I am part of an underground society. You can find us in all walks of life. We have our own language and acronyms and gather together both online and in the real-world.
Let’s just get this out in the open. I’m an AFOL, an Adult Fan Of Lego. (I told you we have our own acronyms) Many of us keep quiet for fear of ridicule, after all we’re fully grown adults playing with a children’s toy, right?
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” First Corinthians
My origin story
I had a fair bit of LEGO when I was growing up, as did all of my brothers. I expect you did too. I mostly had classic space sets, town sets and castle sets. As I got a bit older I graduated to Technic and then I suppose my interest must have waned. And then I left home and life happened and I forgot all about LEGO.
Then I watched the LEGO movie. I thought it was a great film; entertaining, but it had a subtle message that really spoke to me as a relatively new parent. Nothing immediately changed after that but it did re-ignite my interest in LEGO and I went out and bought 70809 Lord Business’ Evil Lair. My son started to get interested in LEGO so we started buying him some sets and inevitably he wanted my help to start with so we would build his sets together. Now my daughter has also started showing an interest in LEGO too so it’s now becoming something we all enjoy and it gives me the chance to spend quality time with my children.
There was a massive display area of models (or MOCs1 as they are called in the AFOL world) that people from around the world had built. It was hugely inspiring and is primarily responsible for triggering full scale obsession.
It’s where I found out that there were not just one, but two magazines in the UK dedicated to LEGO.Blocks and Bricks. Bricks, in particular, is very much geared to the adult market and has a separate quarterly Bricks Culture magazine which features in-depth articles on LEGO-related subjects. (I subscribed).
There were mini figure collectors who had collected thousands of minifigs and I found out there was a whole mini figure customisation market out there, e.g. Minifigs.me – I bought the crew of Serenity.
Also in attendance was a charity, Fairy Bricks, dedicated to supplying LEGO to children who are in hospital. And since then, through the magazines, I found out about other people like Mental Blocks who are using LEGO to help mental health patients. I found these community projects very uplifting.
I came away from the show feeling very invigorated – and with 76042 SHIELD Helicarrier.
And the building begins
I started to build my collection of bricks by buying new sets, and realising this was starting to become an expensive hobby I returned home to my parents house and found my parents had kept much of mine and my brothers’ LEGO sets so I’ve been gradually rebuilding those. Unsurprisingly there are broken and missing pieces, but never fear, as usual the internet comes to the rescue. There is a whole secondary LEGO market out there. There’s the obvious auction sites where people are selling their collections where you can pick up bulk sets of bricks, but there are also sites such as Bricklink and BrickOwl which cater to you finding the specific parts you need and connecting you with sellers who have those parts.
As you might be beginning to realise, there’s a wide variety of LEGO blogs, YouTube channels, Flickr groups and forums catering to many sub-genres along with sites to catalogue your collection. It’s something I’m only just scratching the surface of myself.
Oh, and then there’s the LEGO investment market. The LEGO Group are continually bringing out new sets, which inevitably means that they are retiring the old sets. There are many people out there who collect LEGO sets so this gives them a rarity value. Unopened LEGO sets can command a real premium. For example, the Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon which retailed for around $500 now costs around $3,500 on the secondary market. This means it’s actually worth buying LEGO as an investment as an alternative to the traditional stock market. Sites like BrickPicker specialise in this.
This brings us back to today, and I suppose I haven’t really answered the question — “why” yet.
For me, the process of following instructions is quite therapeutic and I find that I can get into a sort of focussed flow state. Then there is the creative aspect by building your own MOCs; looking for creative ways to use the LEGO parts to represent something that is recognisable. It really stimulates my creative juices and improves my problem solving skills. But above all, it’s just plain fun and I think that it’s important for us all to realise that playing is not an activity that should be reserved exclusively for children.
“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” C.S. Lewis
It’s ok to be childish sometimes, we all need to have fun and have a creative outlet in our lives so why not LEGO? Try it, you might like it — but beware, it’s addictive.
My Own Creations ↩