Lego Posts

A Brief History of Lego Colors

RyanA Guest Blog Post by Ryan Howerter
I am a graphic designer and AFOL from Fort Collins who has been doing more collecting and cataloguing of rare LEGO parts than building, lately. I’m fascinated by the rich and at times confusing history of the LEGO brand.

[In this brief history of Lego colors, I use the BrickLink names of colors, since they are the names most commonly used by AFOLs. TLG’s IDs follow in parentheses, since they are much more precise. Colors not recognized by BrickLink are in quotes.]

If you had to guess, how many colors would you say LEGO® bricks originally came in? Most people recall just the basics: Red, White, Blue, Yellow, maybe Black and Green. Maybe you’re thinking of the Town Plan sets from the early 60’s, which also had Trans-Clear. The palette started nice and simple, only to continually grow over the years, right?

Not quite. When The LEGO® Group (TLG) started producing plastic bricks in 1949, they did have the basic colors, but also a wide variety of color variations and unusual hues. These earliest bricks don’t look like today’s bricks—they were (usually) made of Cellulose Acetate (CA), lacked connecting tubes, and didn’t even originally have the LEGO® logo anywhere—but they will still connect to modern bricks, if you can find them in good enough condition. In these early years, TLG was feeling out what worked and what didn’t, meaning odd plastics and inconsistent colors.


We don’t have a complete history of these early bricks due to box contents being switched around over the years and molds moving from one factory to another. Toy stores sold individual bricks at the counter, sometimes in rare (not-in-sets) colors. TLG employees would even sweep up the factory floor, and use the dropped pellets to make rainbow marbled bricks, which sold for pennies. (These “defects” today can sell for $40 each!) We do know that by 1955, the slotted brick color palette had been standardized to mainly Red (21 Bright Red), White (1 White), Blue (23 Bright Blue), Yellow (24 Bright Yellow), Green (28 Dark Green), and Trans-Clear (40 Transparent). Black (26 Black) didn’t reappear until 1960.

In 1954/5, the slots were removed from bricks, and the Town Plan theme was introduced. For the most part, bricks from these sets only came in Red, White, and Clear, though there were baseplates in Light Gray (2 Grey), and Blue/Yellow/Green bricks in a handful of rarer parts packs.

In 1958, the tubes that help LEGO® bricks connect were invented, and the first “modern” bricks were produced. This was the development that differentiated LEGO® bricks from the many other building toy makers in Europe—particularly from Kiddicraft, which directly inspired the original hollow slotted LEGO® bricks. At this point, TLG was able to patent their basic 2×4 brick design. Beginning in 1963, TLG finally switched to Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) for their bricks, which is the same material they use today (plus or minus some additives). ABS is harder than CA, held its color better, and didn’t warp or shrink over time.

In 1963, TLG introduced Modulex, a smaller version of LEGO bricks intended for professional use by architects and workspace planners. Modulex could easily take up its own article, but I mention it here because many of the original muted Modulex colors were used (much later) for regular LEGO® parts, using the same color IDs. The second wave of Modulex colors, starting in 1983, consisted entirely of proper LEGO® brick colors. (The third and fourth sets of Modulex, in 1993 and 1998, did not match LEGO® colors at all—by that point, Modulex had branched off as its own company.)

The LEGO palette didn’t change much until nearly 1980 (save for some transparent colors), when the Fabuland theme necessitated more earthy flesh tones. “Fabuland Red” (13 Red Orange), Brown (25 Earth Orange), Tan (5 Brick Yellow), Flesh (18 Nougat), Fabuland Brown (4 Brick Red), “Fabuland Green” (14 Pastel Green), Fabuland Orange (19 Light Brown), and Earth Orange (12 Light Orange Brown) all arrived in this era. Most of these were previously Modulex colors.

Beginning in the late 1990s, TLG’s color palette expanded rapidly, thanks at first to bright themes such as Belville and Scala. It grew much worse in the early 2000s, when it was common for a new color to be used only in one part in one obscure Duplo set. The need to maintain this large amount of resources, combined with several desperate themes that didn’t fit the LEGO® brand*, nearly drove TLG to bankruptcy.

