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Explanation on the inventories of 1972 era Samsonite sets

LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 481
This is a post that has been several days in the making. It's a bit of an obscure topic, so hope you guys find it interesting. This is an extra long post, so I'm going to have to do it in three or four segments.  I've done a lot of proof reading, but there still maybe some typos, sorry about that.

I finally been able to crack the code on what has been a bit of a standing mystery for me, that is the inventories on the 1972 era Samsonite sets. The so-called Imagination Sets, 101, 102, 103, 104, and 105, along with Sears, JCPenney's and some promotional sets were made with a very different philosophy in mind then earlier sets. They were basically dumping grounds for Samsonite to clear out their inventory of Lego elements. I've long felt there was a pattern to these, but have been unable to figure it out. Until now.

For some background, Samsonite was putting very little effort into these sets. The licensing agreement with Lego was coming to an end and they were looking to liquidate their remaining inventory. Minimal effort was being put into these sets as is evidenced by their lackluster nature. A way to put further minimal effort into them would be to make them highly formulaic. It is this formula that I have been working on cracking.

A couple of years ago I bought a 103 set that was partially sealed. The box was open but there were four bags of basic bricks, two were sealed and two were open. There were also three other bags.  One was taped closed and the other two had the same type of tape stuck to the side, but were otherwise open.  The two sealed bags of basic bricks looked to have a very similar inventory of bricks and were very close to having the same inventory as the open bags. This got me thinking; what if they were identical? Or more importantly what if the bags had the exact same number of pieces in them?  

The bottom of the box for each of the Imagination Sets lists a rough inventory for each set. The inventories list the number of basic assorted bricks, base plates, roof pieces, windows and doors, wheels and their accessories, and gears. Looking at a couple of these sets there seem to be a bit of a pattern. At the time I couldn't make the numbers work as I had too little information to work with. With limited information I put these away and left the problem for another day.

I was recently spurred to revisit this issue by a recent eBay listing. There's a 101 set that had an open box but sealed bags, similar to my 103 sets. This eBay listing shows two bags of slope, window and door elements in bags that are taped closed rather than heat sealed. Interestingly this is the same type of tape that is on some of my open bags in the 103 set. This is a strong indicator that these bags and the tape is original. Using the sealed bags as a rough guide and looking at the basic inventories of all 5 Imagination Sets I was able to devise a workable system.



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Comments

  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 481
    The system I'm proposing as each set being made up of four types of bags. I call these bags A, B, C, and D. This is my own terminology and was not used by Samsonite to the best of my knowledge. But they are useful in showing how the sets were made and how they should be inventoried.

    Bag A would have 124 basic bricks. 2x4s, 2x2s, 1x2s, and 1x8s  bricks in red, white, blue, and clear with white 2x8 plates. White is the most common color followed by red. A limited number of elements are in blue and clear is the least common only a couple of parts and that color. The number of bag A's in each set is the same as the number of base plates. 101 has two base plates and two A bags. Whereas 105 has six base plates and six A bags. Bag A likely has a large degree of variation due to Samsonite's low quality control and the fact that they were liquidating their remaining inventory.


    Bag B are where the slope, window and door elements were packaged. It would have 14 2x4 and 2x2 single slopes, two 2x4 double slopes, one 2x2 double slope, two windows and one door. The eBay photos of the sealed 101 set show two bags with a mix of slopes, windows and doors tape closed. The slope bricks were all in red. While the windows and doors were all in white with no glass.


    Bag C has the wheels, tires and some of the axle bricks. It would have 12 wheels and 12 tires in a mix of large and small sizes, six axle bricks and one white turntable. My 103 set has a bag that is taped closed of wheels, tires, axle bricks and two turntables. I don't believe this bag is original to the set. There are two turntables rather than the single and there are a lot more wheels than 103 should have. Even if you assume that somebody miscounted, it's a stretch to have somebody miscount every single piece by more than 50%. On the other hand these bags could have been made in single, double or even triple varieties. It is possible that a double was used rather than a single.


