When Lego started manufacturing Star Wars-themed sets in 1999, I regained my boyhood love of the toy. 1 Building these sets brought back fond memories of my childhood, and the licensing was an added bonus. And every year after that, I’d buy a few of new releases to take me on a nostalgia trip.
The Monster Fighters and Scooby-Doo lines were two of my other favorite lines, along with the Star Wars ones. I, on the other hand, saw myself as little more than a passing fancy for collecting. The pandemic was the catalyst for me to begin building a collection large enough to necessitate a large amount of storage space. Buying Lego convinced me that it was an investment, a kind of therapy, and a reality diversion all packaged into one beautiful, rattly package.
Even though I don’t have any children of my own, I’ve already selected a few “distraction sets” to give to the children of my acquaintances so that they can avoid my more intricate creations..
Over the previous year, as the number of Lego boxes in my house grew, I began to feel embarrassment. That was not because I was spending money on toys; rather, my anxiety stemmed from my fear of being unoriginal. Using Lego gives me a sense of power and mastery, but does that make me a bad guy in the film? Someone of legal age who becomes hysterical when a youngster attempts to play with my exhibits because they think it’s their fault? While I don’t have any children, I’ve already chosen out a few “distraction sets” for my friends’ children so that they won’t be distracted by my office’s more complex creations.
As a result, I’ve opted to embrace the more-inclusive and innovative aspects of my activity. There are countless acronyms, like-minded forums, purchase techniques, storage and resale advice, and even free software for virtual constructing that I’ve learned along the way. An experienced AFOL will not be surprised by any of the information I unearthed. For those of us who have delved into the world of Lego, here is a primer on how to improve your collection and make new friends. Lego Friends, however, are not included in the freebies.
The lexicon of Lego
There are many abbreviations and expressions used in the AFOL world. It was during my research and interviews that I came across several new words and phrases, and you’ll notice them all over this work. Read this extensive glossary to learn more about words like rainbow warriors and greebling, which I intend to use wrong the next time I get the munchies after a gay pride march.
- TFOL (Teen Fan of Lego), AFFOL (Adult Female Fan of Lego), and GayFOL are all examples of AFOL variations (Gay Fan of Lego).
- An alternate construct is a collection of instructions that show how to create something entirely unique with only Lego parts from a single set. My Dinosaur Fossils 21320 has yet to be opened, but I plan to skip the supplied instructions and go straight to this fantastic dragon skeleton produced by user Janotechnic (the how-to PDF costs around $8).
- Putting Lego pieces together in ways they weren’t meant to be put together, like putting a tile between two studs so that one stands perpendicular to the other, is an example of an illegal build. What am I expected to do with my ideas?
- For those who don’t know what LUG stands for, it stands for Lego User Group, which is an informal gathering of AFOLs that like building together.
- For the Lego Ambassador Network, see LAN. In the Lego Group, there is a LAN department that serves as a bridge between the company and AFOLs around the world. You have to apply, but it’s essentially a business appreciation program for which you get bragging rights but no monetary recompense. One of the following three criteria is required for LAN membership:
- Lego User Groups (LUGs) that are recognized by Lego are called Recognized Lego User Groups (RLUGs).
- This stands for Recognized Lego Online Community, which is an online-only version of an RLUG where like-minded people from all around the world may exchange ideas and hold building competitions. (Due to social isolation, many RLUGs were forced to transform into RLOCs during the pandemic.)
- The acronym RLFM stands for Recognized Lego Fan Media. If you’ve got a Lego-related blog, social media account, or website, joining the RLFM program can help you gain exposure and benefits like early access to press releases and free sets to review. Anyone can join Lego’s affiliate income program, even if they receive no monetary reward for their efforts.
- This is the abbreviation for “My Own Creation,” which refers to a build that was created by the narrator. As I was gently reminded after saying “Em-Oh-See” for the third time during one of my interviews, it’s pronounced “mock.” If you want to build one of these MOCs, you’ll need to buy the instructions in PDF form. It is possible to purchase designs for original buildings from sites such as MocsMarket, The Brothers Brick and Rebrickable. Fans that upvote a MOC entry on Lego Ideas will be rewarded with a production order from the Lego Group. A Medieval Blacksmith and a Grand Piano that you can actually play are among the recent winners.
- As the name suggests, SigFigs are the custom Lego minifigures that many AFOLs use as their online persona.
