How LUGBULK Works—and strategies for making the most of it!

Once a year, active members of a Recognized LEGO User Group can order LEGO parts in bulk. Let’s learn how the program works—and how to make the most of the opportunity!

What is LUGBULK?

Finding a LUG

You can find a list of Recognized LEGO User Groups at lan.lego.com—It’s organized by location so you can zoom in on a map to find the group closest to you!

How LUGBULK Works

The LEGO Group created LUGBULK “To stimulate individual adult fan of LEGO® (AFOL) building activities by providing the ability to purchase loose LEGO elements in bulk.” That’s right… they want to help us, their most passionate adult fans, build something awesome!

Strategies for making the most of LUGBULK

Given that your entire group can only order 85 unique elements, the bulk of this article focuses on strategies for making the most of this limited opportunity.

Remember—you can not resell parts purchased on LUGBULK.
While it feels like heresy within the LEGO community to say it, please do not order elements that you will never use (even at a huge discount from BrickLink)! It’s not only a waste of money, but also a waste of natural resources, and you need to find somewhere to store parts that you will probably never use.

What you like to build

The biggest factor in making LUGBULK work for you is to seriously consider what you want to build!

If you:

  • Have a specific large project in mind, you should identify the parts you will need in large quantities, and focus on getting as many of those parts as possible.
    You can use part cost, savings, and availability to decide which parts to buy though LUGBULK versus another source. (Just remember that it will take a long time for the parts to arrive.)
  • Do not have a specific project in mind, it’s best to focus on general-purpose parts in colors that you like building with. Over time, you will develop a library of the most useful parts in all of your favorite colors.
    Naturally, mosaic builders will focus on 1×1 pieces and baseplates, castle builders will want a ton of 194Medium Stone GreyLight Bluish Gray bricks, and Technic builders may focus on hard-to-find connectors or Liftarms in their favorite colors.

Using data to optimize your LUGBULK order

You (and your LUG) will quickly realize that 85 elements is a tiny fraction of the elements which are produced. Thankfully, there are lots of other ways to buy LEGO bricks including buying sets, bulk used brick on Craigslist, or specific parts you need from online marketplaces like BrickLink. Because of the 85 element limit, you should think of LUGBULK as a very strategic supplement to other channels. Let’s see how publicly available data can help you pick the right parts!

Part Cost

The most obvious way to make the most out of LUGBULK is to focus on parts with the greatest discount compared to sites like BrickLink. As mentioned earlier, LUGBULK prices are confidential, so I can not highlight those parts which offer the greatest discount in this article. (That’s an excercise you are welcome to do with the other members of your LUG.)

What I can do is simply highlight those parts, colors, and specific elements which tend to be the most expensive on BrickLink. If they happen to be available through LUGBULK, they are good candidates for saving money.

Chart indicating the price of each common part in each color (that it is available in).

BrickLink cost of common LEGO Parts. (Click for high-resolution PDF.)

I know that the chart is very large and hard to read. I recommend reading it on the largest monitor you have, and clicking the photo to load a larger high-resolution PDF version of the chart.

Decoding the chart

  • Each Column represents one of the 41 solid colors in the current LEGO Color Palette.
    The colors are sorted by how common they are using a weighted scoring system explained on another chart near the end of this article.
  • Each Row represents a single part / mould.
    I selected these 66 parts based on a mix of my intuition about the LEGO System of parts, and my ongoing analysis of the Most Commmon LEGO Parts.
  • Each Cell represents a single element (unique part + color).
    The cells are color-coded indicating whether that color of each part is cheaper than (green) or more expensive than (red) when compared to the median cost of that part across all colors.

Expensive Elements

Using the chart provided above, we can look for bright red cells, indicating that a given color is more expensive than average for that part.

There are some extreme examples such as a 2×4 Brick (part 3001) in 18NougatFlesh which costs $62.32 per part. Really extreme prices like this are usually caused by a small number of non-production parts escaping the factory and ending up on BrickLink. These won’t be relevant for LUGBULK since non-production parts are not available for us to buy, either.

