day
If you're looking for a good investment to close out the year, you might not have to look any further than under your Christmas tree, especially if you've got a Lego set there.
Researchers from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow found that select unopened Lego sets on the secondary market saw an average annual return of 11% — that's more than gold and some shares of large companies.
Victoria Dobrynskaya is a researcher who worked on the study. She said it all got started because of her son's hobby.
And, she said, the 11% rise is just the average market return.
"First of all, there is a volatility over time," Dobrynskaya said. "So in some years, Legos delivered higher returns than in other years. So the 11% is the average over time. There are some Lego sets which generated returns of 700%, others generated negative returns."
There are lots of reasons some Lego sets become valuable — special edition releases like the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars and limited production runs to name a couple.
But despite some of the big returns, budget-minded fans of the colorful bricks need not despair. They can create their own potentially valuable set through the 2008 fan collaborative project called LEGO Ideas.
People submit ideas for production, and if their design is chosen they get 1% of the royalties. Brent Waller from Brisbane, Australia, is one of those people. He designed and submitted a Ghostbusters Lego set in 2014.
"I can't think of any other companies who have this kind of collaboration with their fan base where a fan can, for a small moment in time, pretend to be a Lego designer," Waller said.
Waller's most recent creation was inspired by another pop culture favorite — the NBC sitcom Seinfeld.
"I saw that Friends the TV show had had a similar set made through the same process, and in similar Seinfeld fashion, I thought it was outrageous that Seinfeld wasn't represented in the same way," Waller said. "I thought I'd take it upon myself to try and build my version of the Seinfeld apartment to present two-layered ideas to potentially become a real set."
Waller's 30th anniversary Seinfeld Lego tribute required more than 5,000 hours of watching the show. And it took a weekend to re-create Jerry's apartment layout and an extra few days to get the features of each character just right.
"I basically had one screen watching reruns of Seinfeld and another I had images of the floor plan of Jerry's apartment that people had pieced together online over the years," he said.
While a higher return than gold sounds great, both Dobrynskaya and Waller caution that isn't guaranteed.
So remember, it's not just about the money — Lego is an abbreviation of two Danish words that together mean "play well."