How LUGBULK Works—and strategies for making the most of it!
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 compared to 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!
- 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!
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.
I know these tables are very large and hard to read. I recommend reading them on the largest monitor you have, and clicking the photo to load a larger high-resolution PDF version of the table.
Decoding the table:
- Each Column represents a single color (out of the 42 solid colors in the current LEGO Color Palette).
The colors are sorted by how common they are using a weighted scoring system (which is explained later in this article).
- Each Row represents a single part (or 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 cost reflects the last 6-month average price when buying this element in quantity on BrickLink.
The cells are color-coded indicating whether that particular color of a given part is cheaper than (green) or more expensive than (red) the median cost for that part across all available colors.
Using the table 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 $13.27 per part. (In last year’s analysis, it was $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.
The color-coding also makes it easy to identify specific colors which are more expensive than average — just look for a column that includes a lot of Red and Orange cells.
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 = $0.049 per stud.
- 1×2 Plate – $0.057 per part / 2 stud = $0.024 per stud.
- 1×3 Plate – $0.107 per part / 3 stud = $0.031 per stud.
- 1×4 Plate – $0.068 per part / 4 stud = $0.017 per stud.
- 1×6 Plate – $0.076 per part / 6 stud = $0.014 per stud.
- 1×8 Plate – $0.159 per part / 8 stud = $0.019 per stud.
Per-stud-cost of 1x Bricks:
- 1×1 Brick – $0.063 per part / 1 stud = $0.059 per stud.
- 1×2 Brick – $0.052 per part / 2 stud = $0.027 per stud.
- 1×3 Brick – $0.104 per part / 3 stud = $0.034 per stud.
- 1×4 Brick – $0.091 per part / 4 stud = $0.027 per stud.
- 1×6 Brick – $0.168 per part / 6 stud = $0.027 per stud.
- 1×8 Brick – $0.279 per part / 8 stud = $0.045 per stud.
The surprising 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. (I suspect the popularity of 1×1 parts in creating mosaics is the main cause for this price inflation.)
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!
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!
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.
Colors gaining popularity
When a color only comes in a few different parts, you can only really use the color as an accent in your model. But, when it becomes available in a wider selection of parts, the color can play a starring role.
This transition is something which is visible in the data — I’ve highlighted a few of those colors which have gained popularity in recent years which you might want to acquire in LUGBULK to make your creations stand out!
Colors which have gained popularity:
- 107Bright Bluish GreenDark Turquoise / Teal – Now in 20th place (out of 42 solid colors), this color has risen 10 spots in the ranking in the last two years alone. It’s now available in 45/66 parts in my analysis.
- 226Cool YellowBright Light Yellow – In 27th place, thanks in no small thanks to the Fiat 500, this relatively obscure color has risen 10 spots in the ranking in 5 years. You will find it in 39/66 parts.
- 212Light Royal BlueBright Light Blue – While still pretty rare in 32nd place, this really light shade of blue has lifted 7 spots in 3 years, and is now found in 30/66 parts. (Interestingly, it was a bit more popular if you look further back.)
- 368Vibrant YellowNeon Yellow – Even though it’s only found in a few brand new 2022 sets, you can already find this color in 17/66 parts. (That’s enough to beat the two rarest colors: 326Spring Yellowish GreenYellowish Green and 18NougatFlesh.)
Increases in color rank are based on color ranking in 2013-2017 versus preliminary findings for 2018-2022.
Colors losing popularity
On the flipside, some colors are clearly decreasing in popularity year-over-year, and a few colors face the increasingly real possiblity of retirement. This makes a lot of sense — by retiring seldom used colors, they can introduce new colors, or simply make the current colors available in a wider range of colors.
Colors which have lost popularity:
- 326Spring Yellowish GreenYellowish Green – This color was never very popular, and is the second least popular color at this time. I strongly suspect that this color will be retired soon, especially since the new 368Vibrant YellowNeon Yellow color has a subtle green cast, filling a similar niche of very bright greenish-yellow colors. (That said, it had nearly retired a couple years ago, but was brought back in several Hidden Side sets.) If you want to stock up, this might be a good time!
- 102Medium Blue – While still available in 31/66 parts, this color has dropped 14 positions in the rankings in 5 years, reflecting significantly decreased popularity over time. My best guess is that designers prefer the lighter 212Light Royal BlueBright Light Blue color and are using it instead.
- 324Medium Lavender325Lavender– Sliding nine and five spots down respectively (in 5 years), neither of these shades is making much traction recently. In looking at the raw numbers, this is less a reflection of decreased popularity of these colors with set designers, but more reflective of an increased interest in other colors.
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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. Because the library of LEGO parts and colors is constantly evolving, I periodically review my “top 30” favorite parts list to see if I should make any changes. I also review my list of favorite colors, taking into account up-and-coming colors that are finally available across a wide enough range of common parts to be useful in model building.
This approach helped me focus on just three colors for the last two years: 154Dark Red, 38Dark Orange, and 151Sand Green. I like building with all three of those colors, they are finally available in a wide enough selection of parts to build most things, and happen to be 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!
- January 23, 2022. – Added two short sections highlighting a few increasingly common/useful colors, and a few colors losing popularity over time. (New for 2022)
January 20, 2022. – I’ve updated the article to reflect January 2022 data. (This is needed to help folks make the most of this year’s LUGBULK order.)
This year’s downloadable (PDF) tables have the following improvements:
- Common part tables for four consecutive 5-year spans (so you can see trends over time).
- Added new 368Vibrant YellowNeon Yellow color to charts.
- Added average “price-per-stud” calculation for each part. (Useful when building large models where you can use parts of any length.)
- Updated color ranking (left-to-right order) to reflect most common colors in 2017-2021.
- Updated to show both how many parts each color comes in / how many colors each part comes in.
- Vertical color name labels (to allow larger font size).
- A more consistent layout across the two related tables.
- Fixed minor bug in unique color counting formula.
Last year’s analysis and tables have been archived: 2021 LUGBULK Parts Analysis.
- 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.