Expensive Colors

The color-coding also makes it easy to identify colors which are more expensive than average. Just look for a column that includes a lot of Red and Orange cells.

Expensive Parts

While this chart isn’t optimized for comparing the prices across many different parts, there is an easy way to do an apples-to-apples comparison across basic bricks and plates: the per-stud cost (based on the median price for each part).

Per-stud-cost of 1x Plates:

  • 1×1 Plate – $0.055 per part / 1 stud = $0.06 per stud.
  • 1×2 Plate – $0.057 per part / 2 stud = $0.03 per stud.
  • 1×3 Plate – $0.107 per part / 3 stud = $0.04 per stud.
  • 1×4 Plate – $0.068 per part / 4 stud = $0.02 per stud.
  • 1×6 Plate – $0.076 per part / 6 stud = $0.01 per stud.
  • 1×8 Plate – $0.159 per part / 8 stud = $0.02 per stud.

Per-stud-cost of 1x Bricks:

  • 1×1 Brick – $0.063 per part / 1 stud = $0.06 per stud.
  • 1×2 Brick – $0.052 per part / 2 stud = $0.03 per stud.
  • 1×3 Brick – $0.104 per part / 3 stud = $0.03 per stud.
  • 1×4 Brick – $0.091 per part / 4 stud = $0.02 per stud.
  • 1×6 Brick – $0.168 per part / 6 stud = $0.03 per stud.
  • 1×8 Brick – $0.279 per part / 8 stud = $0.03 per stud.

The suprising discovery after doing the math is that 1×1 parts carry a significant premium on BrickLink, but there isn’t a huge price-per-stud difference across the rest of the range of 1×2 to 1×8 parts.

It was also interesting to see that the same size brick and plate cost about the same on BrickLink, even though you need three times as many plates to make a similarly sized wall!

Part Availability

While saving money is one of the primary motivations in participating in LUGBULK, it may make sense to include a relatively inexpensive part on your order if you need a very large quantity of that part to build a MOC. For example, there might not be a single BrickLink seller who has the part in the quantities you need. (It doesn’t really matter if the savings via LUGBULK is modest compared to the average BrickLink price if LUGBULK is the only practical way to get it in large quantities!)

Another reason to include less expensive but useful parts in your order is to help meet the minimum purchase requirements. If your LUG is pretty small, you might not be able to hit the minimum purchase requirements if all 85 of the parts the group selects are specialty parts and nobody needs them in large quantities.

While I haven’t done the analysis to highlight elements which are hard to find in large quantities, it is easy enough to find an element that you want on BrickLink, then use the “Minimum Qty” filter to see where you can buy it in large quantities. You may decide to buy from a few sellers to get enough of the same part (or save money)—just don’t forget to consider shipping costs!

Chart showing most common parts and colors between 2016-2020

Common LEGO Part availability in recent sets. (Click for high-resolution PDF.)

Decoding the chart

  • Each Column represents one of the 41 solid colors in the current LEGO Color Palette.
    Colors are sorted by how common they are using a weighted scoring system (which you will see along the bottom of the PDF version of this chart).
  • Each Row represents a single part / mould.
    I selected these 66 parts based on a mix of my intuition about the LEGO System of parts, and my ongoing analysis of the Most Commmon LEGO Parts.
  • Each Cell represents a single element (unique part + color). The value in each cell iindicates how many of that element you would have if you bought one of every set released from 2016-2020 and sorted by element.
    The cells are color-coded indicating whether that color of each part is more common (green) or less common (red) when compared to the median quantity of that part across all colors.

Rare colors of common parts

While the cost analysis in the previous chart is more useful for deciding which parts to order from LUGBULK, this chart is useful for understanding which colors are fundamentally more or less common within real LEGO Sets.

This slice of the data does highlight a few interesting observations:

  • 138Sand YellowDark Tan is actually quite common, even though some really common parts like 1×3 Brick and 2×2 Round Plate aren’t yet available in that color.
  • While 141Earth GreenDark Green is available in a limited selection of parts, it is pretty common in 1×1 through 1×6 plates.
  • 151Sand Green stands out because it is pretty common in many basic parts, despite high prices on secondary market (as seen in the previous chart).

