LEGO: History & Hunting Tips

by Kim Merrikin, Seattle Goodwill
May 16, 2014

For the last 55 years, LEGO has been inspiring children and adults alike to engage in creative play, bigger dreams, and teaching us how to build amazing things from little pieces. Lego is one of the world’s most popular toys, and the Lego Group is the third-largest toy manufacturer in the world. Recently, the toy has turned blockbuster with The LEGO Movie, the current top-grossing film of 2014. Locally, The EMP Museum is celebrating LEGO with their exhibit: Block By Block: Inventing Amazing Architecture.

The story of LEGO begins in 1916 in Billund, Denmark with a man named Ole Kirk Christiansen when he purchased a small woodworking shop. Over the next 33 years, Christiansen endured many hardships, including the loss of his wife, the Great Depression, WWII, and his factory burning down twice. After trial & error beginnings to what we now know as LEGO bricksincluding the “Automatic Binding Brick” and the first brick system “Town Plan”, Lego Group patented the current design in 1958. That same year Ole Kirk passed away, and his son Godtfred inherited leadership of the company. In 1960, a warehouse fire consumed most of the company’s wooden inventory—and at that point Godtfred decided to leave behind wooden toys and focus solely on plastic ones.

The story of Lego is truly a story of building, rebuilding—and rebuilding again.

For the next 54 years, Lego grew to include North American production and sales, added numerous lines, perhaps most notably the LEGO Space sets, the Expert Builder series, and the Technic Line. In 1978, the first mini figure was released: A red-suited astronaut.

At Seattle Goodwill we sell LEGO and we put a lot of effort into making sure the LEGO Bricks, minifigures, sets and pieces are actually LEGO brand. (We sort out impostors by hand!) Our staff look for the LEGO logo on each brick, know the difference between certain sets, and even generations of sets.

If you’re looking to add to your collection, here are a few pointers on finding the right pieces:

  • Always look for the LEGO logo on each piece. Each brick will have it!
  • If you’re looking for a specific era/set piece, make sure you check the markings. For example, different Boba Fett minifigures from different sets have different markings.
  • If you’re looking for value, look for unique, non-standard colors—like Yoda green.
  • Know their worth. Some LEGO sets and pieces are worth more than others because of their age and how many were produced. For example, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean pieces tend to be worth less than Star Wars (most valuable) and Batman pieces because of the quantity produced.

Start your hunt for LEGO pieces at Seattle Goodwill’s eBay storefront. We have sets of minifigures, lots of various pieces, and assorted factory-sealed set bags. And as we mentioned—we hand sort our LEGO pieces to make sure you’re getting what you pay for!


Kim fancies herself a professional communicator. She has experience in writing, graphic design, and social media, and is always looking to expand her knowledge base into other fields of communication. She loves people, coffee & Seattle (including the rain).

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