    Bag D holds the gears and miscellaneous other parts. The bag has 10 Samsonite gears: four white, four yellow and two blue. There are two additional axle bricks and 13 basic bricks. These are white 2x4 plates and white 1x1 round bricks. This is the key to making this all work. Sets 103, 104 and 105 all have extra basic bricks that aren't factors of 124. The difference between the inventory number and the multiples of 124 are in factors of 13. The difference in the axle bricks follows a similar pattern. Once these are accounted for all of the numbers work. My 103 set as an open bag with tape on it that has ten gears, two axle bricks, ten 2x4 plates and four 1x1 round bricks. The fact that there are 14 basic bricks is either accounting error or somebody added a brick after the fact.


    The only parts that don't fit into a bag in the system are the blue base plates. But as stated earlier the base plates always have the same number as the A bags. The numbers all work with this assumption the base plates appear to be loose and not in any type of bag. My 103 and the eBay 101 both have loose base plates as does a late Kraft promotional set.  Below is a table that summarizes each bag.
    And a table that summarizes each of the Imagination Sets in terms of the bags.





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  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 9,377
    Thinking that @Istokg would also find this a bit interesting as well
    Istokg
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,100
    I have to review what @LusiferSam wrote when I have time.

    But in the mean time... here is some additional information from an AFOL with a former Samsonite set model builder.  This is 4 years old, and explains why except for yellow Samsonite gears... the 1971-72 USA Samsonite LEGO was just 3 colors... red, white, and blue....


    FizyxAstrobricksLusiferSammadforLEGOcatwranglerwjoeyjonesdavetheoxygenman
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,100
    The previous anecdotes from a former Samsonite LEGO set designer explains why these early 1970s LEGO sets were only 3 colors (red, white, blue), with some yellow gears (likely still in inventory).  The TLG folks were furious when they discovered this reduction to 3 LEGO colors, and 1973 was the year TLG took over USA LEGO sales, cancelling their license with Samsonite...

    Sears...



    J.C. Penney...



    Fizyxwjoeyjones
  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 481
    @Istokg I thought I had given you a better scan of the '73 Sears catalog page.  One that was both readable and not watermarked.  Just let me know if you want a higher resolution one.
    I think what I've described fits well with the costing angle.  It's very simple and easy to formulate a price point.  I thought about trying to work up a price formulation on these sets.  But I'm not sure the Kraft promo sets would work and I'm not sure on the source of prices on the Imagination Sets (they may be inaccurate).

    My impression of the split between Samsonite and Lego was that it started before 1972.  These "cheap" sets for 1972 may have been the straw that broken the camel's back, but it wasn't the first break.  Samsonite's sales and market share were consisted to be lagging behind the European ones.  Lego also didn't like some of Samsonite's marketing tactics like large catalog sets.  I also thought it took a lawsuit to separate them. The two companies signed a 100 year agreement for Samsonite to manufacture, market and sell Lego bricks in North America.  There were also some odd lingering effects of the settlement that lasted into the 80s.

    While I won't say the models are great, there are some really interesting ones from this era.  Forced to use a limited palette, there are some really creative models for the time.  Personally I really like the grandfather clock and have thought about building it.  Or my own version of it, I'd like it to have some depth rather than be flat.



    FizyxmadforLEGOLittleLoricatwranglerwjoeyjonesdavetheoxygenmanstlux
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,100
    @LusiferSam thanks for the better image!

    I agree that the timeline of that meeting with TLG and Samsonite employees was "after the fact" when it comes to TLG getting the LEGO license back from Samsonite.  Perhaps it was still in litigation when that meeting occurred, and the indignation of the TLG reps there didn't help the matter.

    The litigation for getting the LEGO license back likely started in 1970... the last year of a regular LEGO catalog with LEGO model maker, train, and other sets common to both Samsonite and TLG.

    I have never found a 1971 Samsonite LEGO catalog, showing the rainbow design found on 1971 101-105 large cube basic sets.

    The 1972 Samsonite LEGO catalog however contains that rainbow of the 1971 sets on one side....



    The other side shows the 101-105 sets in the 1972 box design... with Samsonite in larger letters than "LEGO", a serious faux pas.  Also, there were only 5 sets and 3 accessory packs in that 1972 catalog. 



