Monday, January 23, 2012

Sourcing Craziness!

Well, the success of my Skull's Eye Project had an unexpected consequence.  You see almost all of the Lego sets that I never got as a kid were very popular.  As I wrote about the Skull's Eye, I am not the only kid who longed for that ship and then grew into a gainfully employed adult.  The problem is that many of the sets I missed and have been on the lookout for ever since were very popular and therefore fetch a large price on any of the after market sites.  As much as I love Legos, even I have my limits as to how much I am willing to pay for them, and many of those sets are just too expensive.  But in sourcing the Skull's Eye and making my own sails I was able to dramatically reduce the cost (when adjusting for inflation, I got mine for less than the original MSRP) of that set.  And now I must confess I have gone a little bit "sourcing" crazy. 

Since completing that last project I have gone on to source and make the sails for the remaining 5 ships at I was missing.  Pictured from left to right below are 6289 Redbeard Runner from 1996, 6274 Carribean Clipper from 1989, 6271 Imperial Flagship from 1992, 6268 Rennegade Runner from 1993 and finally the (very ugly) 6250 Crossbone Clipper from 1996.

All of those sails are hand made, you would not have been
able to tell if I had not told you!

I have also gone back and done 6090 Royal Knight's Castle from 1995.  Picture below are me and my budding Lego maniac on Christmas morning putting the finishing touches on it (I made the castle my Christmas present, how thrifty of me no?)  It has been glorious! 

All of these sets were completed for at or less their original MSRP not adjusting for inflation, not bad, not bad at all!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Golden Age of Lego

If you hang around AFOLs for any length of time inevitably the “golden age of Lego” will become the topic of discussion (or more likely debate).  Google this phrase and you will find that pretty much every 3-5 year stretch from Lego’s inception until today is described as the golden age of Lego by somebody.  I will save you the trouble of sifting through all the opinions and tell you that it was from 1993-1996 but my reasoning for that will have to wait for a later post. 

A set from what I consider the Golden Age of Lego: 1995's Royal Knight's Castle.
Just got this one for Christmas this year!  I sourced the parts on
What struck me as I read the different opinions on when Lego’s best work was done was that though the timeframe differed the words used to describe them did not.  Over and over I read how such and such a set was the one that they never got, or how much fun the author and his friends had with a particular set or theme.  Stories of ecstasy on Christmas morning when the coveted set was finally theirs or the bemoaning of that one treasure that got away.  I suppose any hobby or passion is like this, you hear the same themes from avid fishermen, role-players, etc.  The thing that stood out to me more than any other, however, was the consistency of the author’s age as it related to their golden age definition.  Universally it was somewhere in the range of when they were 7-12 years of age.  And I must confess I am guilty as charged because I was 9-12 during what I consider the golden age. 

What makes a series of years the golden age?  It appears that it has less to do with Lego’s product line and more to do with a magic set of years in which the joys of childhood combine with the wonder of these plastic bricks to create hours of play that are the source of numerous happy memories.  My mom and I still reminisce about her quest to get me Fort Legoredo in 1996.

One of the greatest sets from The Golden Age of Lego
My brother sister and I spent hours together, despite our age difference, combing the sea floor with the Aquanauts.  The sets of that time are intertwined with our stories as people. 

As I have gotten older my Lego collection has expanded and Lego’s product line has risen and fallen in terms of excellene.  Yet no matter how fantastic the sets are, the ones that I add to complete the collection or because I think they are well done cannot compete with the ones which have logged hours of play.  And even more so I think it is true of the ones that we longed for and imagined being able to play with during those years but never got the chance to.  The big example for me is 1993’s Central Precinct HQ (no. 6398) and 2008’s Police Headquarters (no. 7744). 

The Central Precinct HQ was the one I longed for and never go during my childhood.  I purchased the Police Headquarters as an adult and must confess that though it is arguably a better set in many ways I would trade it in a heartbeat for that earlier set which stands larger-than-life-better in my eyes.  Why?  Not due to a scientific reason but because I spent hours imagining having The Central Precinct HQ in the middle of my town.  Longing truly does make the heart grow fonder. 

So, was there a Lego Golden Age?  Yes (it was 1993-1996), but you will likely hear, should you ask an AFOL, a variety of different answers as to when it was.                   

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oh My, Oh My, Oh My, Dinosaurs!!!!

