OK, since I know this was a pretty heated topic with quite a bit of interest, and I was impressed no one sent me a rage filled PM for locking it or passive aggressively started a new thread with a similar line of inquiry, I decided to do the research myself.
I spent some time today scanning through Repoort's handy buyers guide
and ended up making the following graph:
You can see how well the current sets fit the "10 cents per part" rule-of-thumb that has been around for so long. Big surprise: they don't really fit it at all anymore. Most sets are pretty predictably placed between the 10 and 15 cent per part lines, though we've still got a decent number dropping below. You'll note however that very few Star Wars sets are down there. The graph doesn't show the full set lineup, but it gets the point across: as a group everything is more expensive now. Just not equally so.
The lists below are organized by price per part, and grouped by theme and year. The last five columns are set price, part count, price per part ratio, how many minifigures are in the set, and the collective average ratio for the whole lineup in that group (cost of all sets in the group over total number of parts - not just an average of the independent ratios).
Looking only at the Star Wars sets, from 2008 through 2010, it's clearly getting worse. You all know this - it's not really news to anyone - but it seemed like it was being exaggerated in this thread. Which is why I went in to all of this.
Even despite only having half the 2010 lineup so far there's more upcoming sets in the red than in the last two years combined. It's no wonder everyone is so upset.
But is the spike really out of the ordinary? I don't think so. I compared the other licensed themes between 09 and 10... and spotted the jump too:
To be honest these themes aren't exactly on par with Star Wars quantity wise, none of them carry over from one year to the next, and they're all still cheaper right now. But the increase is
there. More solidly: a majority of the system themes have gone up one or two cents per part as well:
Again, none of these are as high as Star Wars, but the trend is clearly across the board. Even Technic is subject to the boost:
There are anomalies however... Power Miners started out pretty bad, as bad as Star Wars is now, but even with a redesign of the theme the value appears to have doubled *
for the 2010 wave:
I'm simply amazed at the ratios for those sets. With the new rock monster molds, completely different minifigs, and set designs so different than the last wave it might as well be a new theme - it's cheaper
than the creator sets? Clearly there's magic involved here. The reason the Creator sets are dirt cheap is the complete lack of minifigs and specialized parts... it just doesn't make sense. [*edit: it's been pointed out that the price info on the 2010 Power Miner sets is probably wrong. I'm inclined to agree, so until those are up on S@H it's not very helpful.]
On the other end of the bell curve, you've got the surprisingly rich blooded Pirates theme:
Worse value overall than the new SW sets, but hard to relate much since it only lasted a year. So one rouge theme that's crazy high, and another that's crazy low. There's balance in the force after all. 2009 saw Castle end around 10, Agents at 11, and Space Police at 12 (only 2/5 of the 2010 sets have prices and part counts given so far so it' unclear if that'll buck the trend); and the new Atlantis theme is kicking off at 12. Can't show an increase from year to year with those, but they fill in the chart as expected.
The point? We all know that Star Wars has historically been among the higher priced Lego themes. This year Lego has boosted prices on nearly everything, for whatever undisclosed reasons (knowing it's a company wide price hike makes the inflation/cost of production ideas a lot more valid - however unconfirmed). As such, us Star Wars fans are in for a rough year. But it's just business as usual. Our pet theme isn't getting singled out for a massive price gouge any more this year than other years.