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Old parts coming back

Jabba_the_TaffJabba_the_Taff Member Posts: 211
edited April 2011 in Building and Techniques
I don't know if I've missed sets with them in but it seems that a number of pieces that appeared to be retired have made a comeback. Like this plate http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItem.asp?P=3839 that's in the Mandalorian Battle Pack or the grill/ladder http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItem.asp?P=4175 that's in the new City Space Shuttle. The latter, for example, seems to be absent from 2002 to 2007. Am I correct? If so, is it possible to say which set they made a comeback in and why. Because the grill/ladder has often been replaced by the grill tile or a SNOT built ladder.

Comments

  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
  • MartinMartin Member Posts: 375
    edited April 2011
    I don't think those elements have made a comeback - they've been in the parts list for some time now in various colours.
  • jgadgetjgadget Member Posts: 181
    @JtT: Some parts have alternative ids, due to slight variations (improvements?) in the part designs.
    For 3839, there are also 2 others, 3839a and 3839b.
    The 'b' variant is the newest and found in lots of sets, including the Mandalorian Battle Pack.
  • mkoeselmkoesel USAMember Posts: 97
  • Jabba_the_TaffJabba_the_Taff Member Posts: 211
    A-ha! Must just be me and the sets I've bought (along with poor internet search skills!) It does seem they're used less often than back in the 80s though.
    Thanks!
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    When TLG retires a part... it pretty much stays retired. Examples are the 2x12, 2x14 and 4x4 corner bricks. The 2x12 and 2x14 bricks were retired in 1956, and have not been produced since 1956. The same is true for the 4x4 corner brick... which was retired in 1972. We now see 4x4 corner plates... but no longer any of the bricks with that footprint.

    Sometimes TLG will introduce a new part that is "similar" to an older retired part... but different enough not to be confused with them.

    Some other retired parts that come to mind... 1x3x2 lattice gates... they were made only in red and black in the 70s... but not since... now we only have the 1x4x2 lattice gates. Other examples are the large spoked wheels (only found in red or white) that were used in the Hobby Sets of the 70s.... haven't been produced since then... although other designs of spoked wheels are around....
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 9,356
    The Minifig Pitchfork is coming back in the new Windmill village set.That part has not been around since the late 80's
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    edited April 2011
    Remember how the tall Cypress Tree made an appearance in a 2001 parts pack... and then BOOM.... in 2003 the re-release of the Main Street (original 6390) set did not contain one because they were discontinued? Ditto for that old gray rail cap used in blue track era train crossings (and the 6390)... it was not in the new Main Street set.

    Long non-production time alone is not the sole consideration of whether a mold is retired or not. If the pitch forks are identical... then they may still have some unused molds at the factory (remember they never waste anything!)... we (the public) aren't privy to this information that often. It requires clues sometimes... like the Main Street re-release to show that a part is indeed officially retired.

    ... and with minifigs.... I don't think that pitchforks, axes and swords are going to be retired too often....

    In the mean time.... I'm going to go find 10 pitchforks in some miscellaneous box of extra LEGO parts somewhere.... I purchased 10 of the Blacksmith Shops back then.
  • georgebjonesgeorgebjones Member Posts: 224
    I think the Pitchfork is a very rare example, but it is too soon to tell, until we can see the pitchfork in the new sets. My guess is that it is a little different, because they haven't done any pitchforks for 20 years. It's odd that they were only in 5 sets, because it seems like I have a million of them. I can always find them when I am looking for something else, right?
  • prof1515prof1515 EarthMember Posts: 1,561
    They don't necessarily retire parts. I recall the reason that the cyprus tree disappeared was due to a broken mold. It simply wore out and they chose not to create new ones for a part that they didn't see enough future use given available alternatives. The reason you'll often see a part used in a variety of sets is to maximize the cost of production. Lego has to produce thousands of different pieces so it's easier to use the same one in more than one set than to use two distinct yet similar pieces. I'd guess we'll see the pitchfork appearing in another set unless something happens to make it unlikely (ie, a broken mold, etc).
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Member Posts: 4,401
    The pitchfork will be in at least one AC set too.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    ^^ I agree with @prof1515, although I'd like to add they have multiple molds for each unique part which they service regularly when they are in use. The documentary mentioned in this discussion shows how they use molds, if you're interested. But yes, they do distribute parts to different sets to keep costs down. A great example part is Windscreen 3 x 10 x 3 that saw it unused after 1997 until its reprise in 2010 in not one but two Toy Story sets. Also, Windscreen 2 x 12 x 4 was MIA for a decade before it was brought back in 2010 as well appearing it two different sets. It might not seem like two sets is a lot, but for 22% and 40% of appearances in a set (respectively) to occur after more than a decade is not a coincidence. It means they put the part back in production and are purposefully finding ways to use such a unique part in different sets to keep costs down.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    Yes it is molds that are retired, and not parts per se... but it's not always that simple. With TLG there are always so many variables when it comes to items being retired or discontinued. NOTHING at TLG is discontinued until the inventory is gone. TLG has a long and complex history of reusing parts and even molds long after we thought they were finished with them. And NOTHING was ever thrown away....

