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Any suggestions for a decent history of Lego products?

BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 1,403
I've just read Huw's article on Znap, which was a new one on me.  Coming on the back of the 90th anniversary vote, which had any number of product lines that I'd never heard of, I started looking around for a book that would cover the various themes that Lego had done over the years.

So far, so not much luck.

Plenty of books on building things (unsurprisingly), plenty of glossy, coffee-table style books with images of fabulous MOCs and so on, and more than a few on Lego's business model.  But nothing that looks at Lego's product history.

Can anyone recommend a book (or website) that might fill in a few of the gaps for me?

Thanks!

  

Comments

  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,635
    If you're just looking for a no-frills product guide then I can recommend the first or second edition of the LEGO Collector - it's an essential reference for me.



    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lego-Collector-2-Michael-Steiner/dp/393597664X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=lego+collector&qid=1611168485&s=books&sr=1-1


  • pxchrispxchris Oregon, USAMember Posts: 1,369
    The LEGO Book, New Edition might be up your alley.
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 1,403
    Thanks both - I'll take a look at those two.
  • pxchrispxchris Oregon, USAMember Posts: 1,369
    And we'd be amiss to neglect mentioning @Istokg's comprehensive Collectors Guide! Which I'm eagerly awaiting the update to.
    FizyxAstrobricksdatsunrobbie
  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,884
    I am not aware of any decent histories of the company's products, other than @istokg's digital book.

    The DK books are too superficial and full of gaps (e.g. Marvel is never mentioned), and the Collector book is simply a now out-of-date catalogue, complete with errors and omissions, although as @drdavewatford says, it is indispensable for checking information particularly when online sources disagree.

    There's definitely a gap in the market!
    datsunrobbie
  • TkattTkatt MNMember Posts: 463
    I find this page on Brickset.com to be a great source for discovering and learning about older LEGO sets and themes. 
    Thanks Huw!
    HuwpxchrisMaffyD
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 19,645
    I also suggest buying a few of the cheaper unusual sets, just to get a feel for them in real life.
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 1,403
    How would one go about acquiring a copy of @Istokg's tome?  I did try working back from the link above, but my German isn't what it could be...
  • KungFuKennyKungFuKenny Somewhere between Ice Station Odyssey and FabulandMember Posts: 1,988
    edited January 21
    I’ll echo the comments about @Istokg’s book... I also enjoyed A Million Little Bricks” which had a pretty good history and coverage of most of the themes over the years...here is a screenshot of the Table of Contents...

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Million-Little-Bricks-Unofficial-Illustrated/dp/1626361185
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,270
    How would one go about acquiring a copy of @Istokg's tome?  I did try working back from the link above, but my German isn't what it could be...
    Via Paypal... you get 1) a download link to download it to a PC, MAC, Tablet or SmartPhone... or you can download it separately to multiple devices for just 1 price ($29.95 US) via Paypal...
    http://legocollectorsguide.weebly.com/

    I also send you a free copy (online PDF) of my 70 page Unofficial LEGO 1:43 Chevrolet Trucks/Wagons (1952-57) Collectors Guide (a $7.95 US separate value).. which is not part of my regular guide, since it is not part of the LEGO System of Play.  The current guide has 73 chapters, but the updated 4000+ page guide (free to anyone who owns the current guide) will have nearly 150 chapters... including all LEGO System sets from 1949-2020.

    New items I found in the last year.... going to be in the virtual guide...

    Extremely rare museum quality Danish 1950 700/3 Educational Wooden Box LEGO Automatic Binding Bricks set (only 3 known, finest example)....



    Only known example (MIB) of Norwegian 1953 (1st year of LEGO there) medium basic LEGO set....






    One of only 2 known... 1957 Swedish 700/K Wooden box Educational sets... in mint condition...




