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The LEGO Encyclopedia Series....
Well for those of you who were wondering what's new... and why I haven't posted much lately.
I've secretly been working with a publishing company on a 9 volume LEGO Encyclopedia series... from day 1 in 1949 to the present, involving all LEGO sets. My unofficial online collectors guide was the framework to this series, and it will be coming out (volume by volume)... but unfortunately the first language translation is Chinese... but other languages are in the pipeline, including English. The 6 LEGO set volumes will be about 450 pages each, and the 3 miscellaneous volumes (LEGO rare parts, LEGO wooden and early toys, LEGO retailer & display models) will be about 300-350 pages each.
The bad news is that I will be forced (very shortly) to stop selling my $29.95 online version, but the good news is that those who own (or shortly plan to buy) it will get all of the 9 volumes worth of info in an expanded computer desktop online version, for free. That $29.95 is a fraction of the hardcover cost.
Here are some volume covers....
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Recent discussions •
I basically know the reasons (at least from what you've hinted at), but I think it's disappointing where these are being released first. It seems like any other market would make more sense, but given the alternative I guess it's all good.
One of the first 3 LEGO sets of 1949... the large 700/1 set... a beautiful image of Automatic Binding Bricks....
And after the establishment of the LEGO Photography Department in 1959... this 1960-65 beauty... the very large 700/0 set. And for reasons known only to TLG... the same 700/0 set but in a different box top (1960-61 only).
@LusiferSam... I agree that having China be first is not what one would expect. But they wanted an all inclusive set of guides, and LEGO is sizzling hot in China right now (as are the counterfeits! :-( ). They are taking my English version and translating it to simplified Chinese. It appears that the Chinese company has just about a monopoly on all LEGO published items for the Chinese market, they even translate Joe Meno's BrickJournal LEGO magazine.
This set has 2 1x4x3 blue panels with "TV" printed on them. Some collectors found this set (sealed) with panels inside that said "WDR" on them (it shows the "TV" imprint underneath, but the "WDR" in white stamped over it.
I checked with the Billund Archives, and they checked with the German Marketing Department in Munich Germany. They have no records on this set having anything unusual.
Well further research revealed that "WDR" stands for West Deutsche Rundfunk" (or the Western German TV Station). Apparently in 1990 they had their 25th anniversary... and somehow a WDR executive in their Cologne Germany HQ must have contacted an executive at TLG... who must have had these WDR sets made "under the table". After all, TLG is a privately owned business... and I'm sure that some LEGO things happen that are not reported to the Archives folks.
So here's the likely scenario (as I posted this set with the small Town model sets, as well as LEGO promotional sets chapters)... someone asked TLG to produced perhaps several hundred promotional sets with WDR on them. The 6661 boxes and instructions still said "TV", but "WDR" panels were included in the sealed inner polybag. The boxes for the promotion had a special WDR seal attached (see image).
So an "under the table" batch of these special 6661 sets were sent to Cologne Germany (bypassing the German Marketing folks)... and used in their 25th Anniversary promotion. However... that wasn't the end of it. Apparently a lot of extra WDR blue panels were produced at TLG... and rather than throw away the extras (TLG never threw anything away).... they used up the remaining WDR panels by putting them in European 6661 regular sets... so some collectors who busted the regular round LEGO seal on the box get a surprise when finding a sealed cellophane bag inside wth WDR on the panels.
So TLG actually made 3 versions...
1) Normal box 6661 with TV on panels.
2) Normal box 6661 with WDR on panels.
3) Special sealed WDR box 6661 with WDR panels.
Versions 2 and 3 are still virtually unknown... but they are very valuable!!
Just an example of surprising things that you'll find in my collectors guide... the online version, as well as the upcoming book version! :-)
I am doing this project in collaboration with an Englishman (who owns the company mentioned in this attached promo). He deals mainly with Asian publishers. The Chinese publisher (from Shanghai) does almost all of the LEGO books available to be translated to simplified Chinese... and took on this 9 volume hard cover project. LEGO is sizzling hot in China right now, and with a middle class of 340 million people, the timing seemed right to start there. The Chinese publisher only have the rights to the volumes in their country, not elsewhere.
The first 3 volumes were delivered to them for translation. Now I have something to show what is available to other publishers elsewhere, as I am finishing the other 6 volumes (about 2 1/2 volumes are just copy/paste from my online collectors guide).
So as we speak, this guide is being marketed to publishers in other countries in Asia, as well as Europe and North America. One publisher in Japan offered to do a 2 volume deal, but that was rejected, since it would involve thumb nail size images squeezed together in an abbreviated fashion.
