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.                   

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