    1957 Norway 1242N 5 Norwegian flag parts pack... only example known... 



    ... and the last 2 sets in the guide will be the 2020 LEGO Christmas Employee present... and this (previously unknown) set... which is the 2020 Schur (printing and packaging company) LEGO custom set for their employees... I'll post about this set separately, as well as the contents, the builds, and the cube and game board that came as part of the 2020 Schur employee exclusive... which I'm mention in the separate post talking about the 2020 LEGO employee set.... ;-)






    2021 will be a very good year for learning about all things LEGO... ;-)

    Fizyxpxchrisdatsunrobbiesnowhitiecatwrangler
  • veyniacveyniac Northwest MinnesotaMember Posts: 265
    @Istokg 4000 pages? You might as well start a website, that is going to be a seriously massive digital book! Have you ever thought about splitting it into volumes?
  • GrannyLEGOGrannyLEGO FloridaMember Posts: 248
    veyniac said:
    @Istokg 4000 pages? You might as well start a website, that is going to be a seriously massive digital book! Have you ever thought about splitting it into volumes?

    maybe separated by theme/type as some of us may have little to no interest in Star Wars for example but want to see/know about everything Pirate
  • TkattTkatt MNMember Posts: 463
    Professor Istokg should be teaching a course at LEGO University. 
    560HeliportpxchrisIstokgbricktuary
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 4,322
    Tkatt said:
    Professor Istokg should be teaching every course at LEGO University. 
    Fixed it for you :)
    Tkatt560Heliportpxchrisbricktuary
  • pxchrispxchris Oregon, USAMember Posts: 1,369
    Seriously... I perk up every time I see there is a new post by @Istokg! All this history is just fascinating. 
    560Heliportsnowhitie
  • pxchrispxchris Oregon, USAMember Posts: 1,369
    veyniac said:
    @Istokg 4000 pages? You might as well start a website, that is going to be a seriously massive digital book! Have you ever thought about splitting it into volumes?
    The book (at least in its current form) is broken into multiple PDFs with a hyperlinked TOC PDF.
  • pxchrispxchris Oregon, USAMember Posts: 1,369
    I’ll echo the comments about @Istokg’s book... I also enjoyed A Million Little Bricks” which had a pretty good history and coverage of most of the themes over the years...here is a screenshot of the Table of Contents...
    I've been meaning to read this book sometime... I should move it up my reading list!
    KungFuKenny
  • autolycusautolycus US-SEMember Posts: 821
    Is @Istokg's book a large collection of photos and basic set information, or does it contain narrative history as well? (NOTE: both formats/structure have merit and value, I'm just trying to decide my interest level for right now).

    Also, a related question: Are there any good reads on the company itself? I'd be interested in discussion of financial concerns that have caused pivots in product line, anything interesting on production, factories, work place environment, etc. I've seen some good documentaries, and would love more.
  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,884
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 4,322
    autolycus said:
    Is @Istokg's book a large collection of photos and basic set information, or does it contain narrative history as well? (NOTE: both formats/structure have merit and value, I'm just trying to decide my interest level for right now).

    Also, a related question: Are there any good reads on the company itself? I'd be interested in discussion of financial concerns that have caused pivots in product line, anything interesting on production, factories, work place environment, etc. I've seen some good documentaries, and would love more.
    As long as you bring it up, I wouldn’t mind seeing a list of such documentaries :)
    autolycus
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 1,403
    Istokg said:
    How would one go about acquiring a copy of @Istokg's tome?  I did try working back from the link above, but my German isn't what it could be...
    Via Paypal... you get 1) a download link to download it to a PC, MAC, Tablet or SmartPhone... or you can download it separately to multiple devices for just 1 price ($29.95 US) via Paypal...
    http://legocollectorsguide.weebly.com/
    Cheers, @Istokg - payment wending its way to you via Paypal as we speak!
  • autolycusautolycus US-SEMember Posts: 821
    Huw said:
    Thanks! Looks incredibly thorough! I may very well purchase it at some point.

    I would still really be interested in a history of the company and some of the business stuff. Seems like a really fascinatingly unique culture and entity.

    autolycus said:
    Is @Istokg's book a large collection of photos and basic set information, or does it contain narrative history as well? (NOTE: both formats/structure have merit and value, I'm just trying to decide my interest level for right now).

    Also, a related question: Are there any good reads on the company itself? I'd be interested in discussion of financial concerns that have caused pivots in product line, anything interesting on production, factories, work place environment, etc. I've seen some good documentaries, and would love more.
    As long as you bring it up, I wouldn’t mind seeing a list of such documentaries :)
    There are 3 I can remember clearly: an episode of the Ultimate Factories series; A Lego Brickumentary; and The Secret World of Lego.