    Take for example the unique spare parts trans-clear plastic boxes (with those unique 8x11 gray circle bottom plates) of the very unpopular "Hobby und Modelbau" (Acrhitectural) sets of 1963-65 (see 1st attached image). And also the 1961-66 1:87 trans-clear garages (see 2nd pic with a rare black $3000+ 1:87 black Fiat).

    TLG may have had a lot of both plastic boxes left over and/or a lot of the molds... because what they did was to produce the USA/Canada Samsonite 002 4.5V Motor Set from late 1965 until 1967 (see battery box and motor housing in 3rd pic)... using the parts pack box and 1:87 garage!

    Some parts were retired because of a broken mold (as was mentioned with the Cypress Tree), while other were retired due to a gluing machine breakdown (as in the classic 1x2x2 windows).

    And just when you thing things are actually retired... then leftover inventory shows up online... such as a few months back when 100 black (very rare from the early 1980s trains) 1x2x2 classic windows sold in mint (for only $10 each!!). So not only is there sometimes leftover inventory in Billund, but also in the local country sales and distribution centers, or the LEGOLAND model shops.

    And who knows... maybe someone found a huge bin of pitchforks... someone at TLG may have said... lets put them into sets... or someone found a pitchfork mold or two that had been rediscovered....

    With TLG... anything is possible! ;-)


  • mkoeselmkoesel USAMember Posts: 97
    The new pitchforks should be new brown vs. old brown however, so they can't be a surplus from many years ago. :)
  • StormsworderStormsworder Member Posts: 107
    If a mould got broken couldn't they just make a new one? I thought they replaced their moulds every so often anyway. Then again, if there's a piece which is only going to be used in one or two sets then I suppose they have to start thinking in terms of room.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    One would think that they would just make a new mold... especially when you see the explosion in the number of parts in the last 10 years.

    In the case of the Cypress tree, it would probably have been one of their more expensive molds to create. But you would think that they would have updated that tree with a rounded edge version, just like they did with the other 2 trees. Weren't all the trees in the 2001 parts pack release of the Cypress tree still of the old variety with the sharp edges?
  • tsitsi Member Posts: 34
    ... and there are old molds which were never used for huge part-quantities in official sets, like e.g. this tree:
    http://festum.de/1000steine/album/album22/01_Riesentanne.jpg

    I would like to see a rerelease :-)

    Greetings
    ThomaS
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    Well someone just posted an image of the new pitchfork on Bricklink. It came from a (new?) different mold.... the new pitchfork has 2 pin holes in the shaft, and the shaft has a more squared off end than the old one had... and then there's the old versus new brown color...

    http://www.bricklink.com/messageThread.asp?ID=112965&nID=538437
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    ^ So I suppose this goes against your previous statement that once a part is retired it stays retired? Or is this just an exception?
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    edited May 2011
    Nope... they retoold a different mold.... this one doesn't even have "LEGO" on it... slightly different shape and different color (since the old brown is retired).

    Just like they could re-introduce the tall Cypress Tree... but it wouldn't have the sharp edges to it... it likely would have the rounded edges to it like the Pine and Spherical tree.

    TLG retired the mold for the spoked wheels as used in the 390,391, 395 and 396 Hobby Sets... but new spoked wheels replaced them (some for Castle, others for other systems).

