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I often want to buy only some minifigures in each series and might want to buy more than one of a given minifigure but LEGO doesn't allow it. You know, it wants to give you a nice surprise in each minifigure bag :). I can guess that the reason is LEGO simply doesn't want people to be able to buy some minifigures and ignore others, and it can affect their manufacturing plan.

Is there any other reason? BTW, I can still buy exactly what minifigure I want at local LEGO shops.

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You may find some extra info in this related question; bricks.stackexchange.com/questions/758/… –  pcantin Dec 20 '12 at 15:35
    
I was also asking a theoretical question about this subject: bricks.stackexchange.com/questions/1724/… –  pcantin Dec 20 '12 at 15:37
    
Thanks, they are both useful for me :). –  Tien Do Dec 21 '12 at 3:33
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm fairly confident that your guess is the correct one: manufacturing issues.

If each minifigure of a series were to be produced separately, they would be considered as 16 different sets for all production and inventory purposes. As a box, they are considered as only one set, which suits LEGO better as there is less overhead.

Logistically, it makes sense too. If the retailers needed to buy individual minifigs, they might not want to bother (especially if they still have to buy boxes of 60, for example), whereas buying a few boxes of random minifigs isn't usually a problem.

You'll find a similar example with train track: when LEGO introduced RC (plastic) track, they decided to sell straight and curved track pieces together in a box. That decision makes absolutely no sense at all, except to reduce the number of boxes in production. They managed to correct this a little by replacing the curved tracks with flex-track in recent boxes (curves aren't sold separately anymore, which is just fine); but they still have only one box of supplemental track (points nonwithstanding).

That said, this reasoning doesn't actually fully hold. The content of minifig boxes appears to be fixed (which makes sense for production purposes), so nothing prevents them from marking which minifig is in which bag, and it wouldn't make much difference for retailers.

But LEGO doesn't do that. In fact, they even actively stopped doing it, as the first two series were easily identifiable through a barcode. When LEGO noticed fans had discovered this, they resorted to other, more hidden methods. Which proves they want it to be random, and we still have to find out why.

Again, production issues can help explain this: if custoemrs can pick their minifigs, retailers left with leftovers of unwanted minifigs may not be as keen to buy more boxes of the next series.

But to be honest, I think LEGO really wanted the randomness to be there to start with, simply because they want children (their target demographic, let's not forget this) have the fun of discovering what they got, and try to get them all one way or the other.

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LEGO shops in my town can still mark which minifig in which bag of series 7. Thanks. –  Tien Do Dec 20 '12 at 15:25
    
True, there are still some ways to identify later series minifigs, but they may be less reliable or time-consuming. For the first two seasons it was ridiculously easy with the barcodes, especially with a smartphone. –  Joubarc Dec 21 '12 at 8:16
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The minifigs are what is known in the retail trade as 'blind-packed collectables'.

They're sold at 'pocket money' prices in newsagents and bookshops at aisle ends or counter-tops. The idea is to encourage people (mainly children but adults too) to try and 'collect' a complete set. The opaque bags encourage this by making this goal harder to reach, and therefore more of an achievement - revealing the contents would take away a lot of the fun.

The sealed bags also lead buyers to end up with 'doubles'. If you keep these, then the Lego company gets that extra revenue - whereas if you try and swap them, then that helps to spread the word about the product and gives you an incentive to encourage your friends to start collecting them too.

The minifigs are also produced in un-even amounts. This makes it even harder to collect a complete set - and also means that Lego can save money by making less of the more expensive to manufacture minifigs.

So - whilst you might find the random element frustrating, you can see how it makes financial sense to Lego. And if you stop and think about it, would simply being able to pick-and-choose which minifigs you buy be quite so much fun?

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Yes, I know it's more fun to not know what it is until you open the bag but it's not always true e.g. my kid often want only a specific minifig and what if I have to open 5, 7 bags to get correct one for him :). Thanks. –  Tien Do Dec 20 '12 at 15:22
    
@Tiendq Indeed, but that's the point - you have to purchase more to get the one you want - it's always been this way from sticker books, cigarette cards, whatever. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Dec 20 '12 at 16:38
    
it's also sometimes more fun to do something if you've experienced difficulties or frustrations along the way. For instance if computer games were really easy to complete or win no-one would play them! :) –  Frankie Roberto Dec 21 '12 at 11:40
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