Today I rolled out of bed, looked over at my beautiful LEGO Bonsai tree, then looked over at my unbuilt LEGO 3-in-1 pirate ship, and a thought hit me – if I, hypothetically, could afford some valuable LEGO, what would be the rarest LEGO sets that I could buy?
Now, we’re not talking about currently distributed LEGO sets here – we’re talking about the most valuable ones; the ones that collectors deem to be the most expensive based on their scarcity.
One of the best resources for this is Brick Economy – a website based around LEGO sets and applying value to them as a reselling market. While it’s impossible to know what the rarest LEGO set truly is, Brick Economy has gauged what the most valuable sets are, based on collector demand, price estimates, and availability.
So, what’s on the list? Let’s check it out.
The most valuable LEGO minifigures in the world
Before we jump into the list, let’s just tie off a loose end – LEGO minifigures. If we go over to Brick Economy’s most valuable LEGO sets page, it’s dominated at the top by extremely rare minifigures. The Comic-Con 2013 Spider-Man minifigure tops off the list (listed at $23,023), followed by the Comic-Con 2013 Spider-Woman ($17,368), and Green Arrow ($16,794), among many, many others.
These are promotional minifigures tied to an event – not sets. They’re also not sets ever sold in a retail capacity, and are instead promotional items tied to Comic-Con or similar shows. They’re apparently more valuable than the most valuable sets, so they’re worthy of note, just not what you all came here for.
What is the most valuable LEGO set?
1. 1985 UNICEF Van
According to Brick Economy, the most valuable LEGO set in the world is the… 1985 UNICEF van? What a strange pick. The listing reads that the UNICEF van was only ever available to LEGO Club members in Canada, and was made possible as a promotional product in collaboration with UNICEF. Brick Economy reckons the value of a mint condition UNICEF van set would be $16,273, however, the range of used and resold sets has bounced between $930 to $4,847 (value depending on condition). It came with a cool little guy and was only made of 59 pieces.
So that’s set No. 1, the most valuable set. What’s next?
2. 1978 Castle
Just ‘Castle’ – or, ‘Yellow Castle’, as some may refer to it. The set is valued at $14,709 (with used sales ranging between $447 and $708), and is the oldest set on this list, dating back to 1978. This set was only sold in Europe, the UK, Australia, and Canada, and was comprised of 767 pieces and 14 minifigures – all of which were knights with some beautiful colouring. Don’t confuse it with the follow-up set, however, which was also named Castle, but released in 1981. My assumption is that this re-release is similar to how LEGO refreshes its police station set design every now and again. Here’s a cool stop-motion video I found of the set – look at those dusty floor pieces! It’s great to see someone having fun with an old kit like this.
3. 2003 Cloud City
A Star Wars set on this list shouldn’t be so surprising, as it’s one of LEGO’s most popular subgenres. The 2003 Cloud City set is based on one of the climactic scenes from The Empire Strikes Back, the fifth Star Wars film. Brick Economy reckons the set could be worth as much as $12,623 if new and sealed, however, used sales of it have ranged from between $979 and $7,776. MandRproductions, a YouTuber who does a lot of videos on LEGO, did a comparison between the 2003 and 2018 versions of Cloud City back when the new version came out.
4. 1990 Monorail Airport Shuttle
A member of the ‘Legoland’ range of LEGO sets, the 1990 Monoroil Airport Shuttle is simply just cool. Complete with 767 pieces and nine minifigures, the set was compatible with LEGO’s monorail system (involving a single track that a battery-powered LEGO monorail could drive up and down). If you had one of these sets today in mint condition, Brick Economy estimates that it could be worth as much as $11,540, though used sales of the set have ranged between $1,296 and $1,680. I think it’s an absolutely gorgeous set, and I just know that the motorised rail system would have kept my LEGO-loving brain occupied for hours if I had grown up with it.
5. 2011 Star Wars Miniland Figures
Another Star Wars listening isn’t too surprising, but this is the only set on the list that I think is ugly (it’s also the newest). The Star Wars Miniland set features action figure-sized LEGO models of Han Solo and Chewbacca (which are glued and static apart from the arms), with a 140-piece Boba Fett figure included in a ziploc bag. The set was given to guests at the 2011 LEGO Collectors Party, held at the International Toy Fair in 2011 (according to Brick Economy). The set is valued at $10,622, although used sales of the set have not been reported (likely because the collectors that were given the set at the party aren’t too thrilled about parting ways with it). Side note: according to the comments of the below video, avid LEGO fans have been looking for the instructions for this set (apparently they’re hard to find online). If you have the instructions, put them on the web.
And that’s about it for the most valuable LEGO sets in the world, but there’s a lot of subjectivity here – namely, that these are gosh darn toys. Cool toys, no doubt, but toys nonetheless. With the exception of the Miniland figures, these sets were created for kids to play with, but today, websites like Brick Economy treat them like commodities and rarities (which to be fair, they are rare).
With that in mind, it doesn’t really matter what the most valuable LEGO sets are – it matters if you, or your kids, like it. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if it’s second-hand – most of my favourite LEGO growing up was previously owned.
If you’re looking to spruce up your house with some LEGO decorations, we’ve got a brilliant article for that over here.