Shopping at LEGO or Amazon?
Please use our links: LEGO.com
As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
I lost almost all of my old Lego sets (dated 1987-1996) but recently I got into collecting new Lego sets, mostly City and Minifigs. I remembered Lego as an ultra high-quality toy, but you know, grass was also greener back then.
Nowadays I'm observing some quality issues. For example - loose hats, seats that can barely hold a minifig, different color shades of the same bricks in one set, etc.
I'm not able to compare the quality, how it changed thru the years, but maybe someone who's been steadily collecting sets can tell something more?
My observations are - set from 2007-2009 are the most problematic ones. Most recent sets, like the 3366 Satellite Van, are pretty good.
What are your thoughts on that?
Another thing - I'm a bit concerned about possible discoloration after long and steady exposure to daylight (not direct sunlight however). Currently I keep most of my sets crammed in a dark cabinet but I was hoping to put them on a nice display. I'm a pure collector, I just build the sets and don't really play with them (I also do some photos from time to time). Have any of you observed a significant discoloration or other bad things happening after several months? And if so, than how long did it take you to notice that?
Shopping at LEGO.com or Amazon?
Please use our links: LEGO.com • Amazon
Recent discussions •
With respect to your observation about 2007-2009 sets, I personally have not noticed an inordinate number of defects.
You are correct about the damaging effects of UV light. Over time, the bricks will discolor, with gray and white being the most susceptible. However, the timeframe for that degradation is more in the measure of years than months. And since I can't fathom going years without displaying my Lego, I just accept their eventual fate and enjoy them in the near to medium term. Depending on how large of a display you intend and how serious you are about protecting your sets, perhaps you can invest in UV protective displays
I recently blogged about the poor quality of Tan bricks in my Tower Bridge set (you can see pics and commentary about 3/4 of the way down if you click on this link: http://gimmelego.blogspot.com/2011/03/bigand-finished.html)
I think LEGO are torn - they're trying to rapidly increase capacity in order to meet increased demand, and it may be having some effects on quality.
I don't doubt that they're trying to address the issues, however.
I've got some cars and other vehicles, and the seats in some of them just can't hold the minifig. The pieces look good, plastic is good, but it seems like something is a bit miscallibrated.
Also - in my LEGO City Truck [the yellow one] yellow panels that build the trailer have different shades. Same things happen in a lot of new sets.
Even in a brand new set, some pieces interlock tightly, some just barely.
Maybe this has been normal before and I just don't remember because I didn't have my OCD in 1993 ;)
I don't like the texture of the new pieces. they feel cheap and flimsy. They used to hurt when you stepped on them.. now they do not... they can be a good thing and it could also be a bad thing.. yes, it is safer for us parents to pick up and not worry about hurting ourselves, but they seem to have cheaper.. (less dense)
One of the biggest things that people first talk about when they talk to other parents is how much it hurts to step on the darn things. Well with this design, you can't do that..
You first talk about how they hurt you.. the old ones.. but with their new design, they don't hurt as much... which is like talking about almost anything else from cars to washing machines.. you used to be able to fix them when they were durable goods, now they make them so they are better, faster, lighter, etc.. but when they break you have to throw them away..
Lego Bricks are not getting that way... yes they can break... they used to be nearly indestructible, a 300lb person could step on them and it would hurt... now they just bend.. then you need to bend them back.. which creates a small defect on them.
Don't know what I am talking about? Compare a Lego Medieval sword from 1990 to a sword made now.. it may be the same plastic but the atoms are not as dense as they used to be..
If I wanted to buy a third party brick replica I would, but I am want the old hard plastic bricks that last forever..
The same went for the Shuttle Adventure I have just invested in, some pieces seem loose compared to others, though again, only the experienced Lego-ist would notice. I do understand that they need to cut corners somewhere, but cutting corners on their top-of-line sets, is not cool.