The nice thing about starting with an English language original set of volumes... it would be the fastest to market, since no translations will be necessary... just looking for the right publisher(s). ;-) In south Asia English is often the major language, especially in countries that were former British colonies. So it could start in English in some of those countries, which are being marketed to, as well as Europe and North America. But in Europe it could be marketed in other languages as well... just waiting to see if publishers are interested.
Here is the promo that came out this week....
What luck!! :-) The computer desktop version takes up zero space!! :-D
And you get free updates! Some folks have moved to new computers, or (God forbid) they had computer virus's and had to wipe their hard drive clean. I send out free re-sends of the download instructions for those that have issues like that!! ;-)
LEGO Basic Sets of 1953-65....
TLG used the same LEGO set numbers (700/0 thru 700/6) for all the different boxed sets of this era, which makes it incredibly complex to understand. I make it simpler, and break it down to box contents, inserts and instructions, and finally the many different box tops that came in different langauges for all the European countries.
After 1965 LEGO sets became much simpler to figure out! ;-)
Image... largest to smallest sets... 700/0, 700/1, 700/3, 700/3A, 700/4, 700/5 and 700/6.
Early Classic Space.... (Volume 2)...
Classic Castle.... (Volume 3)...
Early LEGO Trains... (Volume 1)...
LEGO Printed Bricks (7th Volume)...
LEGO Retailers and Retailer Display Items (9th Volume)... still a work in progress...
This is the most comprehensive collection of LEGO information and images.... :-)
There will be over 100 images of TLG glued display models shown over the last 60 years in the final volume (see images attached)....
I do have the 1950s LEGO Toys Retailer catalog from Denmark... (here is a sample page).....
And I have the first LEGO price checklist from 1934....
But I do not have any pricelists or catalogs from the late 1930s and 1940s. This will make it problematic... If anyone has any recommendations or leads, please let me know!! Granted LEGO wooden toys have such a very limited audience... but the prices that these now go for is astronomical!! :-O
I would think Lego's Corporate Archive (ie their paper archives where they keep things like tax records) would some version of these. You'd think as a corporation they would records of sales, price per units, losses, etc. I hope this stuff for the 30s and early 40s wouldn't have been lost in the '42 factory fire.
Do you need help with any images of toys or boxes from this era? I have a few killer examples I could share. The rest are ok.
Here's an example.... here are some LEGO wooden toys as found in their 1952-55 Retailer Guide..... value hundreds of $$....
And here's a page from a communist East German guide showing some of the knock-offs (the question of who knocked who off is not yet answered!)... people take the rubber wheels off, and sell them as real LEGO...
So in my wooden toy chapter... I'll have to spend about as much time showing non-LEGO items, as I do LEGO ones... so people can identify them as real or not.
One word of advice for any buyer of the very pricey LEGO wooden toys.... if it doesn't have the LEGO logo... don't buy it!!
Top is the 1930s and early 1940s LEGO wooden toy logo, bottom is the 1940s and early 1950s wooden toy logo...
There are a couple of important exemptions to the logo rule. The earliest toys didn't have any logos on them. But you really need to know what your buying. Many of the boats don't seem to have logo on them for some reason.
And than there is the issue of Hanse and BILOfix. Early BILOfix was a brand Lego created to differentiate their non brick toys from the brick toys. The latest only for a couple years when Lego ceased all other toy production. Two years later it was resurrected as Gerhardt Christiansen's independent toy company. Hanse was another toy manufacture that seem to use the Lego wooden toy designs. I've never been able to find much info on Hanse, so I don't really know to much.
It appears that all the wooden toys were made either at Billund Denmark, or (starting in 1953) Oslo Norway (A/S Norske LEGIO)... and only ever sold in Denmark, Norway and to a lesser degree Iceland... but not Sweden or elsewhere. And as we know... LEGO wooden toy production ended after the Feb. 4, 1960 wooden toy factory/warehouse fire.
Here is a different wooden toy LEGO logo from Norway that I had not seen before.
And here is the common 1953-60 Danish wooden toy LEGO logo (also using the dogbone font). This is my favorite of all LEGO logos....
It only lists about 10,000 LEGO sets, because Duplo, Bionicles, Clickits and other non "LEGO System of Play" compatible sets are not included... just sets with LEGO bricks and parts... also no keychains or other gear.... same items that will be in my computer desktop guide will be in the 9 volume series.
And a littl bit of stats on LEGO and a short bio on me....