    What would surprise me is if they ever reintroduced 4x4 corner brick (1955-72)... or the 2x12 and 2x14 bricks (1955-56).
  • mkoeselmkoesel USAMember Posts: 97
    edited May 2011
    Nope... they retoold a different mold.... this one doesn't even have "LEGO" on it... slightly different shape and different color (since the old brown is retired).
    While this is clearly the case for this particular piece (i.e. it's a new mold, and cast in a new color), it seems to me that, in theory, TLG could reintroduce a part that is known with relatively high confidence to be discontinued without making any revisions from the old retired mold to the new reintroduced mold. I understand the notion that, in all probability, the mere evolution of the Lego product itself will mean that the newer mold will more than likely adapt tweaks and improvements from other similarly shaped or similarly functioning parts that have come in the years during the particular part's absence. But strictly speaking that is an arbitrary set of circumstances. I.e. there is no hard and fast interdependency between these two factors (newness and "revised-ness" :) ).

    Perhaps this is a case of my stating what is obvious, but I guess what I am saying is that, if the pitchforks included in these new 2011 sets had truly been identical in shape to those from the 80s, that fact in and of itself would not be enough for us to conclude that the mold must also have been the same one used back then as well.
    What would surprise me is if they ever reintroduced 4x4 corner brick (1955-72)... or the 2x12 and 2x14 bricks (1955-56).
    It would be nice to see these parts again. A 2x16 brick would be great too.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    Yes, when I said they don't re-introduce retired parts, I should have added a caveat.... "not exactly the same parts".... as in the case of spoked wheels... or many other LEGO items. And with a history of what is it now over 13,000 parts... what is new, what is reused and what is an old mold but has been rediscovered and reused becomes a very complex issue... the answers to which we are not always privy.

    As with the pitchfork... I doubt that it would ever be a discontinued part... just reinvented with subtle differences. I'm sure we'll see the same happen from time to time in a lot of instances. Perhaps TLG likes to keep their mold makers busy! :-)

    Sometimes other issues are involved that really muddle up retirement dates of parts in sets. Take for example the 10152 Maersk Ship. It was introduced in a 2004 version, a 2005 version (both Maersk Sealand)... and in an identical 2006 version (Maerks Line). Most people would be surprised to know that the 2004 and 2005 sets contained Maersk blue 2x4 bricks in the "3001" style (number for the newer style part with tube cross supports underneath)... but many of the 2006 sets contain "3001old" Maersk blue 2x4 bricks (the older style "no cross supports" underneath that was supposedly replaced by the 3001 style 2x4 bricks in the 1980s. However... it appears that TLG ran out of inventory of both Maersk blue 2x4 bricks and the Maersk blue color ABS pellets (it's been replentished since then)... so TLG asked some of the Model shops if they had any 2x4 Maersk blue bricks available... as it turned out, they did... but old inventory in the 3001old style without cross supports. And those nearly 1/4 century old (yet still mint) parts were put into some of the 2006 boxes of the 10152 sets.

    It's sort of like saying.... when did TLG finally run out of old gray for their sets... we still don't know.... ;-)
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    Yes, when I said they don't re-introduce retired parts, I should have added a caveat.... "not exactly the same parts".... as in the case of spoked wheels... or many other LEGO items.
    How would you know if they did? If they reintroduced exactly the same part I think you would say they found a batch of old bricks somewhere in inventory. There is nothing to distinguish these two different scenarios: bricks used long ago and appear in a new set because they found some parts in the warehouse versus bricks used long ago appear in a new set because they remade an identical mold and produced identical parts again.

    But let's be realistic here, the two pitchforks are essentially the same part. They just have minor variations, which means version 1 and version 2 of the same part. So to be more specific about what we're saying, let's say retired means taken out of manufacturing operations. That could mean the molds are destroyed or they are put in long term storage. And let's say reintroduced means the part is put back into manufacturing operations. That could mean new molds or old molds brought out of long term storage. If we look at it this way, then TLG does reintroduce retired parts. It is also obvious that they reuse leftover supplies (pellets, molds, finished parts, etc) from when they retired certain parts. Also, I would venture to say that when a part is reintroduced by creating a new mold, TLG tends attempt to improve the design.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    Rather than continue to argue about 1 part... Pitchforks... I think this Bricklink thread kind of puts that into perspective.... it has a different LEGO part number, looks different... is a different color... and therefore is NOT a reintroduced discontinued item. Yes it is a pitchfork.... but it's NOT the same pitchfork....
    http://www.bricklink.com/messageThread.asp?ID=112965&nID=538437

