History of LEGO & the LEGO fan community

Lemur with Jacket and PipeFounded in 1932 by a Danish carpenter, LEGO is still a family-owned company based in Billund, Denmark, though it’s now the #1-selling toy company and most powerful brand in the world.

This page provides an overview of the major milestones along the company’s long history of making toys, as well as a few important events in the history of the LEGO fan (AFOL) community.

See something missing or wrong? Let us know!

1932

  • Ole Kirk Christiansen (1891–1958) begins making wooden toys in his workshop in Billund, Denmark.

1934

  • Ole Kirk Christiansen names his company “LEGO”, after the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”.

1947

  • LEGO begins producing its first plastic toys.

1949

  • LEGO produces an early version of the interlocking brick, a stacking brick made from cellulose acetate.

1958

  • January 28: Ole Kirk’s son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen (1920-1995) patents the “stud and tube” interlocking brick.

1960

  • A fire destroys the wooden toy warehouse, and LEGO ceases production of wooden toys.

1961

  • LEGO begins selling toys in the United States and Canada through a licensing deal with Samsonite that lasted until 1972 (US) and 1986 (Canada).

1963

  • LEGO produces its first brick in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).
  • LEGO introduces Modulex bricks targeted at adult builders.

1965

  • The LEGO Group spins off Modulex as its own company, targeting architects and industrial planners.

1966

  • LEGO releases its first train set.

1968

1969

  • LEGO begins producing its DUPLO line of larger bricks for toddlers.
  • LEGO releases a 12-volt motor for its trains.

1971

  • LEGO launches the Minitalia line exclusively for the Italian market, with modified LEGO elements to accommodate strict Italian import laws. The line is discontinued in 1976.

1972

  • LEGO releases the 4.5-volt train series.

1975

  • LEGO moves its US headquarters to Enfield, Connecticut, where the company remains today.

1977

  • LEGO begins producing Technic sets, with gears and other complex parts, aimed at older builders and adults.

1978

  • LEGO releases its first minifigure.
  • LEGO launches the classic LEGO Space theme.
  • LEGO releases the iconic “yellow castle” (375 Castle).

375 Yellow Castle

1979

  • LEGO launches the Fabuland theme, with anthropomorphic animal characters.
  • LEGO launches Scala, a line of jewelry and accessories.

1983

  • LEGO launches LEGO Baby, later renamed Primo.

1984

  • LEGO launches the classic LEGO Castle theme, with Crusaders and Black Falcons factions.

6080 King's Castle

1985

  • LEGO re-launches its Trains line, retaining the 4.5-volt motor system.

1987

  • LEGO releases the iconic monorail system.
  • LEGO introduces the Forestmen faction to the classic LEGO Castle theme, continuing through 1990.

1988

  • LEGO introduces the Black Knights faction to the classic LEGO Castle theme, continuing through 1994.

1989

  • LEGO launches the classic LEGO Pirates theme, which continued through 1997, and then was re-launched in 2009 and 2015. LEGO Pirates minifigures are the first to have a variety of facial expressions.

6285 Black Seas Barracuda

1990

  • LEGO launches the Model Team theme of large-scale vehicles.

1991

  • LEGO re-launches its Trains line with the classic 9-volt motor system, including the transporter and speed regulator. The system allows LEGO train layouts to connect to power and operate without batteries. LEGO continues to release 9-volt trains and accessories through 2006.

1992

  • LEGO launches the Paradisa theme.
  • LEGO introduces the Wolfpack faction to the classic LEGO Castle theme, continuing through 1993.
  • Imperial Guards in red coats replace the blue-coated Imperial Soldiers in the LEGO Pirates theme.
  • LEGO opens its first brick-and-mortar store at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

1993

  • LEGO launches the Ice Planet 2002 theme as part of LEGO Space.
  • LEGO introduces the Dragon Masters faction to the classic LEGO Castle theme, continuing through 1995. Dragon Masters included the first named minifig character, Majisto the wizard.
  • LEGO fans on the very early Internet launch the rec.toys.lego (RTL) usenet newsgroup, which remains active until the launch of LUGNET in 1998.

6983 Ice Station Odyssey

1994

  • The Imperial Armada replaces the Imperial Guards in the classic LEGO Pirates theme.
  • LEGO introduces the Islanders faction to the classic LEGO Pirates theme.
  • LEGO launches Belville.

1995

  • LEGO launches Aquazone, its first of many underwater themes.
  • LEGO fan James Jessiman (d. 1997) releases the first version of LDraw as an MS-DOS program.

1996

  • LEGO launches the Time Cruisers theme.
  • LEGO launches the LEGO Western theme, continuing through 1997.
  • LEGO launches Exploriens as part of LEGO Space.