.... and this is the 717 set that kept me wondering (and searching historic LEGO facts) for over 40 years, even after I found out it was never actually produced!! (The box is a non-surviving mock-up, the model is my own rebuild of the prototype set.)
I think Aquazone was the first of the modern glued-together retail display cases that I remember. Time Bandits and the Wild West displays were in that era as well.
I have tried researching this topic a lot over the past two years. Public information is VERY hard to find.
The National Library of Denmark does have a 1946 price list viewable online:
And a 1957 brochure:
I scanned images from Danish Christmas catalogs, and tried to indicate the source material. (You have probably already seen most of this.) The one thing I will note is that I found all of this stuff via the National Library of Denmark. It is possible they may have stuff that has not been scanned yet.:
The reproduction Gecevo catalog you showed comes from my collection. I also have some letterhead from the 1930s that shows the logo and establishes the year the company was founded (which I believe was in the late 1890s).
It is worth noting that, in that catalog, you do not see the white rubber tires. I believe they were introduced in the mid to late 1950s. The earlier Gecevo toys did not have these, which can sometimes make them indistinguishable from LEGO (mainly the animals).
I would also suggest looking into Hedeboflid (another Danish toy company) - The National Library of Denmark has a Hedeboflid catalog online (from the 1940s). The illustrations of the toys are artistic renderings. On some of the pages.
One thing worth noting about the LEGO logo is that sometimes the label is missing but leaves behind an area of discoloration in the shape of the logo. Unfortunately, this is not always a clear indicator as to whether or not something is truly LEGO.
Case in point, this roadster I have:
There is a spot where it looks like a LEGO label could have been, and LEGO did make cars in this style. Apparently, Brio of Sweden did a car that looked like this, and the Brio label was similar in shape (compared to LEGO). A collector from Sweden named Daniel (I think he was from Sweden, and I think you might know him) showed me some of the illustrations of the Brio cars. A part of me holds out hope that LEGO made such a car, but I've not seen any examples to suggest otherwise.
Regarding other contacts...There was a dealer I had bought stuff from last year that lived in Northern Germany. She and her husband often make trips to Denmark to look for vintage LEGO toys. I think they have been doing this since the 1980s. She had mentioned talking to old timer employees before (ones that would have been familiar with would). If you would like, I can reach out to her for you and cc you in the email.
I don't know that at the moment.... I'm bogged down finishing the 1993-2002 Era LEGO Sets Volume (due at the end of the month). I made some notes, and will look into this when I have some time... which unfortunately isn't right now! :-(
And you are correct... those other toys (can't exactly call them clones, since we don't always know which came first) look so much like LEGO items that you almost really need at least part of a LEGO sticker to prove that it is a genuine LEGO product.
I looked very closely at your Gecevo booklet on FLICKR, and I was amaze at how closely they look like LEGO. It was a real eye opener.
Also we see that the shape of the wooden wheels can prove that it is NOT a LEGO product... it's just too bad we cannot use the reverse logic to say that the shape can also prove that it IS a LEGO product. But it doesn't work like that.
And yes, I know Daniel very well... he also goes by the FLICKR name VONBODEN. We talk all the time.
As for the dealer lady in Germany.... I think I know who you are talking about.... she's good friends I believe with my friend Olaf (Tante-Ingelore on FLICKR). Is her last name PETERS? Even if it's not, I would love to be introduced to her.
There are 2 areas that I want to add to my LEGO Volume series... one is the wooden toys... and the other is the LEGO 2x4 test and marbled bricks (Bayer, BASF, Grangemouth, Mabron).
Thanks for your help Mathew.... I will give you a special mention in the wooden toy/1:43 Truck chapter! :-)
I am in discussion (at the legal level right now) with a well known American LEGO "builder" and publishing company. Stay tuned for an announcement. Lots of exciting news may be in the works.
I'm glad to hear that there will be an English version of the books.
The person with the last name Peters you speak of is the same person I know. One of the things that they told me that I couldn't find out anything else on was the use of a dark orange paint on the toys during the late '30s/early '40s....that it wasn't very popular and didn't last too long. I have a duck that uses this color:
A really good website for vintage German wooden toys is: http://www.ddr-holzspielzeug.de/
They have photographed examples, as well as period literature. There is even a 1957/1958 catalog: http://www.ddr-holzspielzeug.de/kataloge/gecevo.html
The illustrations don't show the rubber wheels, so I'm not too sure when they came into play. According to a description on the site, Gecevo was founded in 1890. They note 1967 KG (I'm not sure what this means). In 1969 there was a merger with Verhofa (this would become the new name of the company, while still retaining the bird emblem).
