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Lego Catalogs

YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
edited April 2011 in Everything else LEGO
While recently reminiscing about my youth, I have come to the realization that my next favorite thing besides the sets themselves were the included catalogs. Without the internets, this was how we would discover the new and exciting sets and themes.

Of course for smaller sets, you would just get that junky small foldout sheet. But for the larger sets, you would get the super awesome rectangular booklet and I would just spend hours looking at it. One of the best parts were the dioramas they would set up in between theme changes. While I still love the new full sized catalogs, I do miss those little rectangular booklets with their choreographed scenes.

I have gone through all my old papers and sets and found I still have several of the old catalogs. Does anyone know when TLG stopped making these and/or when they moved to the full sized catalogs? I think my first full sized catalogs are from 2007 or 2008 but I had only recently moved near a Lego Store so I might simply have been out of the loop. And does anyone else collect these catalogs?


  • Lego_Lord_MayorcaLego_Lord_Mayorca H-Town, USAMember Posts: 614
    The catalogs included in Lego sets were indeed a highlight to getting a set for me as well! I have a huge glut from 1994 and 1995, but the most fascinating ones were from loose sets I obtained in garage sales from years before 1993. They were my first indications as to what Lego sets existed before I was cognizant, or in some cases, born. This was all the late 90s, so I wasn't too familiar with the Internet and the growing amounts of Lego fan sites. It never occurred to me until years later to search for them. Anyway, I loved them, and the little dioramas on each page filled me with hours of play inspiration (and unrequited longing for many, many other sets).

    At the start of this century, they started becoming a bit more bland, focusing on just the sets and not their "use" in a child's imaginative play world. Personally, I was seeing less and less of these catalogs as I was mostly buying BIONICLE and Star Wars sets, but I feel like ordinary sets still contained them up to 2004 or 2005. I cannot totally verify this, but the lack of scans online of anything past those years or from reading reviews of sets mentioning these mini-catalogs seems to indicate that lovely feature of Lego sets has gone the way of the dodo.
  • brickmattbrickmatt USAMember Posts: 102
    edited April 2011
    I remember those, and I still have quite few. I don't remember exactly when they changed over to the full-size catalogs, but I would guess around the lat 90's, maybe '98 or '99, because the oldest catalogs I remember having contained the desert and jungle Adventurers series. I've never specifically collected these, but then I've never thrown any away, at least not intentionally. I must say those set advertisements are better than the ones in the back of modern instructions, which show only the sets and very little if any accompanying material.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
    I know they went at least to 2000 / 2001 as I still have one of those.
  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 7,028
    What do you mean by 'full sized'? A4-ish, or 8" square?
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    Those diorama scenes were the best. I know this was mentioned elsewhere, but since it's so topical, can we create a repository for those catalogs here on Brickset? I'm sure people would be willing to submit scans for the common good :)
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
    edited April 2011
    @Huw - Yes, I've been calling the newer A4 (Letter) catalogs "full sized.". I think the older catalogs are more like 8" x 5".

    @brickmatic - I know I have a number of them from the mid nineties to 2000ish and nearly all from 2008 to now. I'm not sure about the bandwidth to scan, though. :o)
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071

    What do you mean bandwidth to scan?
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
    My time :o)
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    Well, I'm sure you'd have enough time to do a couple, right? I figure these things work best as group projects. Everyone contributes a little.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
    Tell that to our newborn. :o)
  • bourgeoispigbourgeoispig Los AngelesMember Posts: 14
    Ah yes, the many hours of staring at those catalog dioramas. Why did TLG stop including them in the bigger sets?

    Yellowcastle - The "fullsize A4" you refer to - did those come with sets? I don't think I have ever seen such items. Could you post a sample? My Lego sets were sourced from many different places and my catalog collection (starting from the 1971 assortment) thus comes in a variety of region specific assortments and languages. Interesting to see how different the assortment was in Europe compared to N. America. I was especially amazed at the catalogs that were literally sold (10p, but may favorite being the 25p version that had a voucher for 25p off future purchases) in the UK during the 1980s. I had not ever seen catalogs on sale in the USA or continental Europe before and haven't since that time, either. TLG doesn't seem to do so much regional variation anymore.

