Middle-earth Limited Collector’s Edition

By now I’m sure everyone has heard that all six of the Middle-earth films will be released in a collector’s edition blu-ray set. And everyone has also seen the price tag: $800.

The price is all anyone seems to care about, with pithy comments like this:

“We realize that this spectacular collector’s edition box set may be out of reach of many of our customers,” Warner Bros. admitted in their promo email. That’s the closest a Hollywood studio will come to admitting guilt.

Is it Worth It?

I was chatting with one of my friends about the cost and she asked how much all of the previous special editions cost. (Note, she couldn’t care less about Middle-earth–she hasn’t even seen the Hobbit movies yet. I tried to make her watch the first one and she fell asleep within an hour.)

The Fellowship of the Ring collector’s extended edition is currently going for almost $400 on Amazon. After spending way too much time researching, I confirmed my estimate: the original cost was $80, according to theonering.net back in the day. I believe the other two were about the same, so that’s $160 for 12 DVDs and three Weta collectibles.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was $60, according to my Amazon order history and Desolation of Smaug was $90 according to the same source. I apparently never purchased the Battle of Five Armies collector’s extended edition (that’s a story for another post), but theonering.net tells me it cost $80 at release. So that’s $230 total.

Now we’re looking at $390 for all six of the collector’s extended editions–still not even half of what the new set costs. And this is without all of the really high-quality Weta collectibles that came with the previous collector’s editions.

The Other Stuff

But what about the other things that do come with the Middle-earth Limited Collector’s Edition?

  • The slipcases for the blu-rays are in faux leather books
  • Wood shelf designed for the blu-rays
  • Artbook (including “new artwork”) in the style of the Red Book of Westmarch
  • Watercolor reproductions from Alan Lee and John Howe

Let’s guesstimate some prices for these items separately. Fancy cases for any discs, blu-rays or otherwise, will usually add at least $20 to the price tag. I would expect to pay $60-70 for the wood shelf, although we can be generous and add $80 because it’s LotR. The artbook I would expect to be a minimum of $60. The art is way harder to price, especially since I never buy art. The best research I could do puts it at anywhere from £88-395. That’s a huge difference, but I think the lower number is closer to being correct, so we’ll go with £100 per reproduction. That’s about $130 apiece. With the potentially inflated art prices, we have a total of $520.

The Other Other Stuff

Then, of course, there’s the emotional part. Any good marketer knows that people buy something because it makes them feel good, not because it’s necessarily a smart choice. (That’s partially tongue-in-cheek. I work for a marketing agency, so I know how this stuff goes.)

So what are the emotional benefits of purchasing this item? You get a

  • Beautiful set of the movies you love
  • Lovely way to display everything
  • The opportunity/excuse to re-watch the movies and extras you loved
  • The ability to adorn your home with artwork from legendary Tolkien artists (after framing the reproductions, of course!)
  • The prestige (maybe?) of possibly being one of the only ones in your circle of friends who owns this–which is a benefit to some people

I won’t even attempt to assign a monetary value to these emotions because everyone will rate them differently.

Purchasing the Future

But is there anything else?

Some of the comments floating around the internet point to the future. I’ve mentioned before that some day we’ll get a super-duper collector’s edition with all of the scenes that have never been released. But it is not this day.

Is this Middle-earth Limited Collector’s Edition testing the fans? If this sells well, does that mean we’ll get an even bigger–and presumably more expensive–collector’s edition some day with the scenes we’re still missing?

But what if this doesn’t sell? Will Warner Bros. take that as a sign that people don’t care about Middle-earth? (At least the studios inevitably reboot the franchise.)

Me

I’ll be honest, I’m still considering whether or not I’m going to purchase the Middle-earth Limited Collector’s Edition. I make pretty decent money at work and I deliberately live below my means so I can afford stuff like this (and pay student loans, but hey). It’s not that $800 wouldn’t put a dent in my wallet but it wouldn’t put me into debt either.

I wrote this post as a way for me to work through my options. Honestly, I thought that writing this post would push me closer to buying this, but it’s done the opposite. I love these movies, but do I really love them that much? I’ve already purchased them so many different times. Do I really want to take an $800 step back from that new gaming computer I want? Or that trip to Japan my best friend and I have been talking about? Or putting more money toward paying down my student loans?

I didn’t intend for this to be so introspective, but I think a lot of people are feeling the same way. We want to support the things we love, but price tags like this force us to evaluate how much we really want to support them. And where’s the line between paying a reasonable, albeit steep, price for a high-quality item and simply lining the pocketbooks of studio executives who don’t really care?

Okay, no more philosophy. What do you think? Are you even considering buying the Middle-earth Limited Collector’s Edition? Would you buy it if you could?

  3 comments for “Middle-earth Limited Collector’s Edition

  1. August 21, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    The packaging and the “premiums” look nice enough that if $800 were a trifling sum for me, then I might possibly have considered buying the set. Unfortunately, $800 is not a trifling sum, and even if it were, I would still have to think about it. This is not because I am in any way offended on principle by the studio choosing to market a particularly expensive repackaging of existing products to the more completist Tolkien collectors out there, but rather because I am not that sort of collector. I already have all the extended editions on blu-ray, and I really do not like buying the same content more than once, unless there is a specific reason to do so. For example, I have three book-copies of The Lord of the Rings (four if you include the audio-book), but that is because the first is the paperback that I originally bought and which long ago fell apart, the second is the 1991 hardback that I bought to replace the paperback as a reading-copy, and the third is the fiftieth anniversary edition, in which the text is supposed to be definitive and the page numbering corresponds to that given in the Reader’s Companion. By contrast, there are collectors who will buy every available edition, including deluxe limited editions, even if the text is identical; and if that is what they want to do, then good for them. However, I am motivated more by content, and since there is no new content on these discs, the set is of little interest.

  2. pete tierno
    March 22, 2017 at 6:02 am

    I suppose i’m an old (er?) man, about to turn 66… I first read the hobbit about 50 years ago . so for over 50 years I have eaten cold chicken and pickles and just yesterday i baked a seed cake to accompany my yearly ritualistic spring reading of “an unexpected party”.
    I have very often mused when I would find myself in woods or forests about a world that was younger, when there was more green and less noise…
    And i have perhaps spent more time in Middle Earth than some and cannot count the blessings of this experience over the years.
    All of which is to simply say that although the movies and the paraphernalia are interesting (and i suppose i might be able to convince my wife that 800.00 was somehow worth the expense for a collector’s edition), i cannot tell you how much pure joy and what profound happiness that a paperback book bought in the 1960’s for about a dollar has given me throughout the course of my lifetime.

    • Emily
      March 25, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      Very true, Pete! The expensive stuff may be fun and appealing, but it really doesn’t compare with the pure joy of a good book (or movie). Thanks for sharing!

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