6769 Fort Legoredo

1997

  • LEGO re-launches Scala, with large figures.
  • LEGO launches the UFO theme as part of LEGO Space.
  • LEGO launches the Divers underwater theme as part of the LEGO Town line.
  • LEGO discontinues the classic LEGO Pirates theme.
  • LEGO releases its first video games, LEGO Island and LEGO Creator for PC.
  • LEGO fans Huw Millington and Grahame Reid launch a LEGO set reference website (named Brickset in 1999 and moving to Brickset.com in 2000).

1998

  • LEGO launches the LEGO Adventurers theme, which continues through the Orient Expedition sub-theme in 2003.
  • LEGO launches the LEGO Ninja theme as part of the LEGO Castle line.
  • LEGO Mindstorms introduced, developed in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab.
  • LEGO releases ZNAP to compete with K’nex. The product line is canceled a year later.
  • LEGO bricks inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
  • LEGO fans Todd Lehman and Suzanne Rich launch LUGNET, a website for adult fans of LEGO.

5978 Sphinx Secret Surprise

1999

  • LEGO launches LEGO Star Wars, the first licensed theme, which continues to this day.
  • LEGO launches the Rockraiders underground theme.
  • Legoland California opens in Carlsbad, United States.
  • Dorling Kindersley releases its first LEGO-themed book, The Ultimate LEGO Book.
  • LEGO fan Tim Saupé launches From Bricks to Bothans (FBTB), a LEGO Star Wars fan community. Today, FBTB remains the longest continuously active LEGO community online.
  • LEGO fan Kevin Loch launches Brickshelf.

7140-2 X-wing Fighter

2000

  • LEGO releases the LEGO Studios theme in partnership with director Steven Spielberg.
  • LEGO fan Christina Hitchcock launches BrickFest in Arlington, Virgina. The first LEGO convention, BrickFest runs through 2007, with a final BrickFest in 2009.
  • LEGO fans Dan and Jennifer Boger launch Peeron.com, hosting set instruction scans and parts inventories.

2001

  • LEGO launches the LEGO Harry Potter theme, which continues through 2007, and again between 2010 and 2012.
  • LEGO launches the Jack Stone theme of simplified builds and larger figures.
  • LEGO launches the Alpha Team theme.
  • LEGO releases Mindstorms 2.0.
  • LEGO launches Bionicle.
  • LEGO fan Dan Jezek (1977-2010) launches LEGO resale and reference site BrickLink.

4708 Hogwarts Express

2002

  • LEGO launches the Island Xtreme Stunts theme, which continues through 2003.
  • LEGO launches the Galidor theme of buildable action figures, accompanied by a live-action TV show.
  • Members of the SEALUG LEGO club in Seattle, Washington hold the first BrickCon convention. BrickCon continues to this day, and is the longest continuously running LEGO convention.
  • Ace Kim takes over administration of From Bricks to Bothans from Tim Saupé, continuing to this day.

Galidor

2003

  • LEGO launches the Orient Expedition theme within Adventurers, and discontinues further sets in the theme.
  • LEGO launches CLIKITs, another jewelry and accessory system.
  • Minifigures in licensed themes switch from yellow skin tones to more realistic colors in “light flesh” and “dark flesh”.
  • LEGO begins changing some of the colors used in its plastic. Affected colors include grays and browns.
  • No Starch Press publishes its first LEGO books, Virtual LEGO by Tim Courtney (later head of the LEGO Ideas program) and Getting started with LEGO trains by Jake McKee (later head of the LEGO Ambassador Program).
  • A group of LEGO Castle fans from LUGNET launch the Classic-Castle.com community site.
  • LEGO fan Sean Kenney (and later a LEGO Certified Professional) launches MOCPages.com.

2004

  • LEGO announces a massive loss in 2003 and hires Jørgen Vig Knudstorp as the first CEO not from the Christiansen family.
  • LEGO releases LEGO Digital Designer (LDD), allowing builders to create virtual LEGO creations.
  • A group of LEGO Space fans from LUGNET launch the Classic Space Forums community site.
  • A group of LEGO fans in Europe launch the Eurobricks community forum site.

2005

  • LEGO launches the LEGO Vikings theme.
  • LEGO launches the Dino 2010 / Dino Attack theme.
  • LEGO launches the Exo-Force theme of anime-inspired mecha.
  • The LEGO Ambassador Program begins, under the direction of Jake McKee.
  • The LEGO Certified Professional program begins, based on a recommendation from Robin Sather, who becomes one of the first LCPs.
  • LEGO kicks off the LEGO Factory program for designing and then purchasing custom LEGO sets.
  • LucasArts and TT Games release their first LEGO Star Wars video game.
  • The LEGO Group sues Canadian toy manufacturer Mega Bloks for trademark violation. LEGO loses the lawsuit at the Canadian Supreme Court in 2015.
  • LEGO sells 70% of its stake in Legoland theme parks to Blackstone Group (parent company of Merlin Entertainment) for $460 million
  • LEGO fan Andrew Becraft starts a blog called “Dunechaser’s Blocklog”.
  • LEGO fan Joe Meno releases the first issue of BrickJournal magazine as a free online download.

