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The LEGO Encyclopedia Series....

IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
edited April 3 in Everything else LEGO
Well for those of you who were wondering what's new... and why I haven't posted much lately.

I've secretly been working with a publishing company on a 9 volume LEGO Encyclopedia series... from day 1 in 1949 to the present, involving all LEGO sets.  My unofficial online collectors guide was the framework to this series, and it will be coming out (volume by volume)... but unfortunately the first language translation is Chinese... but other languages are in the pipeline, including English.  The 6 LEGO set volumes will be about 450 pages each, and the 3 miscellaneous volumes (LEGO rare parts, LEGO wooden and early toys, LEGO retailer & display models) will be about 300-350 pages each.

The bad news is that I will be forced (very shortly) to stop selling my $29.95 online version, but the good news is that those who own (or shortly plan to buy) it  will get all of the 9 volumes worth of info in an expanded computer desktop online version, for free.  That $29.95 is a fraction of the hardcover cost.

Here are some volume covers....



  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 372
    Personally I can't wait.  This has sounded awesome from the monument you first started dropping hints.  The wooden and early toys sounds very interesting.  I'm sure what I know is just a drop in the bucket. 

    I basically know the reasons (at least from what you've hinted at), but I think it's disappointing where these are being released first.  It seems like any other market would make more sense, but given the alternative I guess it's all good.
  • MattPetersenMattPetersen Florida, USAMember Posts: 224
  • akunthitaakunthita USAMember Posts: 903
    Can't wait! This sounds very interesting!
  • masterX244masterX244 GermanyMember Posts: 384
    thx for the warning... ordered already earlier today :)
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    There will be about 150 LEGO sets in my guides that are not in the Billund Vault and LEGO collections.  Also I've been upgrading set images... and thanks to my European LEGO collector friends, have found some real stunning beauties!!  :-)

    One of the first 3 LEGO sets of 1949... the large 700/1 set... a beautiful image of Automatic Binding Bricks....

    And after the establishment of the LEGO Photography Department in 1959... this 1960-65 beauty... the very large 700/0 set.  And for reasons known only to TLG... the same 700/0 set but in a different box top (1960-61 only).

  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    Here's more info on the guide, from Marketplace... including a link...

    @LusiferSam... I agree that having China be first is not what one would expect.  But they wanted an all inclusive set of guides, and LEGO is sizzling hot in China right now (as are the counterfeits! :-(  ).  They are taking my English version and translating it to simplified Chinese.  It appears that the Chinese company has just about a monopoly on all LEGO published items for the Chinese market, they even translate Joe Meno's BrickJournal LEGO magazine.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    I just delivered Volume 3 (1980-95 LEGO Sets) for translation, and it contains one of the all time most interesting LEGO sets.  The 6661 Mobile TV Studio set that was introduced in 1989 in all countries.

    This set has 2 1x4x3 blue panels with "TV" printed on them.  Some collectors found this set (sealed) with panels inside that said "WDR" on them (it shows the "TV" imprint underneath, but the "WDR" in white stamped over it.

    I checked with the Billund Archives, and they checked with the German Marketing Department in Munich Germany.   They have no records on this set having anything unusual.

    Well further research revealed that "WDR" stands for West Deutsche Rundfunk" (or the Western German TV Station).  Apparently in 1990 they had their 25th anniversary... and somehow a WDR executive in their Cologne Germany HQ must have contacted an executive at TLG... who must have had these WDR sets made "under the table".  After all,  TLG is a privately owned business... and I'm sure that some LEGO things happen that are not reported to the Archives folks.

    So here's the likely scenario (as I posted this set with the small Town model sets, as well as LEGO promotional sets chapters)... someone asked TLG to produced perhaps several hundred promotional sets with WDR on them.  The 6661 boxes and instructions still said "TV", but "WDR" panels were included in the sealed inner polybag.  The boxes for the promotion had a special WDR seal attached (see image).

    So an "under the table" batch of these special 6661 sets were sent to Cologne Germany (bypassing the German Marketing folks)... and used in their 25th Anniversary promotion.  However... that wasn't the end of it.  Apparently a lot of extra WDR blue panels were produced at TLG... and rather than throw away the extras (TLG never threw anything away).... they used up the remaining WDR panels by putting them in European 6661 regular sets... so some collectors who busted the regular round LEGO seal on the box get a surprise when finding a sealed cellophane bag inside wth WDR on the panels.

    So TLG actually made 3 versions...

    1) Normal box 6661 with TV on panels.
    2) Normal box 6661 with WDR on panels.
    3) Special sealed WDR box 6661 with WDR panels.

    Versions 2 and 3 are still virtually unknown... but they are very valuable!!

