Like many Gen Xers, I rediscovered my childhood love of Lego when the company began releasing Star Wars–themed sets back in 1999.1 That specific licensing, combined with the soothing nature of building the sets, was a double dopamine hit of nostalgia for this ’80s kid. And from then on I’d pick up a couple of new releases each year for the memory trip.
Star Wars sets aside, I also loved anything with a spooky theme like the The Witcher 3000. Monster Fighters seriesThe Scooby-Doo line. I was a casual collection. I was a casual collector before the pandemic. After the sudden stop to eating out, shopping, and traveling, I had enough money for a collection that storage would not be a problem. Lego has a very high resale price so I convinced my self that every purchase was an investment as well as therapy all wrapped up in one beautiful, rattly box.
Over the past year, Lego boxes have accumulated in my house. This led to shame. But not because I was buying toys—I worried that I wasn’t being creative enough. Is this a reason to make me the villain? The Lego Movie? I am a grownup who gets annoyed when a child plays with my displays. I don’t have kids of my own, but I’ve already picked out a few “distraction sets” to hand off to my friends’ young’uns so they’ll stay away from the more-elaborate builds in my office.
I don’t want to be this person though, so I decided it was time to embrace the more-inclusive and imaginative side of my hobby. I set out to become a better AFOL—the official term for an Adult Fan of Lego—and along the way I discovered many more acronyms, like-minded communities, buying hacks, storage and resale tips, and even free software for virtual building. The information I gathered is not new to an experienced AFOL. But if, like me, you’ve found yourself falling deeper into the world of Lego, consider this a primer on how to build a better collection and make friends along the way. (But not! Lego Friends—those you have to buy.)
The Lego lexicon
Many acronyms are used in the AFOL community. During my research and interviews, I learned several terms I’d never heard before, and you’ll see several mentioned throughout this piece. This article will dive deeper into the language of Lego. GlossaryFind out more about these items Rainbow warriorsAnd greeblingThese are words I will use to describe my next craving for food after a gay pride parade.
Taking care of AFOL business
The Lego Group actively courts and caters to AFOLs, most publicly on Fox’s Lego MastersThis charming reality series features grown-ups competing to build elaborate themed buildings. The third season will debut on May 31, 2002, hosted by Will Arnett. And the company’s über-expensive offerings, like those in its Ultimate Collectors Series, are meant more for display than for play—models like the $700 USC Imperial Star Destroyer 75252 come boxed in premium packaging with more-sophisticated graphics. Starting in 2020, newer sets aimed at AFOLs will be marked 18+ on their boxes. It’s a smart business move that removes any stigma that an adult might feel and makes the sets more appealing to children under 18. But I was curious about Lego’s official reasoning, and I reached out to ask about the new rating.
“The idea behind what we call this adult strategy is to just communicate to adults that it’s okay to like Lego, that it’s still fun,”Carl Merriam, a Lego senior designer. In an interviu, he spoke to me. He’s responsible for sets like the NASA Apollo Saturn V 92176 and Haunted House 10273. The 18+ label replaces Creator Expert branding. Merriam packed the final construction with clever Vintage Easter eggs (video)Millennials have grown to love characters from the and artifacts. Adventurers series, among other things. Many YouTubers have attempted to do the exact same. Seek them out (video)..
When I started searching for fellow AFOLs I was nervous. I was afraid I would discover a snarky acronym that would describe instruction-book snobs like me, such as BAFOL (Boring adult Lego fan). I was relieved. Lego MastersFinalist Boone Langston told me in an interview that I’m considered a “purist”—a term that also applies to fans who use only official Lego parts for their original builds (as opposed to, say, painting a new face on a minifigure or custom-making a cloth cape).
Langston (who makes money from his YouTube channel by selling merch and his own MOCs) was also quick to point out that there’s a wide spectrum of AFOLs, with folks on one end “who only build sets and display them and keep them forever, and on the other end, people who haven’t built a set in years and only build their own creations. I think most people are sort of in this bell curve in between.”
YouTube’s online AFOL community is brimming with heavy hitters, especially YouTubers like JangBricks, Beyond the Brick, Brick Builder, MandR Productions. Their combined channel views reach millions while their subscribers reach millions. The content is both informative and entertaining. But it doesn’t take long to notice that the scene is overwhelmingly male.
