86 Pieces of Lego

My basement likely has thousands of Lego pieces collecting dust. Three grown children, two of them boys – I couldn’t guess how many Lego sets emerged from Christmas or birthday wrappers. I should have kept track – how much did we buy, vacuum up or step on with tender bare feet. Lego management was tricky – basic sets for little kids gave way to elaborate engineering feats, sets requiring itsy bitsy pieces of specialized madness. Agonizing objectives stopped dead in their tracks over misplaced nubs of quarter inch plastic.

Don’t get me wrong – Lego is pure genius, infinite possibilities limited only by imagination – a dream toy. Lego appeal isn’t limited to children, it sparks creative thinking in anyone who starts snapping blocks together. Much more than following sets of instructions, once you got the hang of it, Lego is akin to a game of chess. Kids visualized 2 or 3 moves in advance, formulated strategies and elaborate cerebral blue prints to bring their mind’s eye to fruition.

The name LEGO comes from letters in the Danish words “Leg Godt” which means “play well”. Danish manufacturer Lego patented their revolutionary 2×4 plastic block on January 28, 1958. In 2012, LEGO made over 45 billion pieces at a rate of 5.2 million an hour – enough to circle the globe 18 times. It would take 40 billion pieces to reach the moon. If you awarded an equal share of LEGO to every man, woman and child on the planet – we would all hold 86 pieces. LEGO “people” were introduced in 1978, since then over 4 billion rolled onto retail shelves. If you only had 6 ordinary 8 stud blocks – they could be combined in 915,103,765 ways. (2 blocks combine 24 ways, and 3 – 1,060).

LEGO is officially the largest toy company in the world. Congratulations – your leap past Hasbro and Mattel might have something to do with the hit LEGO movie – I’ll look the other way on that point. Heck – I’ll even shrug off pondering how many million barrels of oil were used to produce 50 plus years of indestructible plastic. LEGO reigns as the quintessential example of toy making brilliance.