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Lego is one of the most famous, popular and widespread toys all over the world. Appropriate and fun for children and adults alike, Lego has become a culture everywhere with its more than 80 years of history.
There have even been subcultures with Lego movies, games and competitions. To top it all off, there are 15 Legoland amusement parks all over the world that are either running successfully or are yet to open.
With such widespread popularity, new Lego sets come periodically onto store shelves and to make room for those new sets some room has to be cleared off of shelves.
When Legos are removed from shelves and no longer produced they are deemed to be “retired” but how often does that happen and when are Legos normally retired?
The average lifespan of a Lego set before it is retired is 2 years. However they can be retired earlier or later depending on their performance, marketability, and profitability.
How long a specific Lego set will be on the shelves and in production depends on the above three factors.
Let’s take a little closer look at those.
A. Product Performance
It is quite understandable that if a particular set is not performing well on the market, it will not be produced anymore. Some Lego sets like Ben 10, Galidor didn’t perform well in the market and hence they were retired far earlier than the average of two years.
The Lego Star Wars Death Star was available for 7 years (from 2008-2015) which makes it the longest production run of any Lego set to date.
While some themes including Star Wars and other Superhero themes will be produced for many years, they also need constant upgrades to stay relevant and marketable.
Other action figures, movie and game Legos are only relevant for a short period of time.
For the movies, it is until they are released in both theaters and on physical media (or streaming), for games until their popularity starts to decline.
After that, these Lego sets are sold at a discount on clearance and retired.
Lego can only produce a certain number of blocks and for licensed items, the profitability can decline quickly. If producing the Lego sets are not profitable anymore or the bricks are out of production, they will retire the Lego set as soon as possible.
To see the most popular Lego sets currently on the market just click here.
How Long Before Lego Items Are Retired?
For the Lego sets, the time on the shelves depend on the above mentioned three factors. And as mentioned, different Lego sets are retired at different times. Some are only available for 12 months, some are there for 24 months and some are given the “Sold Out” status long before their official retirement date.
Generally, Modular, Ideas and UCS sets stay the longest in production with lives well over two years. For the other sets the average lifespan that a Lego set is on the market is 2 years before they are officially retired.
If it is not a creator set, the life of any particular Lego set can even be over in as little as 8 to 12 months.
The Lego website usually has a “retiring soon” section, where all the Lego sets, which are scheduled to be retired are listed. When listed in this section, people often rush to buy them which in turn causes them to be unavailable even sooner.
Do Lego Sets Come Out Of Retirement?
The original Lego set did not come out again, but there have been instances where remakes were made after many years if demand is still there. Most popular among the remakes have been the Star Wars Lego sets.
They have come out of retirement time and again to fulfill the growing demand every time a new movie comes out.
Besides the Star Wars sets, the Taj Mahal Lego Set was also brought back after nearly 8 years. Metroliner 4558/10001 was brought back after some years of retirement and it was one of the first remakes.
So, yes Lego Sets do come out of retirement, albeit very rarely.
What Is The Hardest To Find Lego Set?
There are several Lego sets that had very few of them made and some of them were given away as a promotion. Due to their rarity, they are not only the hardest to find now, but also the most expensive.
A. Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon
This Lego set was released in 2007 with the high price tag of $499.99 and second largest number of pieces (5195 pieces). The production of it stopped in 2009 and it was sold out by 2010.
Now it costs well over $4000-5000 to get a mint in the sealed box copy.
B. Gold Chrome plated C-3PO
This one was a limited edition with only 10000 copies ever produced in 2007. The rarer among these were 14 carat gold C-3PO minifigs that were given to 5 fans in a contest on the 30th anniversary of Star Wars.
C. Cloud City
This 2003 Star Wars Lego Set of Cloud City is rare and expensive because of its rare minifigs. These minifigs are only found in this set only and include one the first Balck minifigs, Lando Calrissian.
Why Are Retired Lego Sets So Expensive?
Lego sets are expensive, because the quality, durability and flexibility these toys provide are like no other. They create unlimited possibilities in terms of design and builds.
Usually if anything is used already and is up for sale as a second hand item, the price decreases drastically.
This is certainly not the case for Lego, who’s price often increases, with some mint in the box sets receiving ten times more value than its original price in third party markets.
This has even made Legos an investment option!
Lego is nothing short of a design wonder and innumerable collectors try to get their hands on rare Lego sets, often in mint or unused condition. When a Lego set is retired, it almost gets sold out immediately.
Now, the set will not be available on the retail market and thus the number of sets becomes very limited. Since no one willingly wants to part with these collectible toys, the demand quickly surpasses the supply.
This increases these collectibles’ price on the third party markets and explains why many popular retired sets sell for more now than they did when they were released.
To change is life and the old always make way for the new. Hence it is natural to stop production of some Lego sets periodically to make space for newer sets.
That is why for most of the Lego sets, when the majority of possible sales is reached, the set is retired and a new one comes in to renew the product life cycle.
While some sets stay in production for only 8-12 months, a select few gain huge popularity with the more popular ones usually staying in production for well over 2 years.
Moreover, the rarity it creates after retirement fuels the desirability of the Lego sets altogether.