Cracking. I too still have heaps of my 80's bricks along with memories of years of play - and infinite durability. Now that I am 36 and buying contemporary sets for my young ones, I am finding a surprising amount of bricks that have cracks (on sides that are stressed during clutching) only after minutes of play. I first thought it was afflicting white bricks, but I have since discovered (and quarantined) other colors. Sure LEGO will replace them (no questions), but I am shocked to see cracks in the first place.
LEGO's packaging dropped in quality in roughly the 2000-2003 ballpark. Loss of flip-up lids, and manuals that started getting crumpled. This has gotten steadily worse, although current sets (starting 2011) with 1000+ pieces have been fixed with shrink-wrapped instructions.
LEGO's coloring started experiencing SOME problems in 2004 with color variation, and has increasingly had problems since they switched to color-injection methods with their ABS molding, and since they started using Chinese production.
Tolerance standards have been spotted since roughly 2003 (older elements appear to be more consistent), but it's petty minor.
There's also been element cracking issues since around 2003, and getting increasingly pronounced in more recent years.
Chinese production has also introduced some tolerance and other issues (color translucency, plastic quality), although those are typically (we believe) limited to a small subset of specialty pieces in LEGO's current lineup (promo sets like Minifigures, magnets, keychains, minifig battlepacks, and a few specially molded elements in normal sets)
They're still way better than MegaBloks, but no, it's not your imagination-- LEGO's been dropping quality. Some of that's thanks to the change in upper management in 2005, knowingly changing their procedures so that quality is more likely to degrade, in an effort to keep the company from going out of business.
I believe elements from 1998 and before seem to be pretty top-notch, and probably even elements from 1999-2002.
As for yellowing thanks to sun exposure? You can fix that. Check out Retr0Bright:
Basically, LEGO has the chemical Bromine in it in order to reduce its flammability (safety issue for kids). And when UV light hits it, it has a chance to break its bonds and start to appear color-wise as a yellowy brown. Retr0Bright is a chemical compound you can make that helps to reverse the process (re-bond the Bromine correctly to the plastic, not to itself), with the help of MORE exposure to UV light.
Move your factories to the U.S.A we will work for cheap labor...we need jobs..so we can buy more lego bricks..
I DO NOT SUPPORT CHINA PRODUCTS. IT takes away jobs and makes everything cheaper.. LEGO YOU JUST LOT ANOTHER ONE.. ME..
In terms of quality, the worst set that I have is 3181 Passenger Plane. There is basically no "clutch force" on the seats and several other parts, minifigs are rather loose, color differences, some parts barely fit into the gaps intended for them.
I observed same problems in my 3221 LEGO City Truck - loose caps, loose seats, one minifig has loose hand, in some place you have to bend the construction to put everything together.
And yes - Minifigures Series 1 are quite cheap.
I came as far as thinking that I've bought some fakes or lower quality sets sold to the market chains since I bought both sets, at the same day, same sale in an Auchan market [large european chain] where they were really cheap [below MSRP, around price that you'd get on the wholesale market]. But then again, you can get them at similar prices in other places and I wouldn't suspect a large corporation selling counterfeit products and it would be hard to believe that TLG has been secretely sorting and selling lower quality products.
Sets that I've bought recently, especially 3366 [Satellite Launch Pad], 2516 [Ninja Training Outpost] seem pretty solid, but still I think the red bricks look cheaper than "ong time ago". Also, I don't remember LEGO pieces having visible mould injection marks back then.
But, my Dark Ages lasted quite a bit of time - since 1997 [when I was 13] to 2009.
I had massive interest in LEGO but my collection hasn't been large. I used to turn every problem into a challenge or a story, so if my minifig had a loose arms or was missing a leg, it didn't bother me that much.
Now I'm an AFOL and probably expect too much ;)
I can also recall numerous helmets and hairpieces (Qui-Gon's hairpiece from 1999 was the worst) which did not stay attached to the stud on the top of heads.
Now, given modern CAD software and greater precision in computer-mechanized manufactory processes the fact that there are still problems with piece quality points not to a greater failure in production but rather in design.
