This craziness began in 2007. Up until that point, expensive adult orientated sets has been predominantly Star Wars. That year, LEGO decided that AFOLs would be willing to pay a bit more for their exclusives. The Eiffel Tower (10181) at £149.99 and Cafe Corner (10182) at £89.99 were a test to see if fans would cough up more than the £49.99 charged for the Holiday Train (10173), and sure enough they were both popular sets. In the Star Wars galaxy, LEGO dared go into mega piece counts and mega prices with the UCS Millennium Falcon (10179), with the gamble paying off. Anyone who paid £349.99 may have felt foolhardy at the time, but retrospectively feels like a genius.
Between 2008 and 2012 LEGO kept things fairly consistent. In 2007, the cost of all AFOL targeted LEGO Shop exclusives was around £800, but the UCS Falcon inflated that total. Up until 2012 the total didn’t deviate too far from that. It was also spread across more sets, with a standard year containing two Star Wars sets, a modular and around four other sets. Expensive sets such as Imperial Shuttle (10212) and Super Star Destroyer (10221) showed that LEGO have knew that Star Wars fans would splash the most cash. During this period the most expensive set each year was a Star Wars set.
2008 to 2012 did see LEGO dare to release non-Star Wars sets with a higher price point too, of course. Tower Bridge (10214) at £209.99 and Town Hall (10224) at £149.99 were both available alongside less expensive UCS Star Wars sets, although subsequent modular buildings have steered clear of such a high price point. The Winter Village sets have also been priced erratically, going from £49.99 to £89.99, with the latest back down at £59.99. This suggests that it might be tricky to find the sweet spot.
Change came in 2013, when LEGO released even more sets for AFOLs, bringing a greater total price of around £1300 (which increased again slightly in 2014). This seems predominantly due to more licensed sets with both Arkham Asylum Breakout (10937) and the Tower of Orthanc (10237) released alongside the usual Star Wars suspects. This trend continued in 2014 with sets from Star Wars, Batman and The Simpsons joined by Metalbeard’s Sea Cow (70810) from The LEGO Movie. With the release of the Shield Helicarrier (76042) at a whopping £269.99 this year, it seems that LEGO are determined to tap into the fanboy funds.
So fans bemoaning the increasing cost of LEGO collecting may have a point, in that if all of the AFOL sets were desirable enough to buy, they got more expensive in 2013. But in fairness, LEGO have been treading carefully when it comes to overdoing it on this front having only recently upped the ante. One factor that hasn’t been accounted for here is the Ideas sets, as it is debatable which are aimed at everyone and which are AFOL targeted, although everyone knows who was buying those Ghostbuster Ecto 1 (21108) sets.
No-one, except those with very deep pockets, are buying every big LEGO exclusive set. What is more likely to be impacting on the wallets of LEGO fans are the increasing number of regular release sets, which has been unsteadily increasing since 2008. Every time a bunch of attractive new regular sets come along, it impacts on the spending left to be done on big exclusive sets. LEGO seem to now be approaching the limit of how many AFOL sets that can be released each year before they are simply competing with themselves.