Collectible (and Valuable) Lego Minifigures
So what makes a minifigure valuable?
As it is with most things, the general rule is, the rarer a minfiigure is, the more valuable it is. Still, there are a few factors that can help influence the value of a minifigure.
#1 - It's handed out as a promo at a toy fair or Comic-Con. Usually, promos are rare figures (often based on popular characters like Yoda or Superman) but even if they are available elsewhere, often the promotional packaging featuring the logo of a convention like Comic-Con can enhance the value of these figures. Typically, promotional minifigures fetch between $100 and $250 a piece on eBay.
#2 It's very old. Original pieces from older sets can be very valuable. If they are in good condition that is.
#3 It features a rare design or was only made in a few sets. One prime example is the Boba Fett minifigure from Lego's Cloud City set. This is the only Boba Fett minifigure (and one of the few minifigures in general) to feature detailed printing on his arms and legs as well as multiple colors on his helmet. This particular design was only available in the Cloud City set which is now long out of production. This minifigure is worth about $185 on eBay.
A Brief History Lego Minifigures
Designer Jens Nygaard Knudsen created the first Lego minifigures in 1974 but they looked very different from the minifigure of today. They had no faces, no printed details, and no moving parts, looking more like the "microfigures" featured in some Lego sets today. Details were added slowly until 1989 when Lego produced a wider range of faces and prints for its minifigures.
By the early 2000s, Lego had begun to incorporate natural skin tones, uniquely shaped legs and arms, and other features to create the minifigures that today have been made in the image of everyone from Darth Vader to Abraham Lincoln.
Anatomy of a Lego Minifigure
Lego minifigures typically consist of 9 basic parts: a head, a chest piece, two arms, two hands, two legs, and a "waist" to connect legs and body. Some minifigures have hooks instead of hands, peg legs, or mechanical arms. Most minifigures wear hats, hair pieces, or other headgear. Bald minifigures usually have nothing on their heads but new "bald head" pieces have recently become available allowing Lego fans to build bald figures without exposing the studs on their heads.
The Collectible Minifigures Series
Latching onto the collecting craze, Lego began releasing collectible minifigures in sealed packs. Buyers get a random figure from a set of 16 in each pack but because all packs are opaque buyers can't always be sure which figure they are getting. This has not stopped some collectors from developing systems of guessing which minifigure is in which pack. Although "bump codes," item numbers, and other identifying marks on packaging have been linked to the minifigure inside, collectors say the most reliable way to ID your minifigure is to feel the package carefully and try to pick out the feel of unique pieces in the pack. You may get some funny looks from store clerks and your fellow shoppers but die-hard minifigure fans have reported 80-100% accuracy using this system.
Currently, Lego has released 11 series of collectible figures plus a Lego Movie series featuring figures from the new movie.
Pure Gold (Sort of)
He may not be made of real gold but Lego's "Mr. Gold," from series 11 of Lego's collectible minifigures packs is currently the most valuable minifigure in the world. Copies on eBay have sold for as much as $1000. Not bad for a little plastic guy in a top hat!
Occasionally, Lego has "broken the mold" quite literally and made minifigures that do not fit the typical minifigure design. Lego's NBA minifigures from the early 2000s included spring legs. Figures from movie franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and most recently The Lord of the Rings feature minifigures with natural skin tones. Other unique minifigure parts and skin tones have been designed for Lego sets featuring Marvel superheroes or other special characters. A range of Lego "microfigures" were produced for the recently discontinued Lego Games and Lego Heroica lines. These "microfigures" are all one piece and have similar features to regular sized lego minifigures. Most also feature classic yellow skin but the last Lego Games sets released this year for sale in Europe feature microfigures with natural skin tones in keeping with the Lord of the Rings, Batman, and Star Wars themes.