    And FWIW, last November, I discovered that the old style set catalogs live on in Hong Kong and picked up a 2010 catalog (mostly in Chinese, but with a few items having an English translation).
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    @bourgeoispig Could you post the one you picked up in Hong Kong?
  • bourgeoispigbourgeoispig Los AngelesMember Posts: 14
    @brickmatic its 84 pages long and will require a scanner better than mine. I'll see what I can do over the next few days.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
    Here is the link to where you can view or order the current catalog.

    These are the newer A4 size and are of course not included with any sets as they're just too big for most boxes. I have most everyone of these since 2008.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    Oh I thought the catalog from Hong Kong was old style, i.e. had more creative items between the set advertisements. Is it just the Hong Kong version of the Shop at Home catalog?
  • bourgeoispigbourgeoispig Los AngelesMember Posts: 14
    @yellowcastle - I see now - you were referring to the SAHS catalog. Definitely not found in the sets.

    @brickmatic - older style, yes, but SAHS for HKG? I don't think so. It is what is found on the retail floor, so no modulars, and no order forms, for example. It square booklet with a few large scale dioramas interspersed for the themes. I have tried to attach a .pdf of the cover and a 2 page diorama from the CITY pages.
  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 7,028
    edited April 2011
    I can't claim to be an expert, and this won't be an exhaustive list but the types of catalogues I know about are:

    - In set catalogues. These 'medium sized' ones were included in sets and were of course different in the USA to Europe. I think they were around 16 pages long. In some sets, you also got a smal LEGO Service flyer with details of the service packs (RIP service packs... :-) )

    - In-shop catalogues. In Europe and everywhere except the USA, LEGO issue 8" square catalogues which showcase the entire range, or just the new sets. Some years they are very comprehensive, e.g. the 2003 one I have here is 106 pages long, whereras the 2011 one is only about 48. Nowadays they are released twice a year, January and July, but in the 1990s and before there was only one a year.

    - Shop at Home catalogues. These appeared in the USA first, since [email protected] was available there first, but they've been issued in Europe for a good many years now, too, at least since 2000, IIRC. I probably have a complete set but they're packed away in the garage at the moment, along with all my old paperwork, but I'll make a point of digging them out if people are interested in more info.

    Here are some existing catalogue repositories:

    World of Bricks: (what an awful site that is...)

    Could we do better than those? Should we do better than those?
  • romdamromdam Member Posts: 136
    edited April 2011
    Isn't there a good ref point on Bricklink? Just click on the year and see all he varities. And yes, the catalogs were great. Back in 83 when I was 10 I even went as far as going in a store and opening a box. Not to steal the pieces, but to steal a booklet.

    Between those and the awesome idea book, I'd spend many a nights looking and dreaming of lego towns before I went to sleep.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
    @Huw - Thanks so much for the links! While I found Peeron and brickfactory to be useless, worldbricks seems to have a pretty nice assortment of both Eur and US in-set catalogs. Additionally, it seems our rectangular in-set catalogs disappeared after 2001 which was also the last one I have. I think we might be able to supplement these especially with regards to the A4 [email protected] catalogs but otherwise it would appear that most of the work has already been done.
  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 559
    The rectangular in-set catalogs and the small folded sheet catalogs ended in 2003. No US set in '04 or later that I've have has come with in-set catalogs. I might be able to make a scan of the '02 and '03 catalogs if really want to have a look at them. Starting in '99 there early and later varieties of both the rectangular and small folded sheets.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,336
    edited April 2011
    For those who are curious about what the first ever LEGO catalog looked like... that would be the 1950-51 Danish Automatic Binding Bricks Catalog, which was folded so there were 4 panels on each side of 1 long strip of paper.

    The 1st image is the 2nd side with the 3 basic sets... 700/1, 700/2 and 700/3, followed by the 1st side with 2 parts packs 700a (2x2 and 2x4 slotted bricks) and 700b (3 no-glass window types and 1 door type), as well as a 10x20 baseplate that is slightly thicker than the LEGO plates of today (and much thicker than a baseplate). This un-numbered baseplate was just simply known as a "Byggeplade". This image is from my Unofficial LEGO Sets/Parts Collectors Guide (2,200 pages on CD) available in my Bricklink store, the chapter on old LEGO catalogs...