Making sure that AFOL business is taken care of
For the most part, the Lego Group aggressively court and cater to AFOLs, most notably on Fox’s Lego Masters, a fun reality show showing grown-ups competing with elaborately designed structures of all kinds (the second season of the US version, hosted by Will Arnett, debuts June 1, 2021). Even its most expensive options, like the $700 USC Imperial Star Destroyer 75252, are aimed for exhibition rather than play—the model comes in a deluxe box with more complex graphics. Newer sets intended towards AFOLs, like the $550 Colosseum 10276, even feature an 18+ classification on the box starting in 2020. This appears to be a smart economic decision, as it removes any stigma that an adult could have and increases the appeal of the sets to minors. After all, I was curious about the official explanation from Lego, so I contacted them.
Carl Merriam, a Lego senior designer, told me in an interview that the goal of the company’s “adult strategy” is to show adults that it’s alright to appreciate Lego and that it’s still fun. NASA Apollo Saturn V 92176 is one of his most notable setups, as well as an updated Haunted House 10273. The latter bears the 18+ label, a more recent addition (a label that replaces Creator Expert branding). Merriam crammed the finished set with references to popular Millennial-era toys, such as the Adventurers series’ characters and objects. And a number of YouTubers have devoted themselves to the task of finding them all (video).
Creating a sense of belonging
In the beginning, I was afraid that I might stumble upon a sardonic acronym for instruction-book sticklers like me, like BAFOL. (Boring Adult Fan of Lego). So when Lego Masters finalist Boone Langston told me in an interview that I’m considered a “purist”—a phrase that also applies to fans who utilize only official Lego components for their creative builds—I felt relieved (as opposed to, say, painting a new face on a minifigure or custom-making a cloth cape).
For those of us who generate money from our YouTube channels by selling merchandise and our own MOCs, Langston also pointed out that AFOLs can be found on both ends of the spectrum, with some who just build sets and exhibit them, while others who only create their own creations. Most people, I believe, fall somewhere in the middle of this bell curve.
JangBricks, Beyond the Brick, Brick Builder, and MandR Productions are just few of the big names in the online AFOL community. They have millions of subscribers and millions of views on their channels, and their content is both amusing and educational. It doesn’t take long, though, before you realize that the crowd is predominately composed of men.
I was on the lookout for channels with a varied range of perspectives, and that’s why I came here. I also wanted to locate channels where a beginner AFOL might have an easier time making friends because the audiences are smaller—channels where someone has a higher chance of getting a conversation going with the host or other fans in the comments sections and during livestreams. To find out how much more consumers pay per brick (video) for licensed sets like Marvel and Star Wars, a relatively new Lego fan called Emmasaurus recently did a deep mathematical dive to find out how much more consumers pay per brick (video) for Lego’s own intellectual property like Ninjago and City. It isn’t strange, though, that Lego’s own IP kits are less expensive, as she shows in her film on the issue. However, it’s fascinating to see how she goes about things.
Chinna Campbell, also known as CC, is a new AFOL YouTuber who is trying to make her mark with her Lego channel, Cafe Corner, in an already crowded marketplace. Affiliate connections from Amazon and Zavvi bring in some money for Campbell. She informed me, “There haven’t been many women in the space.” Even so, I believe the situation has changed and that people have been quite helpful.” It has been my sincere effort to bring up some of the issues that I feel like others are avoiding,” I said.
Her channel’s goal is to convey that anyone can enjoy Lego, regardless of color or gender, she wrote in her current application to become an RLFM. This woman told me there is a dearth of “forward-facing” Black and people of color creators on the platform, meaning those that speak directly to the camera rather than relying on stop-motion Lego projects as their primary medium.
Before a close friend of Campbell’s could construct an online SigFig, she struggled to find an actual one that she liked. In one video, she explains that “Lego doesn’t really create flesh-toned minifigures outside of licensed themes.” An issue with Hollywood rather than with Lego is at the root of this. There aren’t many Black and Brown actors in leading roles in movies, and as a result, I don’t see many of them in Lego sets. “I’m not suggesting, “It’s time to get rid of the yellow minifig.” For BIPOC superheroes like Ironheart and America Chavez, she devotes her time to making unique minifigs out of authentic Lego parts.