I was interested in finding more channels with unique POVs. And I also wanted to find ones where a newbie AFOL might have an easier time making friends because the audiences are smaller—channels where someone has a better chance of getting a conversation going with the host or other fans within the comments sections and during livestreams. I prefer one channel to a woman who continues by EmmasaurusA Lego fan did a deep mathematical dive to find the answer. How much more consumers pay for each brick (video).For licensed Lego sets such a MarvelAnd Star Wars, versus for Lego’s own intellectual property, such as NinjagoAnd City. Her video on the subject is filled with graphs and charts, and the end results aren’t too surprising—Lego’s own IP sets are less expensive. It’s worth watching her video to see her method.
I spoke with another new AFOL YouTuber named Chinna Campbell, who goes by CC, to get a sense of what it’s like trying to make a mark with her Lego channel, Cafe CornerThis is a saturated industry. (Campbell makes some extra money on Amazon and Zavvi affiliate links.) “There haven’t been a lot of women in the space,”It was her way of saying it. “But I think now things are changing and people have been really supportive of that. I have tried to bring up some, not controversial topics, but topics I feel like people are kind of skirting around.”
LAN explained to her that she started her channel to show that Lego can be loved by everyone, regardless of race or gender. “I would say that there’s a severe lack of forward facing Black or people of color creators,”She explained that she was talking about YouTube users who speak to the camera and not stop-motion Lego structures.
Campbell struggled to find a SigFig that she liked until a friend made one. “Lego doesn’t really produce flesh-toned minifigures outside of licensed themes,”she Explained in one video. “This is not a Lego issue, it’s more of a Hollywood issue. There’s not a lot of Black and Brown actors that are leading films, and thus being represented in Lego sets for me. I’m not saying ‘down with the yellow minifig.’”She creates videos about how to build custom minifigs using original Lego parts in support of BIPOC heroes such as IronheartAnd America Chavez.
One of Campbell’s suggestions to help Lego make fans feel more included is for the company to begin making different skin tones available as loose parts at the Lego Stores’s Make a Mini tower. Although her point about Hollywood representation being a large component of the SigFig diversity problem is well taken, And one seemingly easy course correction—at least within the Lego Star Wars line—would involve many of the Minifig characters with no nameThese are not the works of one actor. These minifigs can be fitted with helmets that reveal human faces. These 228 extras were on hand when the story was published June 2021.2In June 2021, I only found five people with dark skin, two First Order crew members and a Fleet Engineer/Gunner.
But there’s been a lot of positive change in a very short time. Lego has released 14 Star Wars minifigs, all in different sets, under the same no name designation as May 2022. Six of them have been released. “light nougat” heads (the company’s in-house lingo for a caucasion skin tone), and the other eight range across a spectrum of darker tones, placing diversity among the cast of no-name characters in the majority, and we were thrilled to see this rapid increase in representation.
I found support and like-minded people within the LGBTQ+ community by joining a private GayFOLs Facebook group. It has members from 41 countries. Minifig diversity is a popular topic of conversation and displayed in many of our posted MOOCs.
Lego my wallet
It all depends upon how much Lego you collect. Prices for UCS sets can go up to $800, and after-sales products can be more expensive once a build has been sold. As I was reporting this story, there was a rare Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series TIE Interceptor 7181 listed on Amazon for $1,899.99—and it didn’t come with the original box. There’s even a website, called BrickEconomy, that’s dedicated to the current and projected values of Lego sets. French police are also on the hunt for an International ring for Lego thieves.
Bricklink is the world’s largest secondary market for Lego, with more than 10,000 resale vendors in 70 countries. You’ll find sets old and new, loose bricks, sticker sheets, minifigs, vintage catalogs, and building instructions for both original Lego sets and MOCs. The business was Lego Group acquiredA move that was deemed possible in 2019 ControversialMany AFOLs interpreted the purchase as Lego and tried to make aftermarket profits. Some suggest that this site is merely an advertisement. goldmine for user data. The Lego Group’s stated goal is that the buy strengthens its relationship with AFOLs. Personally, I just hope it means Bricklink’s website will get a proper design overhaul, since its user interface is about as painful to navigate as walking barefoot across a hardwood floor littered with 2×4 bricks.
There are two main ways you can buy Lego (and sometimes a deal).
