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Do newer lego pieces discolour (in time) as bad as older pieces?

StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
edited May 2011 in Everything else LEGO
I know there have been many discussions about discolouration of mainly white and light grey lego, but I am interested to know if there have been any changes in the chemical make-up of lego to reduce this discolouration? I have a lot of discoloured lego from the late 80s, early 90s, and now a lot of newer pieces from about 2007 onwards (after I came out of my dark ages). Can I expect the same discolouration as the old pieces in time? I have a lot of starwars sets on display, so they're absorbing a lot of uv.

Comments

  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,074
    StuBoy, that is a very good question....

    While old ABS LEGO over long periods of time discolour after UV exposure (such as white, old gray and blue)... the newer parts probably have not had enough time to discolour... since many colours are 21st century additions to the LEGO colour palette. Tan for example, although used in LEGOLAND models as far back as the 1970s (1960s if you include Modulex)... that color was not introduced into regular LEGO sets until 1998.

    And many other new colours are newer still. At some point in the future, we should be able to tell what colours discolour easier than others. Of the older colours... red, yellow and black don't seem to have the same problems as the other 3 old common colours... but I'm sure that given enough time and exposure... even they would probably have some colour changes.

    Discolouration in newer LEGO pieces is more likely to be a side effect of mixing the non-coloured ABS plastic with colour before they are put into the moulding machines.... while older pieces were always uniform in colour at first... due to LEGO buying the "already coloured" ABS pellets from the Bayer Corporation.
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,207
    I'm afraid that yellow and red are both susceptible too, as is green. I suspect the only reason that black appears immune is that the discolouration can't easily be seen...... For the record, affected yellow, red and green pieces go considerably darker than normal after (extensive) exposure to sun, as I've found to my cost..... My impression is that white and blue are more 'at risk', however, given the relative volumes of discoloured pieces in my childhood cache. I predict that medium blue pieces will join them as badly susceptible as well - I bought Set 4728 Escape from Privet Drive set on eBay a while back. This is a fairly recent set, but many of the medium blue pieces were badly discoloured. So beware with this colour....
  • Si_UKNZSi_UKNZ NZMember Posts: 4,179
    ^ Doesnt bode well for all those constantly-displayed modulars full of medium blue. Let's hope they keep the colour in production so the bits can be replaced easily.
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,207
    edited May 2011
    ^ There's already significant variability of the medium blue in my Market Street set..... I'm looking at it now and it's shocking, frankly. The 1x4 bricks are appreciably lighter than everything else, notably the 1x2 bricks. With the inevitable discolouration that'll occur over time, I think it's going to look like a dog's dinner in the few years time. I can only echo your comment about hoping that medium blue continues to be produced so I can replace the offending parts.......
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    Thanks for all the great responses, looks like I'll either have to suck it up and live with the fact that these display pieces are going to discolour, or hide them all away in a dark closet. Or I could just rebuild them all in black....
  • Cam_n_StuCam_n_Stu UKMember Posts: 368
    edited May 2011
    I understand most window glass blocks a fair amount, but not all, UV. Has anyone tried the window film you can get to reduce UV further?
  • JP3804JP3804 Member Posts: 332
    ^ Older and bargain windows block very little UV. UV block is a fairly new ( in the last 15 or 20 years or so ). It is an up-grade when buying windows. If you live in track housing or an apartment your windows probably don't have it. That is in the U.S. anyway.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 9,089
    edited May 2011
    ^ Doesnt bode well for all those constantly-displayed modulars full of medium blue. Let's hope they keep the colour in production so the bits can be replaced easily.
    This may make people think twice of displaying their Maersk Freight trains....
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,074
    One thing to keep in mind about very old red and yellow ABS LEGO parts is that from circa 1963 until 1973 red and yellow ABS had Cadmium as an additive. Apparently Bayer had some problems once they switched from Cellulose Acetate plastic to ABS in the 1960s in producing red and yellow parts. So they added Cadmium (a heavy metal) in the colouration process. And this produced a darker shade of both colours.

    This was discontinued in 1973. Although it was shown that Cadmium would not leach out of the plastic (as in say... a child chewing on the bricks)... it was however a potential problems for old LEGO that found its' way into a landfill (LEGO in a landfill... what appalling idea!).

    So the red and yellow LEGO from that era were always a darker shade than newer red and yellow LEGO.