Most Gecevo/Verhofa toys seem to bear a small metal "badge" featuring the company logo. Though they appear to have used labels in some cases. I had two horses, and one bore the badge while the other had the label.
One point worth mentioning is that the quality of these toys is actually quite high....They look really nice, and I believe they offered up some animal pull toys that LEGO did not.
Other wooden toy manufacturers worth checking out would be Visso and Sonneberg. It might be worth contacting the owner of the website for more information.
The Hedeboflid toy factory was located in the Danish town of Frederiks and, depending on who you talk to, may have had a direct connection with LEGO. The owner of Hedeboflid was Karl Pederson. There is an interview with Pederson's daughter online: https://issuu.com/abchris_historier/docs/leget__jsfabrikantens_datter
It is in Danish, so I had to use GoogleTranslate, which is not perfect. There is a part of the interview where she talks about growing up and remembering visits from the "LEGO man." (guessing Ole Kirk) At one point she mentions a meeting in which her father was approached about a merger but that her father wasn't interested.
"LEGO man came on visits, because he would go with Dad to make wooden toys, and so will he move it, he had in Billund, here to Frederick. I clearly remember that they were sitting in the living room and discussed it. But my father would not have a partner, I think it was not anything for him, and there was also something about Lego man would go on to something mechanical toys, and Dad would not. He would continue his wooden toys."
That translation is pretty rough, and some points aren't as clear as others. I'm guessing it would be, "The LEGO man came on visits because he wanted to make wooden toys with dad, and he would be willing to move operations from Billund to Frederiks. I clearly remember that they were sitting in the living room and discussing this. My father did not want a partner, and I don't think it was for him. There was also something about the LEGO man going on to make mechanical toys (the wooden toys with mechanical features or the automatic binding bricks?), which dad was not interested in. He would continue making wooden toys."
There is also an article on Hedeboflid in this magazine (again, in Danish):
Here's another straight translation from GoogleTranslate (some things did not even carry over into English):
The National Library of Denmark does have a 1943 Hedeboflid catalog online:
If you click on the cover, you can flip through the pages. There are artistic renderings of toys inside. A lot of them looking nothing like LEGO, that is until you get to pages 24 through 25.
Even though they are drawings, there are enough characteristics in common with verified LEGO toys. On page 24, the shapes of the duck, cat and terrier are instantly recognizable. On page 25, the following animals really stand out: the hen, rooster, elephant and pig.
When you flip to page 26, none of the toys look anything like LEGO. There is even an elephant on that page that looks drastically different from the one on page 25.
This is purely speculation, but it lead me to wonder if Hedeboflid helped LEGO out in the wake of the 1942 fire (the Hedeboflid catalog is from 1943). It just seems kind of weird to have a catalog showing two animal pull toys representing the same animal but in two drastically different styles.
Fisher Price toys are distinctly different from wooden LEGO toys (mainly in that the designs are printed and not painted), but there are some interesting similarities here and there.
Lego had the Teddy Bil (Car), in which the bear hits bells when you pull it:
Fisher Price had Teddy Zilo, which has a bear and operates on the same principle (but isn't in a car):
I'm guessing you've already seen the LEGO wooden Pluto toy. I think Fisher Price did one that looked similar as well but can't seem to find it. They did have "Snoopy," which has a similar shape like Pluto and operated the same way when pulled. It just looks like a dalmation!
I think this was then followed by the "Snoopy Sniffer":
The coolest part is the scanned image from a 1959 BiloFIX catalog. If you click on the image is says it is an excerpt and that the image was courtesy of Steve Scott.
It's pretty neat because it shows the wooden construction toys BiloFIX is known for. (and one of the possible inspirations for Technic?) I always kind of assumed that those came after BiloFIX broke off as its own thing. With the logo, I kind of wonder if it was blue while under LEGO's stewardship and then red when it was an independent company.
Gerhardt Kirk Christiansen also got the rights to Bilofix, and owned it until the late 1960s. So that explains the logo color changes. Bilofix, and its' successor Bilotoy were not popular, and were discontinued in the 1970s... although the design concept lived on in another company.
Here is Gerhardt Kirk Christiansen in 1967 in a Bilofix "custom" automobile...
I have seen that image before...It is pretty neat as a unique publicity stunt.
I have some news for you...A while back, I told you about the Nintendo N&B block "clone." I finally got a set now!
The set is copyrighted for 1968 and comes with a set of printed building instructions and an idea book (which contains instructions). This is the same Nintendo that is responsible for resurrecting the home video game market in the mid 1980s, in the wake of the video game crash of 1983 (a big "ouch" for Atari). Nintendo has actually been around since the 1890s when it originated as a playing card company. Nintendo eventually went on to make toys, including this building block system.
