I rediscovered my love of LEGO at the age of 33
Thomas played with LEGO up to the age of twelve, but then lost interest in the colourful bricks. After 20 years of «dark times», as Thomas calls it, his brother gave him a LEGO house for Christmas. That reignited his love of LEGO. But it really kicked off three years ago when Thomas and his family moved into a new flat and he created a LEGO room in the basement.
I meet Thomas on one of the hottest days of the year – easily over 30 degrees Celsius. I’ve only just arrived when he hands me an ice cream. The beads of sweat on my forehead must say it all. After the cooling snack, Thomas leads me down the stairs into his man cave. What strikes me – besides the LEGO sets on display, a workshop corner with neatly arranged parts and a table full of LEGO buildings – is a huge four-door wardrobe filled with unopened LEGO sets. «I just can’t find time for all of them,» Thomas says, «but I also keep some in their original packaging as an investment.» Especially houses, sets of LEGO Ideas and things like train stations or hospitals, which are rarely produced by LEGO, show appreciated value. When I ask Thomas how many sets he owns, his answer is:
«I stopped counting. But it’s well over 100 kg worth of LEGO.»
Thomas browses through stores as well as secondhand websites. Every now and then, he finds real bargains, he says. From old and rare sets to single bricks to entire collections, anything is offered in online auctions: «I recently bought 30 kilograms of bricks. But I had to clean them first before they all got their pace in the collection.» Clean them? Yes. As Thomas explains, some old LEGO bricks are in a desolate state. Many of them are yellowed and need quite some attention. Thomas has come up with his own cleaning techniques with regular home remedies. To get yellowish stones look shiny again, he uses denture cleaning tabs or natural vinegar. A while ago, Thomas discussed this with someone who’s an enthusiastic LEGO collector and dentist and who cleans his LEGO bricks in an ultrasonic dental unit. According to him, this is the best and easiest method.
Despite the huge collection of pieces, Thomas doesn’t own a single LEGO Technic set. That surprises me, because I find this series one of the most exciting. Thomas disagrees. He never warmed to the Technic pieces. He’s much more fascinated by the classic bricks – never limiting himself to a specific LEGO series. He owns models from all series. LEGO City, Ideas, Ninjago and Creator were the ones that caught my eye. Besides his military mods – also models that aren’t official sets but are made entirely of LEGO bricks – Thomas is especially interested in buildings.
His goal is to build an entire city with all the details. There’s not too much missing; in one corner of the room, there are several tables with rows of houses lining a busy street. On top of this, two trains are keeping public transport running, while a large container ship is being loaded by a crane in the port. The closer I look, the more details I discover. A half-naked Batman or a woman standing at a crossroads with a pram, for instance.
LEGO isn’t the only manufacturers of bricks, but Thomas doesn’t have any other pieces. «So far, I haven’t encountered any Cobi or other bricks. I’m sure other manufacturers produce high-quality pieces, too, but in my eyes, LEGO has the best mini figures of all. No other manufacturer can match LEGO.» A true fan.
But even LEGO isn’t perfect, Thomas admits. Despite its size – or maybe because of it – there is room for improvement at the Danish toy manufacturer. Thomas names several aspects, which he thinks are neglected by LEGO. First of all, it’s their pricing policy. In his opinion, the high prices aren’t justified in any way. In addition, Thomas would like to see LEGO produce more buildings, railways and old series such as the Pirate Ship or the Knight's Castle. He also regrets LEGO’s focus on children. There is a huge market for adult LEGO fans, which, as Thomas feels, doesn’t get enough attention. Adults like himself would appreciate LEGO offering larger sets. «Let's say I want to build a hospital for my city. I have to buy the set three times to create one large building from all the parts.» For a large set, as Thomas adds, he' d be willing to pay more, too.
Despite the criticism, Thomas remains loyal to LEGO. He's a LEGO enthusiast. His two sons are now also playing with LEGO, but not with the same love as their dad. The two-year-old is a bit too young and the five-year-old son is not patient yet. «What happens when I assemble a set with him is that he's thrilled at the start but runs out of patience after the second page of the instructions,» Thomas tells me. But things can always change. The boys are so young, their LEGO careers might still be ahead of them.