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Closing Thoughts & Recommendations

As mentioned earlier, unless you need very specific parts in large quantities for a particular MOC, your best bet is to build up a library of parts you frequently use in those colors that you like building with. Rather than thinking of LUGBULK as your only source of parts, you should treat it as a strategic opportunity to save money as part of a broader part acquisition strategy.

In my case, I’ve identified about 30 of the most common LEGO parts which I like to have on hand, and identified which colors I want to focus my attention on. Every year, I review my list of common parts to see if I should make any changes. I also review the LEGO Color Palette to see if there is an up-and-coming color that I like which is finally available across a wide enough range of common parts.

This approach helped me focus on just three colors for the last two years: 154Dark Red, 38Dark Orange, and 151Sand Green. All three are colors which I like building with, are finally avaialable in a pretty wide selection of parts, and are relatively costly to purchase on BrickLink.

Another perfectly reasonable alternate approach would be to focus on a few specific parts, and use LUGBULK to get that part in all of the rare or costly colors. (This is a particularly good strategy for mosaic builders who only need 1×1 Plates and Tiles across a wide range of colors to build amazing 2-dimensional art.)

Lastly, it’s worth calling out that you should discuss these strategies with the rest of the people in your LUG. If the group can decide on a shared strategy for making the most of LUGBULK each year, you might be able to get more of the parts you need!

I hope this article has given you some ideas around how to make better use of the LUGBULK program, and some useful data to inform your decisions! If you have additional ideas, please share them by leaving a comment below!

Version History

  • February 2, 2021. – Lots of small corrections based on feedback from Ana (TLG), Jeannie, Francesco, Kyler, Lorren and others.
  • February 1, 2021. – First draft completed and shared with LEGO Ambassador Network for feedback.

9 Responses

  1. Great article! Sometimes it’s hard not to get sucked into buying parts for the “oooh ahhh” factor. But I do love to see others share much of our same strategy for ordering from LugBulk – consolidated part purchasing, purchasing most used pieces, etc…

  2. Unai I says:

    Wow I wish I can join a LUG some day.. I didn’t know the parts ordering was limited to once a year and juat 85 different elements for each order/year.. I’d like to buy a ton of 2×2 bricks, 4×4 plates, 1×4 technic bricks in the cheapest color and 2×2 tiles in dark bluish grey some day.. to combine with a lot of baseplates and start with the MILS. But, by far, what I’d like the most of joining a LUG would be MOC competitions/challenges between members, helping sorting those huge LUG orders (or anyone’s new parts orders really) and having afol friends to talk about lego with; sharing building techniques and/or ideas, commenting on new sets or old retired ones and such..

    The life of a lonely afol is sad (for me at least)

    • Tom Alphin says:

      Unai,
      You should see if you can find a LUG to join, either in your region or a virtual LUG. Because of the pandemic, many groups meet regularly via Teams or Zoom.

    • Tom Macnoe says:

      Those parts sound like they could be found on pick a brick walls fairly commonly. They are another great way to get your parts way cheaper than bricklink

      • Tom Alphin says:

        The colors I cited are rarely available on the PaB wall. If you do see an expensive part on the wall, it’s a good idea to get some, but don’t expect the high price to last as Bricklink sellers are likely to buy it too (driving the cost down…)

        • Tom Macnoe says:

          I completely agree Tom. I was talking more about Unai’s comment where they were after parts in any colour. Great work as always.

  3. Matthew L Gunning says:

    I will say that my personal selections always change once I look at what it would cost to order 100 units on Bricklink. Sometimes the difference is just so small it’s not worth “wasting” a selection spot on a part that isn’t significantly cheaper.

  4. Andy Burgess says:

    Very interesting article 🙂 Check spelling on the title ‘Final Thoughts’ for the missing ‘h’
    Andy

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