Masters did a thorough inventory of his previous purchases and found that loose Lego pieces cost between $3 and $10 per pound. A pound contains 300 to 600 pieces. This assumes that the bulk of the lot is made from genuine Lego pieces. Masters doesn’t reveal where he made his purchases, but a quick scan of eBay at the time of this writing showed higher prices, as well as the wild cost variations Masters mentioned. Two of the top-rated sellers had starkly different prices. One seller offered 10 pounds worth of clean, loose items. Lego pieces starting at $150($15 per Pound) or another offer $25 for one-pound bagsEach pound must contain a minimum of one minifig. All other things being equal, that means you’re paying a $10 premium for the minifig on the latter’s sale.
If you enjoy building sets and then taking them apart to store until the next build, the idea for a Netflix for bricks is appealing. Unfortunately, we’ve seen recent negative ReviewsInformation about customer service experiences with services like Netbricks.bizAnd TheMinifigClub.comBoth are not associated to the Lego Group.
Are Lego and other Lego products going to make you wealthy?
Collecting Lego sets is as easy as filling your wallet with money. I have mixed feelings regarding the possibility of selling mine. Morally, I don’t support price gouging. In my past, I have seen instances where an impulse purchase was able pay for some bills while working freelance. That said, I’d never list an item on eBay for a “buy now”Exorbitant price. I’ve had a lot of success with eBay auctions ending above what the site lists as the current trending average cost of my particular item, and I believe that establishing seller trust is key. Ask buyers to leave feedback specifically mentioning that the sets you sold them weren’t missing any pieces, once they had a chance to build them and see for themselves.
If you prefer a more altruistic path, consider donating your old Lego sets to the Lego Group’s RePlay program. Just box up the bricks and request a free shipping label—the program takes care of sorting and cleaning, and then it donates the bricks to organizations like Teach for America and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.
Sorting, cleaning, storage, and storage of your Lego collection
This article will show you how to loosen Lego pieces, removing pet hair, sticky mystery drops and finger grease. But once dry, what’s the best way to sort and store a collection? Here are some ideas for toys storage. Some advanced storage options will be needed by a busy AFOL who is working on a MOC.
Sorting your bricks
There are two main ways to sort loose Lego collections: by color or by by Category. It will always be personal preference. But everyone I spoke with, as well as most Lego experts online, agree that it’s helpful to decide which type of organization is right for you based on the size of your collection. Carl Merriam told me he thinks that with fewer than 5,000 pieces, it’s fine to sort by color before starting to divide into categories (meaning bricks, plates, tiles, and so forth). BrickArchitect.comIt is worth sorting out as many pieces as possible once you have 3,000 pieces. Collections of 10,000 pieces and up will likely benefit from separating pieces out into common parts—like Only bricks, plates, and tiles of varying colors—with a few broader categories. It is much easier to spot red bricks, 1×2 bricks, in a sea, of 1×2 bricks, of varying colors, than digging through a drawer or bin full of bricks of different sizes.
Once your collection has exceeded 50,000, you can begin to break down pieces into smaller categories. This can be done with a single-colored brick. Lego MastersBoone Langston was the finalist. He told me. “The way you sort should support the way your brain works.”BrickArchitect.com offers a detailed breakdown for each brick. Different methods to either get you started or help with reorganization, if your current method isn’t working. AFOLS weigh in with their impressive sorting systems and you should read the comments. Massive organizational flowchart.
Storing your bricks
How you store your Lego collection will depend on what you like and how much space you have. There’s no shortage of YouTubers showing off Massive storeroomsWith hundreds (builder) of small drawers or bins. Alice Finch’s tidy collection (video)It is incredible that there are so many pieces. “Some people just go and invest a ton of money into some big, really nice unified storage system, and that’s great and really works well for some,”Langston stated. “For me, I just can’t stand spending money on furniture when I could be spending money on more parts.”He loves the Sterilite 6-quart containers for $1 and the shelving units he builds or gets for free.