I won't delve too much into the history of these bricks because it is pretty well-covered on the blog, BeforeMario: http://blog.beforemario.com/search/label/N%20and%20B The one thing that is less clear is why Nintendo stopped making the bricks in the early 1970s - It might be worth contacting Nintendo.
I posted pictures of the set and scans of the instructions and idea book. It's worth noting that the bricks were designed to be compatible with LEGO bricks, but that Nintendo was also trying to set N&B bricks apart from LEGO bricks. They offered a diverse range of pieces, with an emphasis on rounded blocks. There was a rounded "dog-bone-shaped" 2x4 brick; when you used a lot of them it allowed them to flex quite easily and add more building possibilities (you could add curved shapes to models).
One part worth noting in the idea book is that of a 1x6 stud-wide arch brick:
Nintendo beat LEGO to the arch brick. ;-)
The bricks had "NB" on the studs:
The underside of the standard 2x4 brick reveals a similarity to LEGO's tube system, but it is different enough to avoid being a direct copy:
They appear to have used a different type of plastic, though I'm not sure as to what kind. The bricks were designed with clutch power in mind, and I think the clutch power is a bit too strong. The parts hold together very well, sometimes too well, requiring a little more force to take them apart than you would with LEGO bricks.
Nintendo would discontinue the bricks in the early 1970s, but a reference was made to them in the Gameboy game, Super Mario Land 2. One of the levels features studded building blocks being used in the construction of the level, and "N&B" appears on the side of at least one of the blocks.
I love that the 66 arch brick (1x6x2) predates the TLG version (1971). What I love even more is that they had a 76 round top window that fits within the arch... almost Palladian style.
Also find their version of the "tube bottom" bricks very interesting, and cleverly designed so as not to get into a copyright infringement issue with TLG.
Here's a bit of LEGO history for Japan....
1962-68 Asahi Corp. was the licensee. In 1968 Asahi Corp. split, and a spin off company (Fujisho Corp.) took the LEGO license with it.
1969-77 Fujisho Corp.
In 1978 TLG got back the LEGO license from Fujisho Corp. and TLG took over LEGO sales there.
1978-91 Nihon LEGO K.K. (A sales subsidiary of LEGO A/S.)
1991-Present LEGO Japan Ltd. (A sales subsidiary of LEGO A/S.)
So it doesn't appear that the end of Nintendo making a LEGO type system, had anything to do with changes to LEGO in Japan.
I was poking about the historical timeline on LEGO's website, when I found an interesting note on wooden toys in the 1940s section:
In 1947, "As a test, six series of wooden toy animals are exported to India."
I thought that was pretty interesting because it means the toys weren't exclusively sold in Denmark. Do you know anything about this? I would be curious to know where they obtained that information from. The thought of finding a wooden elephant at a market in New Dehli sounds exciting, albeit very unlikely. ;-)
The only LEGO countries that had wooden LEGO toys were Denmark, Norway and Iceland. I had not known any LEGO products for India (or anywhere outside of Europe) for at least until 1962.
So in the next few days I will be making my current computer desktop online edition a Closed Edition, although it will have free updates for those that already purchased it. They will be getting the updates to bring my online guide to 4500 pages, and bring it to the year 2017 early next year. I keep an Email list of all buyers.
Also, I will be including the last 3 missing LEGO sets (so far 1 known example of each, with either a Swedish or Norwegian owner). Now all the early LEGO sets have been found (as have all newer sets).
The unique sets (not found in Billund Vault)....
1) the Norway only 1309 Esso Garage set (using the same 1309 number as the Church Set... strange!)....
2) the 1237 Norway/Sweden Esso Side Building.....
They used a (more common 1236 Garage Set box, but with a piece of paper taped to the end.....
So the actual model was only shown on the instructions!! (As well as combine it with a 1236 Garage Set to make a 1310 Esso Service Station set, in the 2nd image)
And the last missing old LEGO set... the 1957-58 Norway 1308 Fire Station Set.... showing the Norwegian "Fire Station" brick on the box top...
This box was already known with the 1308 German FEUERWEHR, 1308 Danish FALCK, and as the 1958-60 308 "LEGO brick" box top, and 1960-62 308 "LEGO brick" box top.
And found earlier this year (thanks to my Swedish friend Daniel)... the Swedish version of 1308.....
One set... 6 different box styles.... LEGO Mayhem at its' finest! :-)