    Just an example of surprising things that you'll find in my collectors guide... the online version, as well as the upcoming book version!  :-)

  • sid3windrsid3windr BelgiumMember Posts: 288
    This will be a problem. The series will be fighting for display/storage space and I'm already out because of all these plastic brick thingies... :O
  • SeanTheCollectorSeanTheCollector BirminghamMember Posts: 258
    If you already have an English version that you are handing over to Chinese publishers to translate, what is holding up getting an English version published? Have you given the Chinese publishers a period of world wide exclusivity? I would love to get my hands on these ASAP! :)
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie West Haven , CTMember Posts: 651
    I bought the current PDF version a couple of months ago and have found it to be a really valuable guide, worth every penny.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799

    If you already have an English version that you are handing over to Chinese publishers to translate, what is holding up getting an English version published? Have you given the Chinese publishers a period of world wide exclusivity? I would love to get my hands on these ASAP! :)

    I am doing this project in collaboration with an Englishman (who owns the company mentioned in this attached promo).  He deals mainly with Asian publishers.  The Chinese publisher (from Shanghai) does almost all of the LEGO books available to be translated to simplified Chinese... and took on this 9 volume hard cover project.  LEGO is sizzling hot in China right now, and with a middle class of 340 million people, the timing seemed right to start there.  The Chinese publisher only have the rights to the volumes in their country, not elsewhere.

    The first 3 volumes were delivered to them for translation.  Now I have something to show what is available to other publishers elsewhere, as I am finishing the other 6 volumes (about 2 1/2 volumes are just copy/paste from my online collectors guide).

    So as we speak, this guide is being marketed to publishers in other countries in Asia, as well as Europe and North America.  One publisher in Japan offered to do a 2 volume deal, but that was rejected, since it would involve thumb nail size images squeezed together in an abbreviated fashion.

    The nice thing about starting with an English language original set of volumes... it would be the fastest to market, since no translations will be necessary... just looking for the right publisher(s).  ;-)  In south Asia English is often the major language, especially in countries that were former British colonies.  So it could start in English in some of those countries, which are being marketed to, as well as Europe and North America.  But in Europe it could be marketed in other languages as well... just waiting to see if publishers are interested.

    Here is the promo that came out this week....

  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799

    sid3windr said:

    This will be a problem. The series will be fighting for display/storage space and I'm already out because of all these plastic brick thingies... :O

    What luck!!  :-)   The computer desktop version takes up zero space!!  :-D

    And you get free updates!  Some folks have moved to new computers, or (God forbid) they had computer virus's and had to wipe their hard drive clean.   I send out free re-sends of the download instructions for those that have issues like that!!  ;-)
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    edited April 6
    Here's a sample chapter from Volume 1 (1949-67).

    LEGO Basic Sets of 1953-65....

    TLG used the same LEGO set numbers (700/0 thru 700/6) for all the different boxed sets of this era, which makes it incredibly complex to understand.  I make it simpler, and break it down to box contents, inserts and instructions, and finally the many different box tops that came in different langauges for all the European countries.

    After 1965 LEGO sets became much simpler to figure out!  ;-)

    Image... largest to smallest sets... 700/0, 700/1, 700/3, 700/3A, 700/4, 700/5 and 700/6.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    edited April 9
    Some of the chapters that are in my still available online guide that will be coming out in book form in the 6 Volume LEGO Sets, and 3 extra volumes (Parts, Wooden Toys, LEGO Retailer Items)...

    Early Classic Space.... (Volume 2)...

    Classic Castle.... (Volume 3)...

    Early LEGO Trains... (Volume 1)...

    LEGO Printed Bricks (7th Volume)...

    LEGO Retailers and Retailer Display Items (9th Volume)... still a work in progress...

    This is the most comprehensive collection of LEGO information and images.... :-)

    There will be over 100 images of TLG glued display models shown over the last 60 years in the final volume (see images attached)....

  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    I do ask a favor of anyone who collects old wooden LEGO toys... that Volume will be the hardest for me to put together, only because there is so little documentation.

    I do have the 1950s LEGO Toys Retailer catalog from Denmark... (here is a sample page).....

    And I have the first LEGO price checklist from 1934....

    But I do not have any pricelists or catalogs from the late 1930s and 1940s.  This will make it problematic...  If anyone has any recommendations or leads, please let me know!!  Granted LEGO wooden toys have such a very limited audience... but the prices that these now go for is astronomical!!  :-O
  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 372
    I would assume price sheets existed during this period, but would catalogs have?  My understanding is that Ole Kirk wasn't much in to branding, marketing, or advertising.  I thought it was Godtfred who really pushed for branding and marketing.  Given that I'd be surprised if there were anything other than price sheets in the 30s and 40s.  And these should also only be Danish, which should increase their rarity and level of difficulty to find. 