There are two common storage systems you’ll see in many AFOL and TFOL YouTube videos. For displaying built sets and MOCs, the modular shelving system such as the IKEA Kallax modular shelf is used. For loose pieces, plastic drawers like the Akro-Mils 44 drawer 10144 are a popular choice. Doug Mahoney, a senior staff writer, used the same model to store his hardware after his child had misplaced it for Lego storage. “The drawers are not connected to the frame in any way, and it’s really lightweight. If it tips over you’ve got drawers and their contents all over the floor.”Be careful. To help, you can place a small weight in one of the drawers at its bottom. And being able to pull a drawer all the way out is a plus when you’re rooting around for the right bricks. If you’re feeling extra-cautious, Furniture strapsThis model will be attached to the wall.
BrickArchitect.com offers Downloadable labels for free so you’ll know where everything is with a quick glance. The printouts can be used with all Brother label makers, including the Brother PT–D450, which was our runner-up choice for best label maker. (But, honestly, painter’s tape and a Sharpie work just as well.)
Building Lego without the bricks
I’ve been spending a lot of time with Studio, Bricklink’s free design program, which lets you create digital MOCs. The same shopping-cart function allows you to order the bricks needed to build a project in real time. You can also make your designs public using the same shopping cart function. It will automatically gather all the bricks. Apple users may receive a frightening error message when trying to download Studio. “can’t be opened because Apple cannot check it for malicious software.” Our privacy and security editor, Thorin Klosowski, says this is somewhat common for apps not sold in the Apple Store or ones that don’t come from major developers. This problem can be solved simply by pressing the control key and then opening your app.
Studio can be a bit confusing. But overall it’s incredibly easy to learn, even for someone like me, whose software knowledge begins and ends with Microsoft Word and some light dabbling in InDesign. You can have unlimited virtual bricks. This is more than what you would lose in tactile Lego experience. Studio is a great option for those on a tight budget who want to play with MOCs without spending a lot.
Sustainability and the future Lego
The Lego Group is a Member of Set a goal (PDF).All packaging must become sustainable by 2025. Bricks must also be made from sustainable materials before 2030. Some of its plant-based products (polyethylene derived from sugarcane) are already in sets such the Botanical CollectionLego Ideas Tree House. While we love the initiative it can be difficult verifying and tracking these corporate vows. Lego Group releases an annual Progress report to show the work it’s doing. This isn’t unusual for large corporations. But Lego’s goals have been approved by the nonprofit Science-Based TargetsThis program helps companies to create science-based pathways that reduce greenhouse gases emissions. I believe that the future Lego build will bring about a better world. Or at the very minimum, to help a little.
Favorite retired builds and hard-to find builds from some WAFOLs (Wirecutter Adult Lego Fans).
This story provides more information on the Lego sets you can see.
Lego Bonsai Tree 10281
Lego Nintendo Entertainment System 71374
Lego Scooby-Doo The Mystery Machine 75902
Lego Winnie the Pooh 21326
Lego Ghostbusters Ecto-1 10274
Lego Ghostbusters Peter Venkman, Slimer 41622
Stay Puft Marshmallow Man MOC by Rebrickable.com
Lego The Louvre 21024
Iron Giant MOC by buildbetterbricks.com
Rebrickable.com – The Princess Bride Skyline MOC
Lego Imperial Probe Droid 75306
Lego Assembly Square 10255
Lego Detective’s Office 10246
Lego Bookshop 10270
Lego 1989 Batmobile 76139
Lego Tree House 21318
Lego Corner Garage 10264
Lego Voltron 21311
Lego Haunted House 10273
Lego 1989 Batwing 76161
Lego Sandcrawler 75059
Lego Downtown Diner 10260
Lego Microscale Brand Store 40505
Lego Hogwarts castle equipped with an aftermarket light kit
Lego Sesame Street 21324
Lego Star Wars Darth Vader’s Castle 75251
Lego Flower Bouquet 10280
Lego Ship in A Bottle 92177
Lego Yellow Submarine 21306
1. Although Lego uses all caps to refer directly to itself, this is not the house design of Wirecutter. Our house style recognizes this. “Legos”Pluralization is wrong. That’s a studded hill I’m willing to die on.
2. This total does not include yellow minifigures, unnamed clone troopers (since they’re cloned from a named character), or Imperial Guards (because, to date, Lego has not made a minifig of one with anything other than a black featureless head under the helmet). If there are other versions with human faces, I included featureless heads from unnamed human minifigs (like Stormtroopers). There are 16 minifigs that fall into this category, two of which have featureless brown heads instead of black, which suggests that skin-tone variation is a possibility even when Lego doesn’t include a face under a helmet.