    Gary Istok
  • rocaorocao Administrator Posts: 4,290
    ^ Gary: Thanks for continually enlightening us about the early years of LEGO!
  • mkoeselmkoesel USAMember Posts: 97
    edited April 2011
    I suppose the smaller in-set catalogs are probably still printed for countries where there is no Lego Shop service and/or no localized version of This may explain why Huw was able to find them recently in Hong Kong, for example.

    @YellowCastle - thanks for the reminder about that link to the online version of the print Lego Shop catalog. Unfortunately, it looks like it only works for some regions (North America). I was hoping to check out what the "[email protected]" catalogs look like in other regions, but it didn't work for the couple I tried (just threw me back to the shop home page).

    Like Huw, I probably have a near complete set of [email protected] catalogs (in my case for US, rather than UK), or at least those dating back to just before the dawn of the online Lego Shop itself. From my understanding these catalogs have actually been around since quite some time before then - the late 80s if I remember correctly. This was durring my dark ages though, so I only have catalogs dating back to about '96.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    @bourgeoispig Thanks for posting the scan! I enjoyed the glimpse of this "old school" style catalog.

    @Huw Can we do better? I sure think so. Should we do better? Ah, this I'm not so sure. It would be nice to have a comprehensive database of catalogs, but there are so many of them! Not only are there different variants, there are also different localizations. It would take a lot of time and effort. However, what might make sense to do is to create a repository of diorama scenes featured in some of the catalogs because I think these were loved by many. In cases where actual sets are featured in the scene, you could have it appear on the set details page with other auxiliary images of the set. So I think adding some catalog images would make a nice addition to the site, but is in no way a must have feature.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 10,564
    I have a million of those from part lots off of eBay, and they are still fun to look at. I remember being a kid going " I want the Cargo Center" I want the big rig truck stop" Airport" Etc... I also laugh at the Lego parts catalog back then.. to see all of the parts offered and how much each part cost.. like the old Space parts pack with all the printed bricks and what not..
    I got a lot from someone that grew up in Hong Kong that had a TON of hard to find sets in the States and the Catalogs were just as cool. Same with some of the train catalogs I got from AUS in train part lots (where I got my 7730, my 7740, and my 7819 (in separate lots)
  • smjsmj Member Posts: 7
    I hope this will be worked out, and we'll see catalogues/brochures here on Brickset in the near future. I can provide some by myself, though I think there are people with more comprehensive and complete collections out there. But I can think of at least one piece that I'm pretty sure of not being available online!

    Speaking for myself, I don't collect LEGO since grown up, so I'm not sure whether I should consider myself AFOL. I collect catalogues and flyers only.
  • CrackseedCrackseed Member Posts: 90
    When I dug out my old collection from storage, I found all the old catalogs I had kept, including one from 1982 that came with my first LEGO set ever. Good memories. I do miss that style of catalog or at least the great dioramas/theme setups they used to do.
  • smjsmj Member Posts: 7
    Here's some related stuff - ads that were published in German child magazines.

  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
    Rough translation for the above: "Buy road plates now because we are going to make them really expensive going forward." :o)
  • CrackseedCrackseed Member Posts: 90
    Haha Yellow :)

    Ahh, the days when helicopter rotors were just long 1x8 or 1x10 flats.
  • smjsmj Member Posts: 7
    @yellowcastle wondered whether I should provide a translation, then figured people would find out themselves haha.

    @crackseed the days when there were still motorbikes the old way, in technicolor! they look fantastic, don't they?
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,336
    edited April 2011
    After I finish my Volume II LEGO sets/parts guide.... I plan on tackling the Catalog issue with about 1/2 dozen LEGO acquaintances (who have over 150 catalogs). There really needs to be a central repository for LEGO catalogs.