At the Build-A-Mini tower in the Lego Stores, Campbell recommends that the company begin selling loose pieces in a variety of skin tones. Even said, her argument that the lack of diverse representation in the entertainment industry is a major problem for SigFig is correct. Many of the human minifigs who aren’t associated with a certain actor would be an easy place to start, at least within the Lego Star Wars series. Human faces are shown when the minifigs’ helmets are removed. This includes the faces of Rebel commandos and ground crew, Resistance officials and troops as well as Imperial ground crews, pilots, and techs. Five people (two First Order crew members, one Fleet Engineer/Gunner, one Naboo security guard and one Bespin security guard) had dark skin in June 2021 out of the 228 extras2. I’ll be updating the data with new sets that offer a wider range of skin tones that have been released since then.
I joined a secret Facebook group for GayFOLs that has members from 41 countries while searching for representation and like-minded people in the LGBTQ+ world. Many of the posted MOCs have a wide variety of minifigs, which is a common topic of discussion.
Build a wallet out of Legos!
It’s possible to spend a lot of money on Lego if you’re really into it. Buying a new UCS set can cost as much as $800, and after a build is decommissioned, prices tend to rise in the aftermarket. A rare Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series TIE Interceptor 7181 was advertised on Amazon for $1,899.99—and it was missing the original box. To keep track of the value of Lego sets, there’s even a website called BrickEconomy. A global gang of Lego burglars is also being sought by French authorities.
As the largest Lego secondary market in the world, Bricklink has thousands of resellers in more than 70 countries. Among the items you’ll find are classic and modern Lego sets as well as minifigures, stickers, and vintage catalogs. Many AFOLs viewed the Lego Group’s 2019 acquisition of the company as an attempt by Lego to gain a piece of the aftermarket earnings pie. The site has been dubbed a “data mine” by some. In a statement, the Lego Group claimed that it hopes to strengthen its ties with AFOLs through the purchase. When I hear this, I hope it means Bricklink’s website will undergo a complete design revamp, because its user interface is like walking barefoot on a hardwood floor filled with 2×4 bricks.
Among the most common ways to acquire Lego (and occasionally a good deal) are as follows:
- To begin, go to the source: Lego.com. Additionally, if you join the free VIP program, you’ll be able to earn points by buying and other activities, such as answering surveys and sharing social media postings, in order to receive free seasonal/promotional sets, discounts, and Legoland tickets. When an out-of-stock hard-to-find set is still in production, type in your zip code to see if a nearby Lego store has it. In the event that it does, phone ahead and request that the set be reserved for your use. Stores, however, will only retain an item for one day.) YouTuber TD Bricks has some useful tips for maximizing the Pick-A-Brick wall, which is reopening in stores in increasing numbers. There was a lot of pointing and whispered cries of “No, the other one!” during the pandemic when personnel had to pick the bricks for you.
- Walmart and Target, as well as other big-box retailers, are often well-stocked. As an example, Target may offer a gift card if you meet a certain spending threshold. However, these aren’t the only options for big-box gaming in the area. Be sure to check out Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, and Kohl’s, as well as your local independent toy and comics stores, if you’re looking for a hard-to-find set like a Star Wars Advent calendar. Luck can strike at any moment.
- In spite of its cumbersome interface and high prices, Bricklink is a great resource for finding rare and hard-to-find LEGO sets. I recently found a 2014 Sandcrawler 75059 that had been retired but had never been opened for the full retail price.
- Online auction site eBay is a common place for scalpers to sell out-of-production and currently hard-to-find sets as “Buy Now” offerings for exorbitant sums. However, a good old-fashioned violent auction is still a wonderful place to find bargains. It’s a well-known trick: Bid a few cents more than you’re willing to pay as your highest bid. Be prepared to examine the final seconds intently if someone else maxes out at $135.50 and your $136.78 is the winning bet. Another chance will come along, so don’t get caught up in the excitement to the point where your win feels like a loss due to your overspending. Buying a used set? Make sure the description is complete and that the vendor has good feedback. Once your order arrives, you’ll have to tidy it up.
- For comparison shopping and finding a rare item, Brick Owl can be an excellent alternative to Bricklink.
- At one of these brick-and-mortar establishments, Lego Masters finalist Boone Langston purchased his first bag of loose bricks, and many LUGs and RLUGs use them as meeting places.