2006

  • Mindstorms NXT replaces Mindstorms 2.0.
  • LEGO re-launches the Trains line (again), this time with battery packs (again) and wireless remote control. The replacement of the 15-year-old 9-volt train system raises a hue and cry among adult LEGO train enthusiasts.
  • Josh Wedin joins Andrew Becraft and they re-launch Andrew’s blog as The Brothers Brick. Other contributors join, and they launch their own website at Brothers-Brick.com.
  • Will Chapman founds BrickArms.

2007

  • LEGO launches the Aqua Raiders underwater theme.
  • LEGO introduces Power Functions motors, sensors, and other battery-powered components.
  • BrickJournal magazine is acquired by TwoMorrows Publishing and goes to print after nine online issues. Editor-in-Chief Joe Meno remains at the helm.
  • The first Brickworld takes place near Chicago, Illinois.
  • Brickshelf.com administrator Kevin Loch announces that he is discontinuing support for the site, which precipitates a mass migration to Flickr. Though Brickshelf comes back online a week later, the damage had been done and the LEGO building community remains primarily on Flickr to this day.

2008

  • LEGO launches the LEGO Indiana Jones theme, to accompany the fourth movie in the trilogy. LEGO continues to release Indiana Jones sets through 2009.
  • LEGO launches the LEGO Agents theme, which continues through 2009.
  • LEGO partners with CUUSOO, a Japanese crowd-sourcing platform, to launch LEGO CUUSOO (later LEGO Ideas).
  • A group of Spanish LEGO fans launch HispaBrick Magazine, which continues as a free download to this day.
  • The Brothers Brick and other LEGO fan sites successfully advocate for LEGO to release the Castle Advent Calendar in the United States.

LEGO 7979 Castle Advent Calendar

2009

  • LEGO launches the LEGO Power Miners underground theme, which continues through 2010.
  • LEGO releases its first board games.

8961 Crystal Sweeper

2010

  • LEGO launches the LEGO Atlantis underwater theme.
  • LEGO launches LEGO Prince of Persia sets to accompany the Disney film.
  • Bionicle discontinued after 9 years, to be replaced by Hero Factory.
  • LEGO and NetDevil release the LEGO Universe massively multiplayer online game after years of development delays.

2011

  • LEGO launches the Ninjago theme, which continues through at least 2017.
  • LEGO launches the Alien Conquest theme.
  • LEGO launches the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean theme to coincide with the fourth movie in the series.
  • LEGO releases the first set sourced from LEGO CUUSOO in Japan, the deep-sea submarine 21100 Shinkai 6500.
  • LEGO opens the LEGO CUUSOO platform worldwide in an open Beta program.

2504 Spinjitzu Dojo

2012

  • LEGO releases the first set sourced from the global LEGO CUUSOO platform — the first LEGO Minecraft set, designed by a trio of LEGO builders (including TBB Senior Editor Chris Malloy).
  • LEGO launches the Marvel and DC Superheroes themes.
  • LEGO launches LEGO Friends, with new “minidolls” instead of traditional minifigures.
  • LEGO discontinues LEGO Universe after commercial and critical failure.

2013

  • LEGO launches the Legends of Chima theme with anthropomorphic minifigs.
  • LEGO launches LEGO Lone Ranger sets to accompany the Disney film.
  • Mindstorms EV3 replaces Mindstorms NXT.
  • One hundredth brick-and-mortar LEGO store opens in White Plains, New York.
  • LEGO fan Tommy Williamson launches BrickNerd, the second-best LEGO blog on the web.
  • Korean game development company Nexon acquires BrickLink.

2014

  • LEGO resurrects the Agents theme with Ultra Agents.
  • LEGO launches the Mixels line of buildable characters.
  • LEGO launches the LEGO Disney Princess theme, with LEGO Friends minidolls.
  • LEGO ends its partnership with CUUSOO and relaunches its crowd-sourcing site as LEGO Ideas.
  • Warner Bros. releases The LEGO Movie to critical acclaim and commercial success.

The LEGO Movie

2015

  • LEGO re-launches Jurassic Park-themed LEGO sets to accompany Jurassic World.
  • LEGO launches the LEGO Elves theme, with LEGO Friends minidolls.
  • LEGO launches the Scooby Doo theme.
  • LEGO and TT Games release the “toys to life” video game LEGO Dimensions.
  • Bionicle resurrected.

2016

Sources

  • For the LEGO Group’s official history, see LEGO.com.
  • Brickset remains the best LEGO set reference database on the web, going strong after nearly twenty years.
  • For an excellent history focused on major news and people within the AFOL community, see Dave Eaton’s website.