Legos were a major part of my childhood. My brothers and I got a fair number of lego sets, growing up, and I loved it. I loved playing legos. I loved building things with them. I would create castles and have the brave soldiers defend themselves against hordes of bad-guys. I would create spaceships and run through the house as my ship would zoom through space, dodging enemy fire and asteroids. I built a dragon that (I thought) was on a massive scale. I built a grey-and-black version of the Sea Duck, a plane from the Disney show Tale-Spin. I made a castle tower that was 33 inches high (yes, I measured it)!
I played legos with my siblings and with friends. We had epic battles, heroic quests, and death-defying stunts. It was awesome.
Except the part about loosing pieces. It’s a sad but important part of the lego life–a given set only has a certain lifetime before the missing pieces make it impossible to rebuild the original set. Being someone that really hangs on to things (much more so than any reasonable man should), I really struggled with that. My earliest set that I can remember was the “Black Falcon’s Fortress.” Oh, how I loved that set! Pretty much from the moment that the remains of that set went into the general bin of legos, I idolized the time when the castle was complete! Whenever I played with castle legos (and I got a lot of much cooler castle sets over the years), I would typically imagine that the lego guys I was playing with were secretly Black Falcon men, waiting for their opportunity to return to their former glory and rebuild their castle!
But even as a kid, I did have to say, the Black Monarchs castle in particular was pretty. darn. awesome.
So, when I got married and Mom was de-junking her house, I was more than delighted to take the bin of legos with me. My kids are getting into the age where they can really enjoy legos as well, and in the last year or so especially, we’ve had a lot of fun.
Recently, some of my brothers were talking about the good old days, and how awesome those lego sets were. I realized just how much of a treasure I had gotten by getting that lego bin–my brothers had enjoyed those legos as much as I had; and that got me thinking…
So I did a little digging, and what I found got me pretty excited. So I did some more digging and research, and that got me even more excited.
You can probably guess where this is going. It’s about to get pretty nerdtastic…
I found the site brickset.com, which you can use to keep an inventory of sets that you own. Every set lego made (so far as I know) is listed on that site. I was able to pick out the sets that I remembered, and even guess a few based on the old lego pieces we had in the bin (Having organized the legos fully into screw containers at least twice–yes, just like the dad in the Lego Movie; stop laughing–I was relatively familiar with what odd lego pieces I had).
The other cool thing about brickset was that it also had the parts inventory for each set. So I could print out the parts list for any given set, and then separate those pieces out.
Now the other trick was getting the missing pieces, which there were bound to be a decent number (we’re talking decades of collecting, folks; back to some of the earliest sets). For that I quickly found what has become one of my most favorite sites ever–bricklink.com.
It’s got tons of controls, knobs and doo-dads.
And it is universally regarded as the best place for buying used legos. Thousands of sellers are connected to that site, and the site’s dozens of gizmos and text fields and buttons give you some really cool ways to search, build wish lists, and match up what you’re looking for with the seller that most closely matches what you’re looking for. For used legos, it is Google, E-bay, and Amazon combined.
The last couple sites I ended up making good use of are brickinstructions.com for getting instructions to any set I wanted, and also bricks.stackexchange.com, a lego Q&A site where I got some good info on gluing some pieces together (Apparently one of my kids jumped on a raised base plate somewhere along the line…).
Given that, I decided I would go on with my dastardly plan. I was going to rebuild and re-gift some of my brothers’ sets back to them. And in doing so I could quite easily fulfill my childhood dream and rebuild some of my own sets as well!
Of course it started out relatively small, and grew to be much bigger than I had realized. But I had so. much. fun. putting all those old sets together. Of course it was extremely nostalgic, but there was almost a sense of awe as I built sets that were older than I was. OK, that sounded a little too cheesy, and perhaps just a little freaky. But it was really, really cool.
I was absolutely fascinated to see how as the sets progressed through the years there was a clear evolution of how sets are built–what elements go into a castle/spaceship and the ratio of “model” vs “toy” in each set.
The King’s Castle really is very impressive. It’s rather forbidding and austere.
The Black Falcon’s fortress was one of my earliest sets.
The shield and colors are still my favorite
But this guy is pretty darn cool, too.
The Black Monarch’s Castle was my personal favorite.
I really like how they did the corner towers
The Forestmen’s River Fortress was a really fun set. I loved how the dungeon was in the river…
And the Eldorado fortress had cannons that would really shoot legos! Not too mention the awesome cutlases.
The Fire-breathing fortress came with the first lego dragon, and the knight’s cape and helmet were sooo cool! Even the horse has some really cool head-gear.
I was surprised at how differently the Galaxy Explorer was built and designed.
But the cargo bay (with a ramp) was a pretty neat idea.
And I remember how much we loved the jetpacks!
My childhood spaceship was the Renegade
Like the Galaxy Explorer, it had a cargo hold and a small car to fit inside it.
The Dragster’s rear wheels have a differential
And we loved playing with the “Giant” lego guy that came with the Arctic Helicopter.
“Benny’s Sapceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP” is probably the coolest space ship ever.
Three awesome spaceships.
Lots and lots of really cool legos. These sets won’t last long, but they will continue to be the best toy ever for a lot of years.