6/6/16

A Short History of the LEGO Brick (1949-Today) PART TWO

In Part One of this mini-history-lesson, we saw what the very first plastic Lego bricks looked like, and we got all the way into the early 1960's, as the first tubes began to appear.  Let's pick up where we left off...

Note: Everything from this point onward will be ABS plastic, which is still in use today.

7) 2x4 Brick (Samsonite) 1961-1970
Lego invades America!  The Samsonite company (yes, as in luggage) held the license to sell Lego in North America, and they also produced the bricks they sold.  On the left is the logo that only Samsonite used (called the "Open O"), but there were also some oddities, such as the normal logo slipping in (as seen in the brick on the right, which was taken from a set that we have looked at here, from 1966).
Samsonite was infamous for having much less quality control than the Lego group is famous for.  You can see some pretty strange examples out there, but here is an example from my own collection, where the logo begins to be less than straight:
These bricks all say "Pat Pend." like we talked about in Part One.

8) 2x4 Brick (with Flowrib) circa 1966 to pre-1974
The "flowrib" term refers to the horizontal bar that intersects the tubes, on the inside of the brick.  Evidently it was an experiment in strengthening the design.
Now the water begins to get a bit murkier, because we are throwing a new wrench into the machine:  "Pat Pend. Obscured."  At some unidentified point, Lego was granted their patent, but as we said last time, existing supplies were used up, rather than thrown out.  Also, Lego preferred to alter existing molds that still had life left in them, rather than make new ones.  The solution was to obscure the Pat Pend on the mold, or grind it out, if you will.  The result was a blob where the words used to be.  Here is an extreme close-up of the insides of the above right brick:
Interestingly, you can still see the shapes of the letters when magnified, although to the unaided eye, they really look like blobs.
It's generally agreed on, or at least steadfastly believed by several collectors, that "Pat Pend." pretty much was gone by the year 1974.  Molds wear out eventually, after all.  This will come into play in our next category:

9) 2x4 Brick (Slit Tubes with Sidebars) pre-1974 to 1979
By now, you begin to definitely see the overlap I was referring to in Part One, and why the years can't always be written in stone.  This new design of brick, with slotted tubes and "sidebars" along the sides of the brick's interior, can be found saying "Pat Pend," with the Pat Pend obscured, and completely without the Pat Pend at all, indicating we are finally past that time period.

10) 2x4 Brick (no Pat Pend, no Part ID#) circa 1980-1984
Now we can pick up a little bit of steam, because the changes are slowing down.  This early-80's brick is past the point of patents, but the sidebars have gone away temporarily.

11) 2x4 Brick (Cross Support with Sidebars, no Part ID#) circa 1985-1990
For the next five years, Lego reinstated the sidebars, and for the first time, added a "Cross Support," a wall that passes through the middle tube, and provides strength.  

12) 2x4 Brick (Cross Support with Sidebars, "3001" Part ID#) 1990-CURRENT
The last change that was made to the beloved 2x4 brick was the inclusion of 3001, which is the Lego group's part number for this brick.  

My goal was to document the "major changes" in the history of the brick, and as we have seen, there are several variables that can create even more variants.  We never even approached the subject of Mold Numbers, which are also stamped into the bricks, and can be seen in some of the photos! 

A Word on "Test Bricks"
One of the extremely helpful collectors I communicated with was mpfirnhaber, who can be found on the forums at Brickset.  He was kind enough to sell me the "sideways logo" bricks we looked at last time, as well as help me correct a some errors in the dates I had researched.  He included a "test brick" that blew me away.  He wrote, and I quote:

"The C brick was made by the Bayer plastics group in Germany. They supplied ABS pellets to Lego for many years. The bricks were made to test color consistency, clutch strength, plastic strengths, and other things. These C bricks come in tons of different colors - many that have never been used by Lego." 

Wow! That is pretty sweet, eh?  If you want to see many more test bricks, including "marbled" or "swirled" ones, check out his amazing Flickr page in the links below:
  
Bibliography:
WoutR's Flickr Page (browse by album to see chronological brick history)



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