    The last of those followed now-Lego designer Justin Ramsden and others through the hiring process.
    Astrobricks
  • Russell844Russell844 California, USAMember Posts: 2,073
    Don't forget the LEGO episode of The Toys That Made Us on Netflix.
    autolycus
  • pxchrispxchris Oregon, USAMember Posts: 1,369
    autolycus said:

    Also, a related question: Are there any good reads on the company itself? I'd be interested in discussion of financial concerns that have caused pivots in product line, anything interesting on production, factories, work place environment, etc. I've seen some good documentaries, and would love more.
    Perhaps Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson 
    Astrobricks
  • autolycusautolycus US-SEMember Posts: 821
    pxchris said:
    autolycus said:

    Also, a related question: Are there any good reads on the company itself? I'd be interested in discussion of financial concerns that have caused pivots in product line, anything interesting on production, factories, work place environment, etc. I've seen some good documentaries, and would love more.
    Perhaps Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson 
    Yeah, that could do! It has been added to my Amazon wishlist! Now off to search Amazon for others with similar concepts.
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 1,403
    Just downloaded @Istokg's Lego guide after he sent me the link through.
    Wow!  Epic doesn't even begin to cover it.
    This'll keep me busy for a while...

    pxchris
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,270
    edited January 23
    Just downloaded @Istokg's Lego guide after he sent me the link through.
    Wow!  Epic doesn't even begin to cover it.
    This'll keep me busy for a while...

    Thanks Boo!  :-)

    For those of you who have the current guide... over 500 updated old photos will be included... for example the largest early 1960s basic set, the 700/0... is going from this in the current guide....



    To this in the new guide... much nicer...



    Even the sides of old boxes will be seen... such as the 1960-65 700/0 thru 700/6 basic sets (blue set # is the 1960 version)....  of continental Europe/Asia...




    And all the 1960-65 basic sets of UK/Ireland/Australia.... (700/4 and 700/6 not sold here)


    KungFuKennypxchris
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,270
    edited January 23
    Also for those of you who have my current guide... one thing that I include in all set chapters are tables that list all the sets mentioned in that chapter, and the regions they were sold in.  This is especially helpful in the 1970s, where the USA had different set numbers than the rest of the world.  The chapter on large 1970s model sets has this table....


    KungFuKennypxchris
  • KungFuKennyKungFuKenny Somewhere between Ice Station Odyssey and FabulandMember Posts: 1,988
    @Istokg
    Looking forward to the update!  Any idea when it will be available?
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,270
    Updates will be available towards late spring Kenny...

    Here's some historic LEGO images I'm including in a new chapter...

    1951... filling (by hand) Automatic Binding Bricks LEGO sets in checkerboard fashion (red, white green, yellow bricks), and holding ABB windows/doors and "art cards" in place with string.




    1952... Ole Kirk Christiansen's 3 grandchildren (Hanne, Gunhild and Kjeld) as young children playing with Automatic Binding bricks with a 5 partition 700/K5 wooden LEGO box...




    1958, sorting LEGO parts at the factory....




    Circa 1961... LEGO factory employee gluing 5 LEGO (Town Plan era) cyclists to card stock to be placed inside 270 Cyclist Parts Packs...




    1962 Godtfred Kirk Christiansen at the USA/Toy Fair in New York City... demonstrating the strength of LEGO by standing on it at the LEGO Exhibit (although they were all glued display models), with Cellulose Acetate LEGO parts.




    And this picture is a personal favorite of mine... because there is a story behind it.  This is a young Kjeld playing with a LEGO set in 1952 in the Billund Factory Showroom...




    I recognized that the this was an early 700/4 small Automatic Binding Bricks building set.  When I contacted the LEGO factory a few years ago, they didn't have the 700/4 set in their Billund Archives, but they did have the slightly smaller 700/5 version (these were prototype boxes which included "LEGO Mursten", and never put into production)...



    So last year I had a German LEGO friend take the b/w image of Kjeld playing with the 700/4 set, and show it to him at a German LEGO event.  Kjeld confirmed that he was playing with a prototype set.   After he played with it, it must have never made it back into the Billund Archives, and ended up getting lost.  A pity!!  

    snowhitie560HeliportKungFuKennystluxFizyxpxchris
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,270
    edited January 25
    When I moved my LEGO folders over to my new computer this past summer, I found that I had over 33 thousand images from the LEGO Archives and from nearly 100 collectors around the world, who generously contributed to my collectors guide.

