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20 Very Rare (And Very Really Expensive) LEGO Minifigures

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Lego

Since their introduction in 1978, LEGO minifigures, also known as “minifigs,” have become arguably the most iconic aspect of the popular toys. These anthropomorphized pieces of plastic are a hot collector’s item, and with high demand comes high prices. These are a few of the priciest minifigs on the market today.

1. 1999 Red Sox Giveaway: ~$100 - $150

Photo courtesy eBay user vsrg

This exclusive minifig featured a red baseball cap, a printed Red Sox logo on the front, and a LEGO logo on the back. It was given away to kids attending a BoSox game in the summer of 1999. It’s unknown how many were produced for the promotion, nor how many survive today, but when they appear on eBay, they regularly sell to die-hard fans of Beantown baseball.

A related Red Sox promotion from the same year was a 1” x 2” Duplo brick with the Red Sox and LEGO logos printed on each side. Today, this tiny little brick will fetch $100 if it’s in good shape.

2. 2012 San Diego Comic-Con Superheroes: ~$150 - $185 each

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As one of the biggest genre entertainment conventions in the world, it’s no surprise that LEGO pulls out all the stops for San Diego Comic-Con. In 2012, they offered a series of four superhero minifigs—each with a limited production run of only 1000 pieces—as a special giveaway. The heroes, DC Comics’ Shazam and Bizarro, and Marvel Comics’ Venom and Phoenix, were displayed on specially-marked cards that resembled comic book covers, along with a small brick to help the figure stand. Naturally, you’ll only get top dollar on the resale market if you kept the brick and card. (Buy Phoenix at Amazon.)

3. Cloud City Boba Fett: ~$150 - $185

Photo courtesy LEGO WIkia user Clone gunner commander jedi

The enigmatic bounty hunter Boba Fett is one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars universe, and he’s also one of the most popular minifigs. Fett was first seen in LEGO form in 2000 as part of the Slave I playset and has been featured in multiple sets since. However, the Fett found in 2003’s Cloud City playset is one of the most collectible. The figure was an update to the initial model and is one of the few minifigs with printed designs on the arms and legs. 

4. 2012 San Diego Comic-Con Bilbo Baggins: ~$150 - $200

Photo courtesy LEGO Wikia User LEGOGEORGE

One of the most fun promotions LEGO has offered has been the “Build-A-Bilbo” event at 2012’s San Diego Comic-Con to tie in with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. After first stopping by the LEGO booth to pick up a specially-tagged burlap pouch, a piece of minifigure hair, and a map of “ComicCondor,” you then followed the map to other Hobbit-related booths to collect various parts of the figure. If you completed your quest, you’d have ... a Bilbo minifig exactly like the one released later in a Hobbit LEGO set. But, if you kept that burlap sack and the map of ComicCondor, suddenly that everyday minifig is worth a whole lot more.

5. “New York I Love” Yoda Times Square Toys R Us Exclusive: ~$200 - $250

Photo courtesy eBay user replaybricks

If you were lucky enough to be in New York City’s Times Square in late May last year, you were able to see a life-sized X-Wing fighter made entirely out of LEGO bricks. To celebrate, the nearby Toys 'R Us window offered an exclusive Yoda minifig with the purchase of an X-Wing playset. Unlike most Yoda minifigs, this one was limited to only 1000 pieces, and instead of his usual Jedi robes, this diminutive Master is wearing an iconic “I Love New York” shirt. Well, sort of. In Yoda-speak it’s “New York I Love.” (Buy at Amazon.)

See Also: 19 Awesome Little Details in Special Edition LEGO Sets

6. and 7. 2011 San Diego Comic-Con Green Lantern and Batman: ~$225 - $250 each

Ebay

In 2011, lucky Comic-Con attendees could win the very first minifig of DC Comics’ Green Lantern. The figure was presented on a card made to look like a copy of the fictional San Diego Brick newspaper, with the headline “Super Heroes Unite!” emblazoned across the top. Obviously if you want to get top dollar for your Green Lantern minifig on eBay now, you’d better have that card.

At the same Con, Batman minifigs were also given away on a similar newspaper presentation. Although it wasn’t the first time the Dark Knight had been seen in LEGO form (he’s been a staple character since 2006), it was an updated version of the figure with a more detailed print of his costume.

8. and 9. 2012 New York Comic-Con Shadow Leonardo (~$250 - $350) and Battle Damaged Kraang (~$100)

Photo courtesy Flickr user ftbt

To celebrate their new line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle playsets, LEGO offered an exclusive “Dark Leonardo” (some call him “Shadow Leo”) minifig at New York’s Comic-Con in 2012. The figure, completely black and gray except for his brown turtle shell and famous blue mask, came with a special NYCC skateboard for surfing through the sewers of the Big Apple. Not many of the approximately 500 Dark Leonardo figures have hit the market just yet, but some have sold for as little as $225, while others have topped out at $350.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, people showed up at Rockefeller Center’s LEGO store dressed as their favorite mutant turtle in order to get their hands on an exclusive minifig—the battle-damaged Kraang. Only 300 Kraang were made, and today they sell pretty regularly for about $100 on eBay. (Buy Kraang at Amazon.)