    Here's an interesting view of just the first page of the 1965 Catalogs of many continental European countries (catalogs date to May 1 thru Dec 31 1965).... notice all the differences.... NOTE: the years 1964-66 were years of transition... new basic sets were introduced in some countries (010 thru 060), while the old basic sets were still sold in others (700/0 thru 700/6).
  • CrackseedCrackseed Member Posts: 90
    @smj - for sure! I still have a few of those from some old city sets that have long since fallen into my MOC pile.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    What's better than a scanned catalog? An original digital copy! I wonder if our ambassadors can find out how TLG feels about releasing digital copies of their retired catalogs and advertisements for online historical preservation. Assuming they have it somewhere on their storage network, the cost to them should be minimal and the fans would be delighted.
  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    ^ I'll give it a go. My expectations of success are set very low.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    ^ Thanks! I would ask about catalogs with out of production sets specifically. They might object to their catalogs on other sites because they want to control marketing of their product, but that argument goes away if the sets are no longer being produced or sold. However I'd think their main objection will be to vaguely cite legal reasons, most likely concerns about intellectual property. However, that doesn't hold much water. Their lawyers can draft an agreement that addresses any concerns they might have. We don't want to own the stuff, just to be able to preserve and share items from their company history for the enjoyment of all their fans. It's really a win for them. More exposure, more fans, more business.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 10,564
    ^ Why don't they just make a book of catalogs, or an encyclopedia, of all the sets released? (or they they already?)
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,336
    edited April 2011
    Well... the book of catalogs was going to be PISCL on Peeron... however Peeron appears to be on "cruise control" (as is Lugnet)... with little updates appearing. No catalogs have been added since 2007, and all attempts at offering additional older catalogs is met with no reply.

    As for a book of all the sets released... there is the Fantasia book called "Official LEGO Collectors Guide", which a German publishing company put together with the help of a lot of continental European AFOLs. That came out in 2008, but it had a lot of errors in it, and didn't have all the images to all the sets.... they got permission to photograph sets in the Billund Vault, but not all the LEGO sets going back to 1949 are in the Vault. Also the book is strickly a reference guide BY YEAR... all set numbers are in ascending order by year. That's fine if you want to see what was introduced in a particular year... but a little problematic if you wanted to say look at all the specific theme or System sets for a particular year, since not all sets related to specific themes always follow a numbering sequence.

    A 3rd option that many old time collectors of LEGO have used is my Unofficial LEGO Sets/Parts Collectors Guide (1949-80s) on CD. This gives people set information divided not by years.... but by LEGO Systems.... there's a chapter with all the train sets, castle, basic, space, town.... etc. And this gives collectors an opportunity to see what variations there are in old set contents (some old sets come in different box variations, and with differernt content variations). My guide also gives an insurance price list with 4 grades (VG, EX, MIB, MISB) for each set... (separate lists in both Euros and in Dollars) and not the usage of 1-6 bricks as the varity guide of the Fantasia book.

    Also, my collectors guide gives a timeline, and an encyclopedic history of LEGO box styles, catalogs (samples of each early years), how instructions have evolved, LEGO advertising images over the years, all the LEGO logos since 1934, LEGO prototype and never released sets and parts, LEGO promotional sets, LEGO early architectural sets, the Italian Minitalia LEGO sets, the LEGO idea books, chapters on early Automatic Binding Bricks, and a zillion other items spread out over 2,200 pages, over 2,000 images (many historic), and over 1/4 million words. And this is just my Volume 1 CD... in a few months there will be a Volume 2 (1980-90s) with examples of all the odd things that TLG did in earlier years with their sets, catalogs and parts. A combined Volume1/2 is now available for pre-order in my Bricklink store (Gary Istok Rare Bricks)... I'm giving out some rare LEGO parts with each order.

    Also... the TLG archives are rather "sparse" in the years before 1970. When the Fantasia folks asked TLG about the years 1949-58 (which they want to add to their 2nd version of their book). TLG didn't have a lot of information... and told the Fantasia people to ask me! :-) I'm known to the folks at the LEGO Collections/Archives... and they have copies of my LEGO CD. So I've been helping the Fantasia folks as well as finishing up my Volume 2 LEGO CD.

    For those not familiar with my LEGO CD work... here's a website link where 4 chapters (and a lot of images of rare items) can be found... the webpage is old and already outdated however....