    Here's some newer additions to my collectors guide...

    The 1989 Holiday Home set 6388 was sold in Europe and North America starting in 1989.  However, in 1987 it was sold as a special set under the 1472 number in Denmark (upper left), Sweden (upper right), Norway (lower left) and France (lower right)...



    And in 1989 it was sold as a regular 6388 set throughout Europe, in 1990 in the USA as a Shop-At-Home only set, and also as this Canadian bilingual version in 1989...




    Showing all possible language versions for those LEGO sets that came in separate language packaging is nearly impossible, but I have had a lot of help in trying to get there.  ;-)

    pxchrisKungFuKenny
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 4,322
    Did people shop at home in 1990? Other than by mail or phone order I mean.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,270
    Did people shop at home in 1990? Other than by mail or phone order I mean.

    Yes they did.  In fact in the USA after 1970, all spare parts packs were via some type of Shop-At-Home ONLY.  US retailers did not like LEGO spare parts packs, so they were never available there at LEGO retailers.  Between 1980 and 1990 I only found ONE toy store that carried a line of LEGO spare parts packs... Skylar's Toy Store in Somerville New Jersey.

    But of course Shop-At-Home also carried special sets as well.  The 1989 USA SAH brochure...

    https://images.brickset.com/library/view/?f=catalogues/c89sah
    KungFuKennygmonkey76Astrobricks
  • pxchrispxchris Oregon, USAMember Posts: 1,369
    Wow @Istokg! I am definitely looking forward to the update. Such great material all around!

    I also started reading A Million Little Bricks over the weekend. Been a good read so far. To be honest, not really learning much new, but it's well written and appears to be well researched. Pulls everything together in an easy to follow narrative.
    KungFuKenny
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,270
    @pxchris... that 1472 Holiday Home set above (shown in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian & French) reminds me of another addition to my expanded LEGO guide.

    That would  be the first LEGO fire station... introduced in 1957 as 1308.  It was released that year in 4 country versions.  They were Denmark (FALCK), Germany (FEUERWEHR), Sweden (BRANDSTATION) and Norway (BRANNSTASJON)...



    The box top print matches the printed brick inside the box.  In all but Danish the print is "Fire Station" in the local language.  In Danish it is the name of the private company (FALCK) that does fire and emergency services for all of Denmark.

    In 1958 the set number changed from 1308 to 308, and were sold in all of Europe with  the same box top with just "LEGO" on the box top, and the local language Fire Station 1x8 white brick inside.



    The unique printed brick inside of the 308 boxes of Belgium (Flemish/French) and Switzerland (French/German) had printing on both sides of the brick... depending on which part of either Belgium or Switzerland you live in...

    Belgium 308 set 2 sided printed brick...




    Switzerland 308 set 2 sided printed brick...




    KungFuKennystluxpxchris
  • KungFuKennyKungFuKenny Somewhere between Ice Station Odyssey and FabulandMember Posts: 1,988
    Istokg said:
    The 1989 Holiday Home set 6388 was sold in Europe and North America starting in 1989.  However, in 1987 it was sold as a special set under the 1472 number in Denmark (upper left), Sweden (upper right), Norway (lower left) and France (lower right)...



    One of my favorite sets!  I built it over the summer so I could feel like I was on vacation even on lockdown...


    pxchris560HeliportIstokg
  • pxchrispxchris Oregon, USAMember Posts: 1,369
    Ugh... I suppose I NEED to add 6388/1472 to my wanted list now...
    KungFuKenny560HeliportIstokg
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 4,322
    edited January 30
    Istokg said:
    Did people shop at home in 1990? Other than by mail or phone order I mean.

    Yes they did.  In fact in the USA after 1970, all spare parts packs were via some type of Shop-At-Home ONLY.  US retailers did not like LEGO spare parts packs, so they were never available there at LEGO retailers.  Between 1980 and 1990 I only found ONE toy store that carried a line of LEGO spare parts packs... Skylar's Toy Store in Somerville New Jersey.

    But of course Shop-At-Home also carried special sets as well.  The 1989 USA SAH brochure...

    https://images.brickset.com/library/view/?f=catalogues/c89sah
    Ok, so it was by phone. I didn’t realize the phrase “Shop At Home” pre-dated the internet (for LEGO that is).
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