I don’t mess with what works; I find the thing I like or the way I like to do things and then don’t change it.  More than any of my other traits I think this is the one which has most flabbergasted my far more adventerous wife.  She loves that Baskin Robins has 32 flavors that change on a regular basis.  Me?  I have not eaten any type of ice cream other than cookie dough since I was 11 (I kid you not, I have a 16 year unbroken streak!).  She hates eating the same meal twice in a month.  Before marrying her I had 5 meals that I rotated through on a schedule.  And I have been this way since I was a kid because growing up while my friends rotated through different interests I stuck to one: Legos.  My consistency is evident on a graph I once made of the number of Legos I have from each year since 1984.  As my age and correspondingly my ability to make more money increased, so did my level of Lego acquisition (and yes I know it is incredibly nerdy to have made a graph of my Lego consumption per year, my wife found that amusing as well!) with one glaring exception: 1993. 

For that year I took my one and only detour out of the world of the plastic brick and into that of another toy.  That was the year that something came along which had a strong enough appeal to redirect my toy purchasing money and birthday present requests away from Legos and to relocate my play hours from the Lego table in my room to a patch of dirt in my backyard.  What was this swirling vortex I found myself caught up in?  Two words: Jurassic Park. 

1993 saw the coming of the prehistoric blockbuster and with it a slew of toys (anyone else remember the Jungle Explorer?  Capture Copter?) and action figures.  I and a friend from across the street were both captured by the concept of humans versus dinosaurs and together we set out to get as many of the toys as we could, ultimately building our own action figure scale Jurassic Park fort to house them on that patch of dirt in my backyard (sorry about the dead grass dad!).  It was a glorious and delightful year and stands to this day as the only major hiatus I have taken from collecting Legos. 

So you can all imagine my delight when I first caught a glimpse of the new Dino theme which was just released.  In fact it seems that I may not have been the only person smitten by those toys as the new line from Lego contains several sets that bear an almost eerie resemblance to those toys from my childhood. 

1993 Bush Devil Tracker a Jeep type vehicle with a missle launcher and sling
... looks familiar...

2012 Raptor Chase a jeep type vehicle with a missle launcher and sling...

The 1993 Capture Copter, a giant helicopter that shoots missles and captures dinosaurs!
Huh... Where have I seen that recently?

2012 T-Rex Hunter

Wow!  Totally cool a fenced in compound with a command center and lab!
That would make a great Lego set I thought to myself back in 1993...

2012 Dino Defense HQ, wow I was right!
Perhaps someone much like me grew up to become a designer over at The Lego Company?  Who knows…  What I do know is that these sets would have been the must have obsession for me had they come out during my childhood and so, for the sake of consistency, it is my duty to make sure a sampling of them make it into my collection.  And if that sounds like a thinly veiled excuse to buy more Legos… well who am I to argue!     

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Perfecting 4184 The Black Pearl

When the first images of this set appeared the response from the AFOL community was largely disappointment bordering on disgust. 

I personally felt, and still feel, that this was unfair.  To Lego's credit, with the parameters they had to operate in, I thought they did a pretty good job.  There is a front deck (unlike the Brickbeard's Bounty) and the rear cabin is enclosed (unlike the Queen Anne's Revenge).  There are three masts and the center one has three sails (unlike any of the older ships).  On top of that you get some exclusive minifigures, if that floats your boat (pun completely intended) or could get it even cheaper if you were willing to pass on them (I bought mine on Bricklink for 40% off sans figs).  Furthermore, if you take into account inflation this set costs the same amount in today's dollars as the original good guy boat: 1989's Caribbean Clipper. 

Put those two side by side and I wager you will begin to think that maybe the Pearl isn't so bad after all!  For the price you pay I think you get an excellent model.  Thank you your honor, I rest my case!

However, if you compare the Pearl to the ship as seen in the movies, or even the Lego video game, even I will admit that it is not at all a faithful recreation.  The cost of the exclusive parts for the minifigures and the pressure to maintain the $100 price point meant something had to give.  Accordingly, movie accuracy was sacrificed. 

So I set out to see if, without adding hull sections, I could make the model more movie accurate. Along the way I added a few details that I think all Lego ships should have and the result was fantastic.  Below are some pictures illustrating what I did. 

I completely redid the back.  I added more windows and changed their color as well as making the entire shape more accurate by cantalevering out the cabin and adding the sloped roof.  The ship in the movie also had decorative supports underneath the windows which I mimicked using minifigure megaphones.

I added a working mechanism for the anchor to the front, extended the deck, added stairs up to the deck and installed hatches to access the hold below which I sealed off. 

The middle section was finalized by adding a walkway from the front to the back which tied into the stairs that came as part of the original model.  You can also see the cantalevered windows in the back and the redone shape of the top deck.

Just like when I modified the Queen Anne's Revenge I also made instructions for how to do these modifications so I will be able to recreate them in the future.  Overall I really liked the improvements and felt that they make a great ship even better.