    As for why TLG doesn't do a book in house? Unfortunately their early archives are sparse... and they don't have all the information about LEGO produced by the Licensees... Samsonite in USA/Canada.... Courtauld's in Britain/Ireland/Australia.... Sven Stromberg & Co. in Norway and Sweden, and Boris Stromsholm in Finland.

    Gary Istok

  • smjsmj Member Posts: 7
    Gary, is there any chance of publishing your LEGO CD work as a book? I'd strongly prefer reading it that way.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,336
    The problem in doing so is that it's already at 2,200 pages (and rising)... the Fantasia book is already at 800 pages, and that's pushing the limit.

    I would have to break the book up into multiple books, and then it really would become pricey... especially with the 1980-1990s portion added to the mix.

    Since the CD is both PC and MAC compatible, as well as it can be printed in either USA or European page format/sizes.... the CD can be printed by chapter... although the cost of the print cartridges would likely make that costly also.

    In the future I may be publishing the LEGO CD as a 3 or 4 volume set... but again that would be rather pricey.

    For those of you who have the Fantasia or Haussman (LEGO 1:87 cars/trucks) book... you know that they don't come cheap.
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,727
    ^ The Fantasia Official Collectors' Guide is excellent; my first edition is starting to look a bit dog-eared with use, and the second edition is imminent.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,336
    The Fantasia book is a quick easy reference guide for general information about LEGO... however nothing about LEGO is "easy"....

    Case in point... the 700K wooden box set is shown in the guide as a wooden box set of 1963.

    However.... that set number (sold in about 10 countries)... is much more complex than that. It was sold in Germany (1959-62) as "700 Holzsortierkaste K" (Town Plan type set with a Town Plan board), in Belgium (early 60s) as a "School Set", in Switzerland (early 60s) as a "Kindergarten Set", in France and Denmark (late 50s & early 60s) as a Town Plan type set (no board), and in the UK it was sold in 4 differen box types (3 made of wood, 1 of cardboard) between 1961-66 with 3 different content variaitions. In Australia the 700K set was marketed in the last of the UK wooden boxes, and several additional colorful boxes only sold in Australia.

    In some countries it was intended for institutional use (school/kindergarten), in other countries it was intended for commercial use (example in Denmark they were marketed to Hair Salons and Barber Shops so the kids would stay busy plaing with LEGO while mom or dad had their hair done). And in some countries it was sold to kids...

    Like I said nothing about LEGO is easy...

    Here's 2 images of the 700K set. First image is the 3 UK wooden box versions (last image was also sold in Australia 1962-65)... 2nd image is 3 Australian box versions (1966-70).
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,234
    While I still collect all the LEGO Store catalogs, I find that I really miss the dioramas from the 80's and 90's catalogs.
  • Silber334Silber334 Member Posts: 147
    The early 80s ones were so nostalgic to me:)
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    @Yellowcastle YES! The dioramas were awesome. They should be showcased somewhere.
  • MinifigsMeMinifigsMe Member Posts: 2,844
    Yes please! I get SO excited when I find a catalog in a bulk buy. They're so lovely! I just want to see more dioramas in general I think!
  • asherkobinasherkobin Member Posts: 190
    Take a look at the 1991 Germany full-line catalog. If I could have every set there, I would be ready for heaven.
  • trypticontrypticon Member Posts: 61
    I still have a large pile of these brochures, and don't plan on getting rid of them. The set ups for the different themes were fantastic then, and fantastic now, inspiring dreams of gaining all of those old sets and doing something very much like that, myself.

    I don't know when they stopped making them, but I KNOW I have one from 2002, so it was either that year, or shortly afterwards.
  • prevereprevere North of Bellville, East of Heartlake, South of Bricksburg, West of Ninjago City Member Posts: 2,923
    I've been thinking about taking the catalog covers (in-set versions) and framing them by year. Only problem is I need a custom frame to handle maybe 6 at a time stacked by 2s. But I think it would look pretty cool.
  • omgitsrenzoomgitsrenzo Member Posts: 46
    edited January 2012
    I was Just wondering .. How do you actually get a lego catalog? Is there a sign up sheet on the website?
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