    I would think Lego's Corporate Archive (ie their paper archives where they keep things like tax records) would some version of these.  You'd think as a corporation they would records of sales, price per units, losses, etc.  I hope this stuff for the 30s and early 40s wouldn't have been lost in the '42 factory fire.

    Do you need help with any images of toys or boxes from this era?  I have a few killer examples I could share.  The rest are ok.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    Thanks LusiferSam,  it's your kind of spirit in sharing the joys of LEGO that makes researching all the history of LEGO worthwile... ;-)
    It would be really interesting to find out exactly what did survive (or for that matter, even occur) from the late thirties through to the mid forties.  People in that neck of the woods kinda had a few other things on their mind at the time...
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    edited April 18
    The number of different LEGO products produced before the LEGO bricks, and even during the early years of the bricks is quite varied, as can be seen on the book cover.  A lot of the animal toys and vehicles are sometimes in very rough condition.  But other more unorthodox products, such as lawn mowers, irons and sewing machines may have a higher survival rate in good condition....

  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    The real problem with old LEGO wooden toys is that everyone on Ebay seems to sell their toys as real LEGO.  Big problem.  LEGO wooden toys can be worth $500 or more... the non-LEGO versions of the same era... $10-$30.

    Here's an example.... here are some LEGO wooden toys as found in their 1952-55 Retailer Guide..... value hundreds of $$....

    And here's a page from a communist East German guide showing some of the knock-offs (the question of who knocked who off is not yet answered!)...  people take the rubber wheels off, and sell them as real LEGO...

    So in my wooden toy chapter... I'll have to spend about as much time showing non-LEGO items, as I do LEGO ones... so people can identify them as real or not.

    One word of advice for any buyer of the very pricey LEGO wooden toys.... if it doesn't have the LEGO logo... don't buy it!!

    Top is the 1930s and early 1940s LEGO wooden toy logo, bottom is the 1940s and early 1950s wooden toy logo...

  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 372
    I made that mistake once.  I bought I car I assumed was Lego, but once it arrived it was very clear that it was not.  For starters the paint was different.  It was applied very thick and had a different sheen to it.  The construction was also different for Lego, a bit cruder and rougher than it should have been.  Regretted buying it the moment I opened the box.

    There are a couple of important exemptions to the logo rule.  The earliest toys didn't have any logos on them.  But you really need to know what your buying.  Many of the boats don't seem to have logo on them for some reason. 

    And than there is the issue of Hanse and BILOfix.  Early BILOfix was a brand Lego created to differentiate their non brick toys from the brick toys.  The latest only for a couple years when Lego ceased all other toy production.  Two years later it was resurrected as Gerhardt Christiansen's independent toy company.   Hanse was another toy manufacture that seem to use the Lego wooden toy designs.  I've never been able to find much info on Hanse, so I don't really know to much.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    edited April 19
    @LusiferSam  Yes... from 1932 to 1934 no toys had a LEGO logo.

    It appears that all the wooden toys were made either at Billund Denmark, or (starting in 1953) Oslo Norway (A/S Norske LEGIO)... and only ever sold in Denmark, Norway and to a lesser degree Iceland... but not Sweden or elsewhere.  And as we know... LEGO wooden toy production ended after the Feb. 4, 1960 wooden toy factory/warehouse fire.

    Here is a different wooden toy LEGO logo from Norway that I had not seen before.

    And here is the common 1953-60 Danish wooden toy LEGO logo (also using the dogbone font).  This is my favorite of all LEGO logos....

  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,799
    edited April 21
    I'm a bit embarrassed by self promotion.... but the promoters put this together on my behalf....  ugh... ;)

    It only lists about 10,000 LEGO sets, because Duplo, Bionicles, Clickits and other non "LEGO System of Play" compatible sets are not included... just sets with LEGO bricks and parts... also no keychains or other gear.... same items that will be in my computer desktop guide will be in the 9 volume series.

    And a littl bit of stats on LEGO and a short bio on me....

    .... and this is the 717 set that kept me wondering (and searching historic LEGO facts) for over 40 years, even after I found out it was never actually produced!!  (The box is a non-surviving mock-up, the model is my own rebuild of the prototype set.)

  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 6,704
    edited April 21
    Istokg said:
    LEGO Retailers and Retailer Display Items (9th Volume)... still a work in progress...
    This is the most comprehensive collection of LEGO information and images.... :-)
    There will be over 100 images of TLG glued display models shown over the last 60 years in the final volume (see images attached)....
    Is there a list (annual/seasonal or otherwise) of the retail display cases in the post-1995 period?  

    I think Aquazone was the first of the modern glued-together retail display cases that I remember.  Time Bandits and the Wild West displays were in that era as well.
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