Posted by Steve • 2nd January 2021
I've been using BrickLink to source LEGO for my commissions since 2012. Without it, my business simply would not be possible. Whilst you can buy individual pieces direct from LEGO, the choice is limited and the prices don't compare with BrickLink.
If you're not familiar with BrickLink, its a worldwide community of sellers who supply individual pieces and sets. Its all LEGO still (in fact, it has to be official LEGO). In the same way that you can have a store on Amazon, or Etsy, you can have your own store on BrickLink. They range from individuals who run their stores as a 'hobby', to those for whom its a full-time job.
(Late in 2018 The LEGO Group bought out BrickLink, to great concern amongst store owners and customers. TLC hope to improve it, and so far - for me personally - there has been little change. I hope it stays that way, or even improves as they aim to).
BrickLink works as a concept because you can generally sells the individual parts in a LEGO set for more than you pay for the set. Mini-figures alone will sometimes go for enough to cover the cost of the set. Sellers 'part out' sets and list them in their store. Its time-consuming, and sometimes tedious I imagine, but a viable business model.
I don't run a store on BrickLink, so I can't give tips on setting up a store. But I've bought from hundreds of sellers and spent tens of thousands of pounds on the site, so I wanted to give a few tips about buying. This has been on my mind since releasing my BUILDABLE range of models, where if you buy the instructions you have to source the parts yourself, and for those of you new to that process some tips might help. The main point to remember is that no individual store is likely to have all you need even for one model, so knowing some of the ins and outs of the site might help.
If you're buying as a one-off process for a particular model
- Create a 'wanted list' of the parts you need. If you've bought instructions for a model, the designer will usually supply this to upload to the site
- Select all and click 'Buy all'. This will list sellers in order of who has the most parts that you need. BUT, if you click 'Auto-select' the site will cleverly work out the most cost-efficient way of buying all that you need across a few different sellers. Create your carts and buy!
- Consider buying 'used' parts. If they're really battered most sellers will state that. From experience, most used parts are perfectly acceptable. Remember a lot of pieces in a model aren't visible once complete. I make an exception for tiles and transparent pieces like windows and windscreens - these show scratches more easily and are nearly always visible in the final model
If you're buying regularly, for lots of ongoing projects
If, like me, you're working on your own bespoke LEGO project, or have many on the go, the above process is less relevant. If you're buying often, the following tips might help:
- If I need a lot of something, I see who is selling for the lowest cost per piece. If you need 1,000 of a piece, it makes a difference if you're paying 10p each rather than 15p. BUT, don't set the minimum quantity at 1,000 when searching - there may be a seller who has 950 for 5p! Buy them and top up from another seller
- Make good use of Wanted lists. Remember you can filter by one or more wanted list when viewing a store to see only pieces you need
- Some pieces you may need often but don't seem to come in large quantities. 1x2 trans-clear plates are a good example for me - they're not rare, but few sellers have lots. Add these to their own wanted list and gather them in 10s and 20s whenever they appear in a store that you're already placing an order with
- Again, consider if used parts will suffice. I find they generally do, apart from tiles, window panes etc.
- Make good use of the 'have' function in the wanted list. Every time you place an order, update that field. When you filter by wanted list in a store it will show you how many you still need
- Print off orders. I find that an easy way to quickly see what I'm waiting for (though less eco-friendly!)
- Leave feedback for sellers every time
- Add sellers to your favourites list, particularly if they offer coupons on future orders or you know they deliver quickly
Feel free to let me know any other tips you might have, and I hope you find this useful!