The case for region exclusive LEGO sets

The debate over regional-exclusive LEGO sets is quite the fiery topic in the AFOL community, and the title alone is probably enough to reignite this fierce debate… but there is something to be said about the benefits of having a LEGO set or other product exclusive to a particular region.

The LEGO Group used to have region-locked products sold only in official LEGO Stores in a given area. For example, the New York City stores were the only ones where you could find the ‘I heart NY’ minifigure magnets and keychains. In more extreme cases, full sets, such as 80102 Chinese New Year Dragon Dance, were only available in certain markets, leaving collectors in the rest of the world to be forced to purchase the sets on the pricey aftermarket.

This caused quite the outrage from AFOLs across the globe, as it made obtaining these amazing sets and unique figures incredibly difficult. The community’s cries were heard in early 2019, when the LEGO Group announced that regional exclusives would become a thing of the past as of May 2019. Products that would have been region-locked would now be exclusive for just three to six months, then go on sale for the rest of the world. Cheers erupted from fans. All was right with the LEGO world.  

At first glance, this seems to be a great thing. It had near universal support when the news broke in 2019, and for good reason. There’s no point in having the beautiful Lunar New Year sets region locked. People celebrate the holiday all across the globe — it’s senseless to only sell the sets in one region. Even if someone doesn’t celebrate, the sets are still some of the best made in recent years and are well worth the purchase. These unique LEGO sets deserve their chance to shine on the global market. However, what is strange about this decision is the unlocking of the more ‘touristy’ items; the keychains, the magnets and the postcards.

Things like the ‘I heart NY’ keychain and the newer postcard sets feel like something that should stay in their respective regions. That’s not to say someone living in Prague can’t love the Big Apple, but it’s weird to see one of those keychains when walking into a LEGO Store in the heart of London.

One of the highlights of visiting another city for a LEGO fan is getting to take a trip to the local LEGO Store. There’s perhaps none as exciting as the store in Leicester Square, as it’s the world’s largest LEGO Store, right in the heart of London’s West End. The natural inclination for a tourist is to buy some souvenirs, and there’s plenty of options at the Leicester Square store, including 40569 London Postcard and 40308 Lester. These both make for great London souvenirs for LEGO fans, but there’s a crucial difference between them. Lester is exclusive to the store; you can’t get him anywhere else. He’s a Londoner – and in London he stays.

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Whereas with 40569, it sits on the shelf next to postcards from New York City and Australia. It can be found in LEGO Stores across the globe, as well as on LEGO Shop at Home. It’s a great little set—all the postcards are. But buying the London Postcard in London would feel much more special if it were a London exclusive, as it likely would have been pre-2019. It’s strange buying a copy knowing that you could pick up 40651 Australia Postcard at the same time. The sets are supposed to be postcards—things you buy in a place to show people you’ve been to that specific place. Doesn’t selling these sets globally defeat that purpose?

Going back to the days of region-locking every set based on a certain place or culture would be silly. But there’s a reasonable middle ground here. Have the big stuff (such as the Lunar New Year sets) available everywhere. But keep the touristy stuff (postcards and keychains) in their respective places. They make for great souvenirs for LEGO fans.

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