  • legomattlegomatt Member Posts: 2,538
    edited May 2011
    I would say newer sets will discolour as much as older sets (but i have no hard evidence)... except that my stormtrooper from the most recent Luke's Sandspeeder set is already showing signs of variation across the white, one arm appears a little off-white in comparison to the rest of the fig (but not completely yellowed yet) despite never being on display.

    OR maybe my stormy was just made from a 'bad batch' of not quite white ABS.
  • Si_UKNZSi_UKNZ NZMember Posts: 4,179
    edited May 2011
    OK, I have some definitive and worrying evidence!
    Check out this auction on eBay - Looks like a bargain until you realise how badly faded the Maersk blue is - look at the close up pictures - what a mess!

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/LEGO-10152-MAERSK-SEALAND-CONTAINER-SHIP-RARE-2004-/330568679706?pt=UK_Construction_Toys_Kits&hash=item4cf76dc11a

    (the whites look pretty browny as well)
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    ^ Wow! What a mess! Doesn't bode well for my white star wars sets on display, or medieval market village! Might have to rotate them I think!
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,074
    edited May 2011
    Someone recently posted on the Bricklink forum about 2 shades of Maersk blue... and I was about to say that those parts were of both shades of the same color. But upon closer inspection, some parts have 2 shades of Maersk blue in the same part. And that CANNOT be blamed on 2 different coloured dye lots.

    Good Lord that looks awful!! I wonder if the Hydrogen Peroxide method (with the parts submersed in a clear glass container sitting in the sun) would work on those....

    I'm going to question that on the Bricklink forum... (things have settled down over there) there's a few Maersk blue experts over there... and get their comments.... will be back...
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,207
    edited May 2011
    ^ You might want to ask about Medium Blue as well, Gary; on the basis of my Market Street set and recent eBay purchase, that colour is looking to me like it may have heightened susceptibility to fading. Just to add to the story, the 1x4 bricks in my Market street have been much more badly affected by fading than the 1x2's. And none of the other colours show any perceptible colour change, thankfully, so a modest Bricklink order should sort me out at some point.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,074
    edited May 2011
    OK I got some replies on Bricklink... they thought it was either from a smoking household or discolouration due to sun exposure.

    Well the smoking theory doesn't leave such crisp edges between the 2 coloured parts.

    The best comments over there sound spot on to me.... 1) someone put the ship together for a long time, and it got a lot of sun exposure, 2) it was diassembled at some point, 3) the Ebay seller reassembled it for sale... and parts that show no discolouration were previously in spots on the ship where they were hidden from sunlight. This scenario is the best to explain the 2x3 low sloped inverse bricks that have the lower front angle discoloured, but the back parts were not (hence they were previously positioned farther forward in the ship, and the back part of the inverse slope was hidden from sunlight.
  • jgadgetjgadget Member Posts: 181
    When I buy second-hand sets on ebay, or elsewhere, I check pictures closely for signs of discolouration and dust. Dust can mean that it's probably been exposed to light for quite some time, and although the set my look uniformly coloured, the chances are they've been dscoloured.

    Aswell as all the other colours mentioned above, tan and sand green are affected, with the latter looking particularly nasty when it's been exposed to sunlight for a long time.

    It's worth bearing this in mind when considering buying one of those rather expensive Statue of Liberty sets.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,074
    jgadget... I can picture your comment about sand green looking nasty when exposed to too much sunlight... it probably turns to "snot green" (and I don't mean StudsNotOnTop).... LOL...
  • jgadgetjgadget Member Posts: 181
    ^ I wouldn't have thought it possible, but you've made the discolouration seem even more nasty. Thanks!
    :-)
  • CrackseedCrackseed Member Posts: 90
    Sounds like the Star Hawk II I picked up recently - pic looked fine but man, the blue bricks had so much bad fading/discolorations on it. Ahh, if only these bricks didn't fade LEGO's ABS would be perfecto! Still, nothing Bricklink parts can't fix :D
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    To answer the original question, although it is possible that improvements could be made to limit discoloration, I wouldn't count on it.

    One thing people notice about discoloration is that it happens unevenly: some bricks fade faster than others. Note this happens for bricks within the same set and placed in the same location thus getting the same environmental conditions. Why the difference then? The difference is attributable to differences in the plastic. Some batches are more resistant to fading than others because of small differences in the chemical makeup.