10. and 11. 2013 San Diego Comic-Con Green Arrow and Superman: ~$300 - $350 each

Photo courtesy LegoGenre

LEGO gave away more superheroic minifigs at last year’s Comic-Con. This time around they had a hooded Green Arrow and black-and-silver Superman modeled after the costume featured in the film Man of Steel. Both figures came inside a rigid plastic case with a background showing a city in peril, and were limited to only 200 pieces each, making them pretty rare today.

12. and 13. 2013 San Diego Comic-Con Spider-Man and Spider-Woman: ~$325 - $370 each

Photo courtesy LegoGenre

Similar to their DC Comics counterparts, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman also got the SDCC exclusive treatment last year. Oddly enough, there are more of these figures out there—325 of each—but they actually sell for a slightly higher price. You can’t underestimate the popularity of your friendly neighborhood wallcrawler.

See Also: The Time a Giant LEGO Man Washed Up on Dutch Shores

14. Gold Chrome-Plated C-3PO: ~$350 - $450

Right photo courtesy of Ebay user Primobricks; left photo courtesy Ebay user DarthLuke13

In 2007 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, everyone’s favorite protocol droid got a bit of an upgrade. LEGO randomly added a gold chrome-plated C-3PO minifig to 10,000 Star Wars playsets. The figures were sealed in opaque white plastic bags, but the smart collector left the bag closed and can now sell the contents for hundreds of dollars on eBay sight unseen.

15. 2011 New York Comic-Con Superman: ~$400

Photo courtesy LEGO Wikia

The Man of Steel made his minifig debut at New York Comic-Con in 2011 alongside additional copies of the Green Lantern and Batman minifigs from that year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Superman was presented with the same newspaper-style cardboard backing as the other two heroes, but there were only 200 figures available. Because Supes was so scarce, he demands a top price today.

16. 2013 San Diego Comic-Con Azog: ~$500

Ebay

At 2013’s San Diego Comic-Con, LEGO employees wandered the Con floor and handed out the figures to random passersby. This Azog minifig is exactly the same as the one included in retail Hobbit playsets, but this one is packaged in a plastic container with a cardboard background that features the Comic-Con logo. Boom! Instant collector’s item.

See Also: 9 Very Rare (and Very Expensive) Video Game Cartridges

17. International Space Station Alien: ~$600

Between April 30 and May 6, 2001, 300 alien minifigs from the short-lived "Life on Mars" line of LEGO toys were sent into orbit on the International Space Station. After returning to Earth, the figures were framed with a certificate of authenticity and handed out to attendees at a special ceremony held by LEGO and NASA, making them a rare collector’s item today. After all, not everyone can say they have a minifig that’s been to space.

18. and 19. 2012 Toy Fair Iron Man and Captain America: ~$950 - $1125 combined

Photo courtesy LEGO Wikia User Coo-Coo Cartoon

At LEGO’s exclusive collectors preview party during Toy Fair 2012, the company handed out 125 special edition minifigs of Marvel Comics’ Iron Man and Captain America. Instead of being modeled after the movie characters that were available in superhero playsets, these minifigs were modeled after the then-current comic book versions of the characters. The Captain America figure has black arms and legs similar to the modified costume worn by Bucky Barnes when he took over as the patriotic crime fighter after the original Cap, Steve Rogers, was killed. The defining feature of the Iron Man figure is the normal-sized minifig head with a printed-on helmet. In the playsets, the Iron Man figure has an oversized removable mask so you can see Tony Stark’s snarky smirk underneath.

The minifigs came packaged together and most collectors refuse to break up the set. So if you want to get your hands on one or the other, you’ll usually have to buy them together. A few wise Toy Fair attendees have even included the badge and promotional flyer for the preview party in their auctions, helping to push the final price between $1500 and $2000.

20. Series 10: Mr. Gold Exclusive: ~$500 - $1100

Ebay

In 2010, recognizing how popular their little figures had become, LEGO introduced a set of 16 collectible minifigs, sealed in opaque plastic bags so no one could tell what figure was inside. The new minifigs included a caveman, a ninja, a robot, and a nurse. Since then, new minifig series are released every year.

Series 10, released in 2013, featured an exclusive gold chrome plated figure known as Mr. Gold. This top hat and monocle-wearing, jewel-topped cane-carrying figure became the mascot of the series. Limited to only 5000 pieces worldwide, it has since become the single most expensive minifig on the market today. Prices vary wildly, ranging anywhere from $500 to $1100, so it really comes down to how much you need to complete your Series 10 minifig collection and how much you’re willing to spend to do it.

See Also: Prii? LEGO? 11 Brand Names With Plural Problems

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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