Lego Isn’t Just for Kids. Here’s How to Become an Adult Lego Master.

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.

  • Variations of AFOLSome variations include TFOL (Adult Female Fan of Lego), AFFOL (Adult Female Fan of Lego), GayFOL or GayFOL.
  • Alternate buildThis set of instructions allows you to create something completely different using only one set. I’ve yet to open my new Dinosaur Fossils 21320, but I plan to skip the included instructions and go straight to this incredible dragon skeleton created by user JanotechnicThe cost of the how-to PDF is just $8
  • Illegal construction This refers to forcing Lego pieces together in ways they’re not intentionally designed to fit, like wedging a tile between studs so that one stands perpendicular to the other. I thought so. SupposedGet creative!
  • LUG: This is the acronym for Lego User Group—meaning a bunch of AFOLs (a bucket of AFOLs? A drawerful (or collection of AFOLs). They work together to build a community.
  • LAN: This stands for Lego Ambassador Network. LAN is a division of Lego Group that facilitates communication among the company and AFOLs around world. It’s essentially a corporate appreciation program that you have to apply for, but there is no financial compensation, just boasting rights. Acceptance into LAN ranks means that you are in one of the following categories.
  • RLUG: This stands for Recognized Lego User Group—basically a LUG, but, like, official.
  • RLOC:This acronym stands for Recognized Lego Online Community. This is a RLUG that only exists online. It offers discussion groups and forums for like-minded individuals from all walks of life. Due to social distancing during pandemic, many RLUGs were forced into becoming RLOCs.
  • RLFM:This is Recognized LEGO Fan Media. If you’ve got a social media account, blog, or website dedicated to your love of Lego, becoming an RLFM helps increase your visibility and provides perks, like early press releases and free sets to review. Although there is no financial compensation, anyone can separately apply to become part of Lego’s affiliate revenue program.
  • MOC:This is the acronym for My Own Creation. It is a unique construction. And it’s pronounced “mock,”I was gently informed after I had said it that I had actually said it “Em-Oh-See”I interviewed him the third and final times. Many AFOLs provide instructions for their MOCs in PDF format and a parts list so anyone can build them. These are some of the most popular places to buy plans for original builds. Rebrickable, MocsMarket, The Brothers Brick. Fans can vote for MOC submissions to receive the ultimate reward. Lego IdeasThe Lego Group will then produce your creation. These beautiful Grand Pianos, as well as a Medieval Blacksmith, are yours to play.
  • SigFig: This refers to the personal Lego minifigures used as avatars by many AFOLs.
  • Ship in a bottle 92177, designed by Wirecutter’s Connor Grossman.

    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)..

    Building community

    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.”

    Lego Flower Bouquet 10280, designed by Wirecutter’s Annam Swanson.

    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.

    Wirecutter
    Wirecutter

    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.

    Trans pride-themed storage box designed to house hormone replacement therapy products. It was created in part by an AFOL who posts beneath @legoactivism. Photo by Eli Dinh

    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).

  • Lego.com:Start at the source. And if you become a member of the free VIP program, you can rack up points via shopping and no-cost options—like taking surveys and sharing social media posts—to gain access to perks like free seasonal/promotional sets, discounts, Legoland tickets, and more. If a hard-to-find set that’s still in production is out of stock on the site, enter your zip code to see if a Lego store near you has one. Contact the store to reserve the set. (But it will be kept by the store for only one day. YouTuber TD BricksHere are some great ways to do it. Maximize Pick-A-Brick wall.
  • Retailers both local and large-scale: WalmartAnd TargetThey are often well-stocked. Target, for example, offers gift cards when you spend a certain amount. But they’re not the only big-box games in town. If you’re on the hunt for a hard-to-find set that’s still in circulation, like a Star Wars Advent calendar on November 30, be sure to also check outlets like Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, and Kohl’s, as well as local independent toy and comics stores. You never know what you might find.
  • Bricklink:The navigation is not intuitive, and the prices are often just like those on eBay. But keep digging. I found a 2014 Sandcrawler 7559 that was unopened and at its original retail price.
  • Ebay: Retired and current-yet-hard-to-find sets are often listed on eBay as “Buy Now”Scalper sellers offer absurdly high prices for scalpers’ offerings. You can still find deals by going to a bloodthirsty, old-fashioned auction. Most folks know this trick: Place your high bid at a slightly random amount of cents above what you’re willing to pay. If someone else’s max bid is $135.50, your $136.78 will win, but be prepared to monitor the final seconds closely. Also remember to exercise restraint; another chance will arrive, so don’t get so caught up that your win feels like a loss because you paid significantly more than you’d planned. If you’re bidding on a used set, read the description closely to make sure it’s complete, and check up on the seller’s reviews. Make sure you clean it after your order arrives.
  • Brick Owl: Although it is smaller than Bricklink’s, this online marketplace can still prove useful for rare and comparison shopping.
  • Bricks and Minifigs: Lego MastersBoone Langston was a finalist and purchased his first bag of Lego bricks from one these brick-and–mortar shops. These brick-and mortar shops are used as meeting places by many LUGs and RLUGs.
  • Conventions: Large-scale gatherings were halted during the pandemic. Normal times are good to hold many conventions, where AFOLs will be able to show off their MOCs and Lego designers can be met by fans. These are the largest gatherings BrickworldAnd BrickUniverseBoth cities host large-scale conventions and smaller regional events. BrickConSeattle Any of these locations is available. TheBrickBlogger.com notes that you’ll find a wider selection of Lego products for sale from vendors on the first day. But you’re likely to find better deals on the last day, when booths are packing up and looking to unload stock.
  • Bulk purchase of loose bricks Check the usual suspects, like eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, yard sales, swap meets, thrift stores, and nieces and nephews hitting junior high (unless they’re TFOLs). A mixed lot that is not sorted can run up to $1 per pound. Nathan Masters, a Lego enthusiast, wrote a blog entry about 2020. Brickset.comHe calculated the cost of his personal purchases. Determine the value of loose Lego parts per pound. It can be difficult to estimate, he admits. “The incredible variation of Lego pieces makes it hard to nail down a decent average for how many pieces will be in any given pound of Lego,”He wrote. “Accounting for potential off-brand and random toys mixed in with the rest makes it nearly impossible to set a standard rate.”
  • 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.

    Subscription services

    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.

    BFOLS = Beatles fans who love Lego? Yellow Submarine 21306, built by Erik Erickson, Wirecutter senior engineer manger.

    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.



    Lego Isn’t Just for Kids. Here’s How to Become an Adult Lego Master.

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