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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 Because the grill/ladder has often been replaced by the grill tile or a SNOT built ladder.
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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.
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....
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.
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! ;-)
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?
I would like to see a rerelease :-)
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).
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. It would be nice to see these parts again. A 2x16 brick would be great too.
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.... ;-)
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.
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....
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.
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.