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A daily look back at the toys, games, and objects that captured our attention as children and continue to fascinate us today.

Toy Hunting: Five LEGO Holy Grails

Collecting toys can be a wild ride, with various factors unpredictably affecting a toy’s value. But LEGO products are historically reliable, climbing in value year after year, thanks in part to the company’s practice of retiring sets after about two years. Check out these five LEGO sets that stand out as collectors’ Holy Grails.

LEGO Star Wars 10179 Millennium Falcon

This list of sets includes those desirable, but somewhat unattainable pieces – the ones that every fan dreams of owning. It is arguable whether the Ultimate Collector Series (UCS) edition of Han Solo’s vessel still fits that bill, as a new version was released last year with a new set number and bigger price tag. But to the old school toy collector, it is all about owning the original – who would want a re-issue when they know the first version is out there?

When it was released in 2007, 10179 Millennium Falcon was the largest ever LEGO set with 5197 pieces and priced accordingly at £349.99. The set was designed to be in scale with the minifigures, so Han Solo, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa could all fit inside the cockpit. Once it was retired, the set rose in value on the aftermarket at a phenomenal rate, eventually changing hands for ten times the original retail price. The very rarest version of this set is part of the ‘first edition’ run, limited to 10,000, featuring a unique emblem on the box and certificate of authenticity.

LEGO 3450 Statue of Liberty

Many of the LEGO sets released in the early 2000s targeted at collectors were sculpture based – it would take the LEGO Group a while longer to realise how much adults liked sets to be in minifigure scale – and it seems they did not have huge production runs. While the sets may not have been popular at the time (not helped by them only being available as catalogue mail order releases), they are now a novelty from almost 20 years ago.

Although a few of these types of sets were released, 3450 Statue of Liberty is the one that captured the minds of collectors, with the price of this landmark steadily rising since its release in 2000. Using 2,882 basic bricks, it is a nice change of pace from the modern sets that focus on utilising a variety of bespoke elements from across the LEGO building system.

LEGO 10182 Café Corner

The mid to late noughties produced a few sets that have gone on to be eye-wateringly expensive and universally adored, primarily because it was a time when the LEGO Group was riding high again and willing to experiment with sets that may appeal more to the mature connoisseur as well as the usual school age target audience.

For years, collectors dreamt of detailed, minifigure scale sets, and it finally happened with the launch of 10182 Café Corner. It was the first of the modular building line, a series of sets that are released annually and can be combined to create a detailed, minifigure scale street. While recent releases make Café Corner look a little dated and less impressive than it was ten years ago, it is still the original and does not come cheap on the aftermarket.

LEGO Batman 7783 The Batcave: The Penguin and Mr. Freeze’s Invasion

As well as having rather wordy titles, the LEGO Batman sets released in 2006 and 2007 became extremely expensive once they were retired. The sales did not set the world on fire while they were available to buy, but once they had disappeared from toy store shelves and children were playing LEGO Batman: The Video Game, the popularity soared – as did the Amazon marketplace prices. Things settled a little bit once the LEGO Group brought Batman back, but these now classic sets still cost way, way more than their original retail prices.

7783 The Batcave was undoubtedly the set to get from the initial batch of LEGO Batman sets and seemed to have been influenced by classic Kenner playsets. Once built, it may not have been the most attractive display set, but it was packed full of play potential and included an excellent selection of minifigures.

LEGO 10189/10256 Taj Mahal

The UCS Millennium Falcon was not the largest LEGO set for long, as India’s most famous landmark was released in 2008 with a 5922 piece count. The set gained an extra boost of publicity when footballing superstar David Beckham mentioned building it in an interview, but with the kind of money he earns he could afford the £199.99 price. At the time, that was an unusually expensive LEGO set – today, sets at that price are released several times a year. It was not the most collectors were willing to pay though, as the aftermarket saw it sell for thousands rather than hundreds in subsequent years.

10189 may have become unattainable to most, but the LEGO Group were ready to drop a surprise this year and take the unusual step of re-releasing a retired set. 10256 Taj Mahal is not a remake like 75192 Millennium Falcon, but a straight-up re-release, aside from some minor changes to the parts (as some piece had been replaced in the intervening decade).

Graham Hancock is a toy collector and deputy editor of Blocks magazine.

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