TLG’s first attempt to “fix” the palette came around 2003. After a series of focus groups, TLG determined that children overwhelmingly preferred brighter, more vibrant colors. They replaced many colors with new versions—most notably the grays, which caused an uproar in the AFOL community among those who had built up a lifetime’s collection of the old colors. Light Gray (2 Grey) became Light Bluish Gray (194 Medium Stone Grey), Dark Gray (27 Dark Grey) became Dark Bluish Gray (199 Dark Stone Grey), and Brown (25 Earth Orange) became Reddish Brown (192 Reddish Brown). At least 10 other colors changed as well, but they were seldom-used and went largely unnoticed.

­In the late 2000s, TLG began mixing their own ABS colors from raw granulate (instead of outsourcing their color mixing to Bayer and receiving pre-colored ABS pellets). Though this gave them more control over their own product, it took a while to stabilize the color quality, and for several years, brittle or milky parts were a frequent annoyance. For the most part, this is no longer the case. Dark Red (154 Dark Red), one of the worst offenders, has even been renamed to 154 New Dark Red, to signify the improvement in consistency. 131 Silver became 315 Silver Metallic, and 148 Metallic Dark Grey became 316 Titanium Metallic, for ostensibly the same reason.

Pictured below: Bricks lit from above on the left, and the same bricks lit from below on the right to show opacity issues.

Since the 2003 color change, TLG has minimized their palette to a carefully-selected few colors. The Friends theme in 2012 introduced several new pastel colors, but they were all unique, without any glaring redundancies. TLG has since focused on using these colors in a wide variety of bricks, plates, and other useful parts, making them much more useful.

Since then, the only colors introduced have been existing colors with metallic additives, which are likely much easier to add to the palette and cheaper to maintain than a brand new color formulation.

Even if there aren’t many new colors, there seems to be an unending supply of old colors to find. Recently it was discovered that the hair from 1974 Homemaker sets and 1969 granulated trees each used a unique shade of brown (we still don’t know the TLG IDs—if there ever were any). If we assume that TLG doesn’t leave gaps in their color numbering system, then we still are missing nearly all colors between 50 and 99. Discounting the numbers for CMYK ink colors, the highest number we know of is 339 (Transparent Fluorescent Green with Glitter). My own color chart only has around 200 colors—time to search for more!


*See Galidor and Jack Stone. Bionicle actually sold extremely well, and has been credited as the theme that saved LEGO.



Lego’s new Porsche 911 GT3 RS almost as good as Real (and for much less money…)

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

In their earliest days, Lego offered some car models that were really well designed and detailed… that’s because they weren’t kits and didn’t include the familiar bumpy studs on the roof.Lego Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

No, the first Lego sets were city building sets and some included European cars like this nifty Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. It’s cleanly detailed, though lacking a lot of technical aspects. Also, it wasn’t a kit.

Regardless, such pieces are pretty valuable, but modern sets are catching up quickly in price. In fact, they’re catching up to the real car in terms of technical merit and price. Take this latest Lego set for example, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

Lego Porsche 911 GT3 RS box

Over the past few years, Lego has created some incredibly detailed large scale models aimed at adult brick building enthusiasts. Recent offerings have included iconic rides as the original Mini Cooper and the Volkswagen Bus. These kits included an amazing plethora of working parts and incredible detail, while still adhering to the bumpy but charming compromises of working in studded bricks. And they weren’t cheap.

Lego Mini Cooper Volkswagen Bus

Nevertheless, their newest kit really raises the bar to a new level. in 2015, Lego first showed teaser photos of a Porsche 911 in black and white camouflage similar to the design used by real auto manufacturers. The hype surrounding the design has finally come to fruition. Lego’s New Porsche 911 GT3 RS (set 42056) provides everything you need to create a model of the car, complete with functioning suspension, steering, doors, hood, and the entire drive train. Despite all the rounded contours, there are only a handful of bespoke pieces for this set. Everything else is right out of the standard Lego parts bin.

Well, calling the parts “standard” doesn’t do it justice. The multi speed gearbox is shifted from paddles on the steering column, just like the real car. Each shift changes the relative speed of the cylinders, so you can roll the car along and gear up as you go.