- Conventions have been put on hold as a result of the outbreak. Conventions for AFOLs to show off their MOCs and meet Lego designers are conducted often throughout the year in normal times. Brickworld, BrickUniverse, and BrickCon in Seattle are the three major conventions in the US, with lesser meetings taking place in smaller cities. On the first day of any of these events, according to TheBrickBlogger.com, vendors will have a larger assortment of Lego products for sale. But on the final day, when booths are packing up and eager to sell stock, you’ll find better prices.
- Purchase of loose bricks: There are a number of places you may look for used items online, such as eBay and Etsy as well as Craigslist and yard sales. For an unsorted, mixed batch, the price per pound can vary greatly. As a result of Nathan Masters’ blog post for Brickset.com in 2020, the worth of loose Lego parts was calculated based on the cost of his personal purchases. There is a lot of variance in the number of pieces in each pound of Lego, so it’s difficult to come up with an accurate estimate of how many pieces are in each pound, he wrote. It’s practically impossible to create a standard rate because of the possibility of off-brand and odd items being mixed in with the rest.
According to Masters, loose Lego parts can sell for anywhere from $3 to $10 per pound, with between 300 and 600 pieces per pound in bulk, presuming the bulk lot is made up of authentic Lego pieces. A quick search on eBay at the time of this writing revealed greater prices as well as the wide price ranges noted by Masters. One top-rated vendor was selling 10 pounds of loose, cleaned Lego parts for $150, while the other was selling one-pound cleaned lots for $25. The price disparity was startling (with each pound containing at least one minifig). That means you’re spending an additional $10 for the minifig if all other factors are equal.
Payment plans for subscription-based services
For someone who enjoys building sets, displaying them for a short time, and then packing them away until the next time the need to construct arises, the thought of a Netflix for bricks sounds appealing. Netbricks.biz and TheMinifigClub.com, two firms that are not linked with the Lego Group, have recently received unfavorable customer service evaluations.
Lego can make you wealthy?
Collectors may easily fill their pockets with Lego sets because of the high resell value. However, I have conflicting feelings about reselling my own. While I abhor price gouging in general, there have been times when an old impulse buy has come in handy for paying a few expenses in between freelancing employment. Then again, I’d never put an item up for sale on eBay with a “buy now” price that was prohibitively high. Selling beyond eBay’s current trending average price for my particular item has been a huge success for me, and I believe that building trust with buyers is essential for eBay sellers as well. Once customers have had an opportunity to build the sets you sold them and see for themselves that none of the components were missing, ask them to write feedback especially emphasizing this.
Consider giving your old Lego sets to the Lego Group’s RePlay initiative if you want a more charitable option. To contribute bricks to organizations like Teach for America and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, simply place them in a box and receive a free mailing label from the program.
It’s time to clean, organize, and store your Legos!
You may learn how to remove pet dander, sticky mystery spills, and finger grease from loose Lego pieces in our post on how to clean them. However, how should a collection be organized and stored once it has dried? Toy storage for children is something we’ve thought of. When you’re working on a MOC, you’re going to need a lot more alternatives.
In the process of organizing your bricks,
There are two primary ways to categorize a loose Lego collection: by color or by category. It’s always a matter of personal taste when it comes to making a decision. Most Lego experts, including those I spoke with and those I found online, agree that the size of your collection should be a factor in determining the style of organization that’s suitable for you. Carl Merriam told me that he feels sorting by color is fine with less than 5,000 pieces before dividing into categories is fine (meaning bricks, plates, tiles, and so forth). After 3,000 pieces, BrickArchitect.com recommends beginning this sorting process. For collections of 10,000 pieces or more, it is possible that the pieces can be divided into a few more general categories, such as only bricks, plates, and tiles of various colors. Because it’s easier to find a few red 1×2 bricks among a sea of 1×2 bricks of varying colors, rather than searching through a container or drawer full of red bricks of all sizes.
Once (or if) your collection reaches 50,000 pieces, you can narrow it down even further by sorting it into smaller bins, such as those containing only 2×2 bricks of a single hue. The manner you sort should support the way your brain works, as Lego Masters finalist Boone Langston told me. In case your current method isn’t working, BrickArchitect.com provides an in-depth breakdown of various approaches to help you get started or reorganize your work flow. Many AFOLS have contributed their own outstanding sorting techniques, such as this gigantic organizing flowchart, in the comments.