    Another item... which has even fewer changes (I wouldn't even call this one a "reintroduction" or a discontinued/reintroduced... just a slight mold variation... and check out it's ENORMOUS effect on the price.... the Maersk blue construction helmets....
    http://www.bricklink.com/catalogPG.asp?P=3833&colorID=72

  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    Perhaps we're just splitting hairs over the terms "redesign" and "discontinue"...
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099


    How would you know if they did? If they reintroduced exactly the same part I think you would say they found a batch of old bricks somewhere in inventory. There is nothing to distinguish these two different scenarios: bricks used long ago and appear in a new set because they found some parts in the warehouse versus bricks used long ago appear in a new set because they remade an identical mold and produced identical parts again.
    As for determining that the Maersk blue 3001old parts in the 2006 Regina Maersk sets were indeed old model shop inventory I (about a year ago) conversed with "Maxx" Kroess of the Netherlands (probably the world's leading AFOL on the 2x4 brick).... Bret Harris of Virginia, the owner of every Maersk product ever produced, and Jan Katanek of Germany, a leading expert on all promotional sets, and with many contacts within TLG Billund.

    TLG eventually confirmed that yes indeed the 10152 set was the first LEGO set ever to use Maersk blue in 2x4... and because of the (at that time) announcement that the Maersk blue color would be retired (a fallacy as we later found out)... that they did indeed notify (for the 2006 version of the 10152 set) the LEGO model shops in search of bricks of that color. And model shop inventory has a tendency to have a lot of old parts. In fact many of the "Pat. Pend." parts (circa late 1960s/early 1970s) found in unusual colors (green, tan, dark gray) all originated from model shop inventory.

    Cheers,
    Gary Istok
  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    edited May 2011
    Just to chuck this in, to round out the picture, the Design Lab team in Billund are responsible for all the individual brick designs. They have a long term project to evaluate every brick in the inventory against some strict criteria (to do with clutch power, easy of use, playability, as well as ease of production, etc.), and to redesign those bricks that fail to meet the grade. We've seen a few of these changes already (e.g. the new version of the 'macaroni' brick), and there will be more to come. I've been told that the 1x1 brick with a stud on the side was developed to replace the headlight brick, but the set designers almost mutinied over the plan, so we got to keep both :-)
  • jgadgetjgadget Member Posts: 181
    It's a shame they didn't object quite so strongly about the macaroni redesign. :-(
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    @jgadget... very true!!! Now the only thing you can do with the new macaroni bricks is stack them on top of each other. They can no longer be staggered into a stable column. Granted the outer wall of the macaroni brick is much thinner than most LEGO elements... but I've never had any problems in them not being strong enough to "hold a heavy load". I guess it's time to start hoarding some old (mint) ones on Bricklink... (P.S. Look at the ridiculous price for new trans-clear old macaroni bricks!!).

    When the macaroni bricks were first introduced in 1955, they had 4 different ones (they really should have created only 2).... this image is from my collectors guide... the macaroni's were only available in these 3 colors (in Denmark, Norway and Sweden) until 1957. When Germany came online to LEGO in 1956, for a short period of time they were sold in blue, but only in Germany.

    In 1957 TLG decided that 4 macaroni types was "macaroni overkill"... and they reduced the count down to the 1 type we're familiar with... with the notch of missing plastic.

    Too bad they didn't keep the 2nd 2x2 macaroni without the notch... the 2nd model (from an old LEGO display model catalog)... looks better without those unsightly notches.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    Perhaps we're just splitting hairs over the terms "redesign" and "discontinue"...
    We're splitting hairs over "part." This is akin to cars. Is a 1938 Volkswagen Beetle the same car as a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle? Yes and no, depending on how you're looking at it. Same with a LEGO pitchfork. Is the Volkswagen Beetle we're familiar with today the same as the original Volkswagen Beetle? This is more akin to the redesigned headlight brick ;)
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,099
    You mean the redesigned LEGO window..... LOL (I hate that part when they use the backside for a "lame" window.) You would think that the world's greatest architectural system with over 13,000 different (or similar ;-) parts would have something better in the way of a window system. But I'll save that rant for another day.....
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