Monday, March 12, 2012

Taking The Plunge

My wonderful mother-in-law was kind enough this past Christmas to endow me with the perfect present: a gift card to the Lego Store.  On a recent business trip that took me to a hotel a mere few blocks from the Glendale AZ Lego Store I had the opportunity to put it to good use.  As I checked out I was informed that contrary to my memory the card had more money on it than I thought by $3.00.  This I concluded was the perfect time to see what the big deal was with these collectable minifigures.  I walked over to the display and selected one at random to add to my purchase. 

As I walked out of the store my thoughts were optimistic.  Maybe I have been wrong, maybe there is something to these collectible minifigures.  Did a delightful surprise wait for me beneath that packaging which would prove my doubts wrong and usher me into the minifigure fan club?  Overflowing with glass half full thoughts I tore into the packaging there in the parking lot not wanting to delay my advent into this new world of loving minifigures a second longer. 

Off came the packing and into my lap fell 7 pieces.  A torso, legs, head, hat, stand and two objects, one for each hand.  That was it.  Three dollars for 7 pieces.  These were my first thoughts.  "Ok" I said "maybe the magic starts when you put it together."  Perhaps that is the case for others but for me the disappointment just continued.  Now I will grant that I did not get one of the more exciting figures, I ended up with 8827 Surgeon, and that it falls far short of say the Genie or Classic Alien figures on the coolness factor. 

However, my confusion over the appeal continued as I surveyed the small poster included with my figure that displayed the other offerings from Series 6.  While I will grant that the specific details of say the face or the clothing is unique, with the exception of the Minotaur and Lady Liberty I have something similar to every one of these figures in my collection.  Bandit?  Got tons of those in my Wild West collection. 

Bandit from Series 6
Flatfoot Thompson from the Wild West Series, I think I have 6 of him. 
What is the big difference?
Robot? Syprius and the Exploriens had those years ago.  Alien?  We have had two rounds of Mars Mission that had aliens not to mention the old UFO series.  Skater Girl, Mechanic, Butcher?  Check, check and check.  At least with my Surgeon I can add her to my Hospital set from the 80s, though that set came with a doctor that could, with a minuscule bit of imagination, have been a surgeon. 

My question then remains the same: what is the appeal of these figures?  They are, in parts per dollar, the most expensive sets of all time checking it at almost 50 cents per piece.  While labeled exclusive in almost every case Lego has released something similar in regular sets through the years (cowboys, indians, extreme sports, soldiers, spacemen, and I could go on) and all the special elements are inevitably incorporated into other sets (the "exclusive" injector that my minifigure is holding is the tranquilizer dart in all the new Dion sets).  And beyond the sets themselves the minifigure craze they have started has bled over into every other Lego theme where now the figures are more important than the sets.  I have seen numerous statements about the upcoming Marvel line that people care little to nothing about the sets but will get every last one of them so as to acquire the figures.  The message to Lego?  The market will continue to buy mediocre sets so long as they contain special figures.  That is inevitably going to come back to bite us!           

1 comment:

Seth said...

I think there is another group of collectors out there that may like minifigures AND the sets. I think part of it is anyone can MOC a set (although not always affordably), but you can't very well create some of these characters. LEGO gives us the special printing in a high quality figure and we can create the world around it. Now there are some customizers out there that do a great job at creating figures, but for the most part, many people are not capable of that. But almost every LEGO fan is capable of building something. It may not be master builder quality, but it can be something useful.

Also with the CMF line, you get a lot of detailed unique figures that sets will never come from. Romans, variations on classic space/city/castle figures that you can add to your collection.

I love the CMF and have a complete series ever since series 6 (we are on technically series 13, although the last 2 and the next one are all licensed versions).