    The 110 (Vehicle Accessory Pack) and 111 (Building Accessory Pack) are unknown in any collection.  It appears that the Sears exclusive versions of these 2 packs (166 and 167) were put into general production, so the 1972 catalog and the actual accessory packs don't match up number wise.
    catwranglerwjoeyjonesdavetheoxygenmanstlux
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,100
    In the Brickset database 5 people "claim" to own the 110 Vehicle Accessory Pack and the 111 Building Accessory Pack.  I would wager they do not have them.  In 20 years of searching (since the Lugnet early days), I have never seen one of either set.  No box images or sales on Bricklink, Brickset, Peeron or Lugnet.
  • catwranglercatwrangler Northern IrelandMember Posts: 1,804
    Istokg said:
    In the Brickset database 5 people "claim" to own the 110 Vehicle Accessory Pack and the 111 Building Accessory Pack.  I would wager they do not have them.  In 20 years of searching (since the Lugnet early days), I have never seen one of either set.  No box images or sales on Bricklink, Brickset, Peeron or Lugnet.
    I wonder if those are misfires where people meant to hit "want"...

    Really enjoying all these scans, thanks for sharing them!
    wjoeyjonesdavetheoxygenman
  • wjoeyjoneswjoeyjones USMember Posts: 12
    edited September 22
    LusiferSam nice job, as a collector of Samsonite sets I appreciate the work you have done here.  You mentioned the tape on the bags, I remember that type of tape as a child.  Again thanks for your efforts.
  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 481
    Thanks everyone for the positive feedback and the likes.  This has been a fun little mystery for me to unravel.

    Istokg said:
    The 110 (Vehicle Accessory Pack) and 111 (Building Accessory Pack) are unknown in any collection.  It appears that the Sears exclusive versions of these 2 packs (166 and 167) were put into general production, so the 1972 catalog and the actual accessory packs don't match up number wise.

    In the Brickset database 5 people "claim" to own the 110 Vehicle Accessory Pack and the 111 Building Accessory Pack.  I would wager they do not have them.  In 20 years of searching (since the Lugnet early days), I have never seen one of either set.  No box images or sales on Bricklink, Brickset, Peeron or Lugnet.
    I didn't address 110/166 or 111/167 because these are yet a different type of pack.  The parts count on 166 is odd.  The only I can get 61 pieces is if the axles on the 2x2 are separate pieces.  I'm not sure the trust the inventories for 167 on either Bricklink or Peeron.  It could be a high level of variation existed as these were part of the liquidation, but I don't know.  I would agree on the claims to ownership. 

    Which catalog would these have come from?  They aren't in the 70, 71, 72 or 73 Sears catalog.  From what I can make out it doesn't appear to be in the 71 or 72 JCPenney's catalog.  I've not seen a 71 FAO Schwarz, but they're not in the 70 or 72 catalogs.  FAO Schwarz seems to me to be the most likely given that these are full color packaging rather than brown cardboard boxes.

    I wonder if those are misfires where people meant to hit "want"...
    I highly doubt it.  There are a number of very rare or obscure sets that have a high level of claimed ownership.  A lot of times people will assemble loose pieces and say they own the set.  Whether they do or not is a debate for a different thread.  Others will click own in order to boost their ranking. 






    wjoeyjonesdavetheoxygenmancatwrangler
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,100
    edited September 29

    Here's another USA Mail-Order series of sets from Alden's Mail-Order Catalog, once America's 4th largest mail-order catalog company... they went out of business in the mid 1980s.

    This is a Christmas 1972 Alden's catalog image showing 3 LEGO sets... the square boxed Samsonite 101, 103 and 105 sets...




    LusiferSam
  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 481
    What I find interesting about the Alden's catalog is the plastic tray in the back ground.  I would have assumed that these boxes would be the same square boxes as the other sets of this period.  The tray should be from the early flat, rectangular boxes.

    I was also trying to figure out what was up with the wheels on the car.  They are white gears with large tires over them.  Not sure I would want to try that today, as it likely break the tires.
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