    That would indicate improving resistance is possible, if one could more closely control the chemical makeup of each batch. I don't think that LEGO would put the effort in to do this, however, because of the lack of return on such an investment.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 9,089
    I do not think Lego ever imagined that these would be collectible 20-30-40 years down the road, and therefore never really put a lot of effort making them last the sands of time.. or at least keep their original colors... Now is a different story though.. but again Lego does not make any money off of stuff they already sold....
  • princedravenprincedraven Essex, UKMember Posts: 3,768
    The only real place in my house that I could display some of the larger items in my collection is a conservatory which is in the sun almost the whole day, is there anything that can be done to protect them if I display them in there? UV protection cases or something? Is it just the UV that discolours the LEGO?
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    edited May 2011
    ^ UV accelerates the natural degradation process. Heat plays a factor. And oxygen content.
    There are studies about this stuff, but they are very technical.
  • OrthobotrexOrthobotrex Member Posts: 165
    ^ Hmmm...sounds like we should treat our bricks like medicine: store in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and out of the reach of children!
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,207
    edited June 2011
    LOL - I was beginning to come to the same conclusion myself !
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    LOL, yes.

    If you're looking at ways to protect the things you display from degradation, the solutions employed by museums to protect their displayed art are likely to work just as well.
  • OrthobotrexOrthobotrex Member Posts: 165
    edited June 2011
    ^^ Another parallelism would be that it can aslo be addictive, too!

    ^ The best that I could do is to try and place dessicant bags if there is a space in my display cases...temperature control is another thing, though.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,074
    Interestingly enough... ABS plastic can withstand summer attic temperatures without warping. I have old ABS parts from the 1960s and they have NOT warped.

    However the same cannot be said for old Cellulose Acetate bricks. CA bricks were introduced in 1949, and continued in production generally until 1963, when they were replaced by ABS. However... I have an unproven theory that Billund sent the remainder of their CA pellets (and possibly elements) to Samsonite (USA/Canada). Continental Europe and Britain/Australia switched over to ABS rather quickly... but in USA/Canada, there were some CA parts that were found in sets as late as 1970. Yellow and red are the predominant colors that were found in CA in USA/Canada Samsonite LEGO sets until 1970. The Samsonite switch over to ABS happened rather quickly for blue and white bricks (about 1963-64). Black bricks were found in CA until probably 1966. But it is very common to find late 1960s Samsonite sets with all the yellow bricks/plates as CA, and a mix of red CA & ABS parts in the same set that had all other elements in ABS.

    But getting back on track about having parts stored in the attic... during the Cellulose Acetate era... this greatly affected the parts... and they started to warp.

    I do believe that TLG was aware of this problem as early as 1959.... since starting in the continental European catalogs of 1959-62 it mentions that the parts should not be stored above 65 degrees Celcius (149 degrees Fahrenheit). Now naturally... nobody had an attic that hot (one would hope)... but they knew that something was amiss as early as 1959... This warning was continued until 1963 Continental European catalogs. With the introduction of ABS that year... the warning was gone from all continental catalogs.

    Ironically the early 60s catalogs of Britain, Ireland, Australia (Courtauld's licensee) and USA/Canada (Samsonite licensee)... were mum on the subject!

    I have a 717 Junior Constructor set (USA/Canada 1961-65 only)... and none of the Cellulose Acetate parts are at all warped. Probably because I've kept it "cool"! :-)

    Much of the CA parts is warping-due-to-heat related... and ironically much of the ABS parts problems is dis-colouring-due-to-UV-ray related.

    This is ironic... because I have mint CA white classic windows that are warped but not yellowed.... and I have mint early ABS parts that are perfect but discoloured...

    Go figure??

    P.S. I don't know what temperature ABS would start warping... but I don't think that summer attic heat is enough...
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    ^ For ABS it isn't warping I was cautioning against but the chemical degradation of the plastic. We all know that ultraviolet light, such as that found in sunlight, is bad news for bricks. I was pointing out there are other factors involved as well in the chemical stability of ABS.

    In fact, this study looks at the very issue of ABS degradation. And I was right, there are three main things that affect the aging of ABS: heat, oxygen, and light. There are two types of degradation: thermal-oxidative or photo-oxidative. The study also mentions that the environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, and exposure to other chemicals can affect the degradation of ABS.

    This issue of chemical stability reminds me of a NIST study about the longevity of recordable compact disks. That's where I got my ideas about what might affect ABS in the first place.

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