Keeping your bricks safe
Personal preference and space constraints also play a role in deciding how to store your Lego collection. Over the past few years, a slew of YouTubers have been posting videos of their gigantic storage spaces, which have hundreds of little drawers and boxes. When it comes to large-scale storage, “some people just go and invest a ton of money into this enormous, really wonderful (and expensive) unified storage system,” Langston said. Spending money on furnishings when you might be spending money on more parts just doesn’t make sense to me.” He prefers to use Sterilite 6-quart containers and shelving systems he makes or acquires for free.
In many AFOL and TFOL YouTube videos, you’ll encounter one of two prevalent storage systems. In the first place, modular shelving, such as the IKEA Kallax, is a popular choice for displaying built sets and MOCs. Plastic drawers, such as the hugely famous Akro-Mils 44 drawer 10144, are frequently seen and recommended for loose components. There are a few drawbacks to this concept that senior staff writer Doug Mahoney (who utilized this similar idea for hardware storage in his garage after his youngster failed to use it for Lego storage) points out. The drawers and their contents are all over the floor if it falls over.” You have been forewarned. A small weight can be placed in one of the lower drawers to help. When you’re looking for the correct bricks, it’s nice to be able to pull a drawer all the way out. This variant may be secured to the wall with furniture straps if you want to be extra cautious.
Using the free labels available at BrickArchitect.com, you’ll always know exactly where everything is. It’s also compatible with most Brother label printers, including our runner-up option, the Brother PT-D450 label printer. With a Sharpie and some construction paper, you can get the job done just as well.
Building a Lego set without bricks
Using Studio, Bricklink’s free MOC design program, I’ve been spending a lot of time. With the same shopping-cart function, you may order bricks needed to develop a project in the real world, and you can also share your plans with others. (Apple customers who try to download Studio may receive a frightening error message indicating that it “cannot be opened because Apple cannot scan it for harmful software.”) Thorin Klosowski, our privacy and security editor, says this is normal for programs that aren’t offered in the Apple Store or that aren’t developed by big names. Open the app by pressing and holding the control button.)
Studio has a tendency to have glitches. On the other hand, it’s quite simple to pick up, especially for someone like myself who knows nothing about software beyond Microsoft Word and a little bit of Adobe InDesign. There are a limitless number of virtual bricks at your disposal, so you don’t have to worry about having real Lego bricks take over your house. Studio is an excellent choice for those on a tight budget who want to explore with MOCs without having to spend a lot of money first.
Lego’s long-term viability and sustainability
Goals for sustainable packaging and sustainable materials have been set by the Lego Group, which includes a target for all of its bricks to be created from sustainable materials by 2030. Polyethylene produced from sugarcane is already being used in sets like the Botanical Collection and the Lego Ideas Tree House. These kinds of business promises can be difficult to track and verify, but we admire the initiative. Throughout the year, the Lego Group publishes a report detailing its accomplishments. This isn’t unheard of in the world of big business. As a result of the organization Science Based Targets, which assists businesses in establishing clear, scientifically based approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Lego’s targets have been authorized for implementation. Color me optimistic about the possibilities of future Lego constructions. Even if it’s just a little.
Extra information on the Lego units you see in this story
- Lego Bonsai Tree 10281
- Lego Nintendo Entertainment System 71374
- Lego Scooby-Doo The Mystery Machine 75902
- Lego Winnie the Pooh 21326
- Lego Ghostbusters Ecto-1 10274
- Lego Ghostbusters Peter Venkman and Slimer 41622
- Stay Puft Marshmallow Man MOC by VNMBricks on Rebrickable.com
- Lego The Louvre 21024
- Iron Giant MOC by buildbetterbricks.com
- The Princess Bride Skyline MOC by benbuildslego on Rebrickable.com
- Lego Imperial Probe Droid 75306
- Lego Assembly Square 10255
- Lego Detective’s Office 10246
- Lego Bookshop 10270
- Lego 1989 Batmobile 76139
- Lego Tree House 21318
- Lego Corner Garage 10264
- Lego Voltron 21311
- Lego Haunted House 10273
- Lego 1989 Batwing 76161
- Lego Sandcrawler 75059
- Lego Downtown Diner 10260
- Lego Microscale Brand Store 40305
- Lego Hogwarts Castle with aftermarket light kit
- Lego Sesame Street 21324
- Lego Star Wars Darth Vader’s Castle 75251
- Lego Flower Bouquet 10280
- Lego Ship in a Bottle 92177
- Lego Yellow Submarine 21306
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