Biggest failure I have is a boatload of battle droids that won't stand up. The joint between torso and legs is so sloppy they fall over. They weren't like that when I got them, and they have been display pieces, so they aren't worn out from play.
When I contacted them, I told them that I can't say whether it was like that out of the box or whether it happened from play, but either way if the piece deforms after 1 week that is a problem (and since that is the only one out of 20+ that has done that in 4 months, I think there was a fault in the piece not in the way my child was playing with it.
I see a lot of mold marks. I have also noticed translucent pieces that have swirly patterns in them, cloudiness.
Even solid colored pieces. My R2-Q2 minifig from 7915 Imperial V-Wing has several visible flaws. Looks crappy. Fortunately it is the back side.
But I have had damaged/bent/missing instructions in more recent sets and this never happened when I was collecting as a child (and that was in the late 1990s and early 2000s). I also have recently missing pieces in brand new sets which had not happened to me before.
Lego is great about dealing with these issues, I've found their customer service to be excellent and generally pretty fast, but it annoys me that I have to deal with such issues in the first place. It seems awfully strange that my many sets from when I was younger were problem free and now suddenly these things happen when I begin collecting. Quality must be going down and I am probably lucky not to have experienced more issues than I already have.
Whatever the reason, This makes it very difficult to replace Roofing slops with new ones if the texture is different than the older sets
Sorry for the digression, I couldn't let that pass without comment. I agree, the quality on your R2-Q2 is shocking. I haven't opened mine yet so don't know if it suffers from the same issue.
After some 20+ years, I've only found one white 1x1 brick that's cracked. Is it luck? I don't know.
I've seen photos on Flicker where someone compared a Toy Story Alien made in Europe and with one made in China and there was indeed a noticable difference of quality, notitably with the print job.
The other production problem I have seen is a few air bubbles in some of the blue transluscent rods in the superheroes sets.
And yes, I have air bubbles in the few dozen lightsabers and in a variety of colors, so that is a common defect.
Things I thought I might have been imagining, which apparently I'm not:
- Bricks feel different. Not sure if they feel more flimsy, plasticky, or what. Just different. They sound different, too.
- The surface on the smooth bricks isn't consistent. Kinda like part has been roughened up with sandpaper or something.
As far as manufacturing in China is concerned, it's a mixed bag. It's necessary to be exact with specifications. Anything unspecified details will be at the discretion of the manufacturing plant and even then, regular inspections/increased QC would likely be required.
The way I see it, though, is if Lego is this expensive today with offshore manufacturing, I'd hate to see how expensive it would be if it were produced exclusively onshore.
Which is possible I suppose. :)
It's not clear if that was due to legal regulation, prohibitive costs, or some other factor, but we do know that the ABS is different. The molds themselves are (in many cases) the same molds that are used in Denmark. However, there are some duplicate molds that have been made for Chinese manufacturing.
The conditions and QC are probably the same, but bear in mind that QC probably changed quite a lot in roughly 2006-2007 (before Chinese manufacturing was established). Essentially, Danish production had a very well defined and practiced supply and production chain that was always VERY well QC'd. And when Jorgen took over as CEO in late 2005, he intentionally made many changes to the production/supply chain that would make it more efficient, despite reductions in quality. Hence, one might guess that the Chinese QC process simply isn't as experienced as that in Denmark, despite (most likely) having very similar, if not identical procedures. I'm not sure when the trend began, but certainly there are references to the holes in hobbyist discussions online as early as 1997. So, at least since then!
And this one you'll notice no holes..
So that is a difference but, I'm not sure when that changed. New sets have these but the quality seems fine. But the 4996 Creator set, the yellow bricks while they aren't bad, just feel cheap, and they don't have the clutch power of normal or current LEGO sets. Just something I noticed when building 4996 recently.
So, do you think I'm correct about the 80's, 2x bricks having holes, or was there ever a time when the 2x bricks were solid?