Lego Porsche 911 GT3 RS model

One other custom piece is the license plate, which is laser engraved with an individual serial number for each car. You can register yours online and unlock special content specific to your own car along the way. The set includes over 2,700 pieces and a very thick instruction manual that covers the history and manufacturing of the real car to go along with your building. Pricing sounds expensive at $300, but most Lego sets clock in at around ten cents per brick, so this car is not too out of line.

Here’s a video of a Lego engineer demonstrating some of the finer points of this car. Like the real one, you’d better hurry up and get one before they’re gone.

Lego Porsche 911 GT3 RS video

The Catalog of Catalogs

Remember opening that box of Lego blocks and finding the instructions and maybe another booklet… a catalog of other Lego sets that were available? It was hard to decide: Play with those bricks right now or tear through that book and see what set you wanted to get next!

catalogsToy catalogs are a hot accessory to go along with your favorite collectibles. Several vintage and international Lego catalogs have been added to hobbyDB lately, but they’re not the only ones. Hot Wheels, Hubley, Schuco, and Matchbox are just a few catalogs on the site.

And auction catalogs, such as Christie’s, are a fun to see some really high-end collectibles.

You can easily spend hours digging through our catalog of catalogs as well.

Colorado and Wyoming Lego Enthusiasts Meet at hobbyDB

About 25 members Lego enthusiasts gathered with their models.

About 25 members Lego enthusiasts gathered with their models.

The hobbyDB office was the scene for a meeting of COWLUG (Colorado and Wyoming Lego Users Group) on May 18. About 20 members brought their latest creations to share and show off.

There were several amazing custom spaceships, one of them inspired by the shape of a jellyfish. A rather nicely detailed fighter jet proved to be deceptively amazing as it could transform into a robot without being taken apart. Several custom steam locomotives were on track as well including one disguised as a large pirate ship.

And just in case anyone needed extra entertainment, someone even brought a drive-in theater with “The Lego Movie” playing on a concealed iPad.

Many of these models and tons of others from club members will be on display at the Denver Comic Con from May 22-24.

Is it a fighter jet...

Is it a fighter jet…

...or a robot?

…or a robot?

What's playing tonight? "The Lego Movie," of course!

What’s playing tonight? “The Lego Movie,” of course!

Lego Indy car with working engine, transmission, steering and suspension.

The “Brickyard Special”Indy car with working engine, transmission, steering and suspension.

Batman meets Star Wars.

Batman meets Star Wars.

Spaceship inspired by Purlpe Jellyfish.

Spaceship inspired by Purple Jellyfish.

If you like to join one of COWLUG’s regular meetings just go

10 Crazy Things You Never Knew About Lego

Lego was founded in 1932 and continues to inspire play and creativity for all generations. Here are ten crazy things you never knew about Lego.

lego logo1. The Lego name was derived from the Danish phrase “Leg godt,” meaning “play well.”

solid gold lego2. One of the most expensive lego bricks is valued at $14,500. From 1979-1981, Lego used to give a 14k solid gold lego brick to employees that had 25 years of employment.

lego serious play3. One of the most expensive Lego sets ever for sale at the Lego Shop was priced at $754.99, the Lego Serious Play Connections Kit.

gold lego c3po4. One of the most expensive Lego Minifigures is valued for $10,000-$15,000. In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, Lego had a contest and only 5 winners received a 14K Gold C-3PO Minifigure making them the rarest Minifigs ever.

largest lego collection5. The Guinness World Record for most completed Lego sets in a private collection is 1,091 Lego sets. Kyle Ugone, a marine, from Yuma, Arizona, USA holds the record as of July 23, 2011.

lego millennium falcon6. One of the most expensive Lego sets is valued at $2,000. The Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon went from retail price at $899 in 2017 and is worth much more sealed in the box.

lego minifigs7. There are over 4 billion Lego Minifigures around the world. Twelve minifigures are produced every second.

Avohkii Mask lego8. One of the most expensive Lego Pieces ever sold was $15,000. Andre Hurley paid $15,000 for a Platinum Avohkii Mask of Light from the discontinued Lego Bionicle line.

lego milan tower9. The world record for the tallest Lego tower is 115 feet. In Milan, Italy it took 580,000 bricks, five days, and help from thousands of children to create the world’s tallest Lego tower.

lego house10. It took 3.3 million Lego bricks to build a life-size house. In 2009, James May built this house with a working toilet, shower, and bed.