Ask a LEGO Fan

AFOL Pronunciation

Posted in LUGs (LEGO Users Groups) by lfanquestions on October 30, 2009

Stephen writes:


A simple question. How does one say AFOL?
From time to time I will see an obvious AFOL in the LEGO section of a department or toy store. I’d dearly like to ask…
“Are you an AFOL too?” to start a conversation with a fellow collector/builder. However – no matter how I pronounce it – it always sound slightly offensive. Probably best not to spell out what I think it sounds like. But think of an insult starting with A and ending in ole.

Ay-fol could be mistaken for A Hole….

Aff-ol sounds like the same sort of insult with a lisp.

Ay Ef Oh El sounds – well too long winded really.

I suppose I could just ask if my fellow shopper is buying for himself or a child. But even that sounds a little odd and I guess intrusive.

Perhaps we need to develop an AFOL secret handshake to recognise each other in public?


Dear Stephen,

Fans use a variety of ways to pronounce AFOL.  Since it is an acronym, I personally prefer A.F.O.L.  Check out an interesting discussion regarding this topic on

Many fans are not very fond of the term AFOL.  Some prefer LEGO Enthusiast or Lego Fan.




LEGO in the Middle East

Posted in Marketplace by lfanquestions on October 29, 2009

Philip writes:

Hi Lego Fan

My question is do you know of any Lego retailers or LUG’s in the Middle East? I’m based in Qatar and am finding it difficult to get Lego. We have a small Toy’s R Us but they are way over priced and cater mostly for Bionicle. Shipping of parts from US or Europe is killing me.

Several searches online have failed to reveal any AFOL’s or LUG’s in the area and I’d like to meet up with some fellow fans to discuss ideas and buy/swap parts.

Dear Philip,

ToysRUS is likely your best retail option at this time.  Other retailers who stock Lego products will have higher prices.  With the cost of shipping, you are likely paying double the msrp of sets in the States.  This method is the most cost effective way to get a wide variety of product in the Middle East.  Since TLG has difficulty meeting product demand in their main markets, Europe and North America, I doubt that smaller markets will see lower prices and wide product selection in the near future.

There is a Lego Users Group in Turkey, Turklug.  Check out their website: Turklug’s Lego Ambassador, Cagri Yuz, is working to increase dialogue between fans of this area and the company.  I do not know of other lugs in the region.



Unopened Set Bags

Posted in Inventories, Sorting, & Storage, Marketplace, Product Quality & Safety by lfanquestions on October 27, 2009

Mdbp writes:

Not sure if this is where  I ask lego questions of askalfan, but here goes! I came across a ziplock bag full of legos, still in the poly manufacture bags. the outer bag said “4501 complete” how can i find out how many bags were in the original box? I went to the bricklink site and noticed that this set had a weight in grams, does that include the box and instructions?  Why didnt lego label the bags?? sure would have helped.  thank you very much.

Dear Mdbp,

We are guessing that you would like to sell your copy of 4501 Mos Eisley Cantina.  Interestingly enough, a complete used set sells for almost the same amount as a new copy on BrickLink.  So it may be just as easy to build the set and then sell it.

I believe the BrickLink weights include the boxes and instructions.  Set weights do vary and it is better to weigh the actual product on hand.

The bags are not labeled with the set number because they originally came in a box.  Adding set numbers to each bag in each box would increase costs for TLG.

Unfortunately there is not a website with pictures of each set still in sealed polybags.  Even if there was, some sets have been known to be bagged in different ways if they were packaged in another country or in a second production run.



Discounted Sets at LEGO Brand Stores

Posted in Marketplace by lfanquestions on October 26, 2009

Chip writes:

This question may be too specific for retailing, but it focuses on something that’s been bugging me for a bit and I hope you can provide some insight.

About this time last year I went to my first LEGO store – the one on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It was a great store, and there was a wall in the back that had some killer deals on sets. About six months later I went to the LEGO store in Ontario California, which was billed as a LEGO outlet. Again, they had a section of the store that had great deals on sets.

Since then, whenever I’ve traveled I’ve looked for places that have LEGO stores in search of deals. I’ve been to three – Cincinnati, Oklahoma City and Denver (this store was in an outlet mall like the store in California). All three of them seem to be cut from the new mold for these outlets – narrow,long rectangular stores with little beyond basic models on display. And the most disappointing part – nothing on sale. The Denver store – again billed as an outlet – had maybe two items (Duplo) marked down. The last store I went to (OKC) literally had a damaged Christmas ornament box and two individual Bionicle pieces at a $2 discount.

So my question is this – has there been in a change in how these store mark down items, or have I just been hitting them at a crappy time? It seemed like when I visited the first two stores that they were a great source for deals, but my experiences in the last three visits have been extremely disappointing. Any insights into where the sales have gone? Thanks!

Dear Chip,

LEGO Brand Stores will not always have discounted sets.  This can vary by the time of year.  In addition, sets discounted in one market may not need to be if they sell very well in another location.  Please also keep in mind that many damaged sets are often shipped to a location to be sold to fans at a large convention.  This happens at BrickCon in Seattle, BrickWorld in Chicago, and BrickFair in Washington D.C.  The final factor to keep in mind is that LEGO sets have been selling very well in the past two years.  High quantity of sales will diminish store discounts.

I recommend looking for sales on a wider range of sets at stores like Target, Walmart, ToysRUs, and online at Amazon and Lego Shop at Home.  The main benefit of Lego Brand stores is Pick-A-Brick and buying exclusive sets to have them right away.



LEGO Layaway?

Posted in Marketplace by lfanquestions on October 19, 2009

Stephen writes:

Hi Again (I hope you don’t mind repeat offenders)

I wonder if you know of any future plans to provide LEGO branded finance? I realise that sounds an odd question – but stay with me here.

I have an expensive habit and have spent in the vicinity of AU$3000.00 to AU$5000.00 a year in previous years on new LEGO purchases. Mostly with LS@H but also on Brick Link and even eBay.

In order to control my habit I have limited myself to a budget of AU$50.00 per week. This means  – when I see a big set on LS@H I have to “save up” for a few weeks. In the meantime, while I’m madly saving for  10197 Fire Brigade – 10199 Christmas Toy Shop comes on the market. I’ll have to save a little more (I want two of those). But wait a second – the new ship 10210 Imperial Whatnot is coming in the New Year and I REALLY want one of those…I end up with a long list of wants and suffer a deal of stress hoping that I will have enough money saved up before the lines I really want are deleted or sold out.

So to cut a long story short – (too late I hear you cry) it would be highly advantageous if TLC offered some form of credit or lay-by system. I could send them my $50.00 a week and pay off my addiction on a weekly basis. A TLC company credit card would be great – and has a lot of potential as a loyalty/rewards type program. In addition I’d really enjoy paying for main stream purchases with a LEGO branded credit card ( I can see the design in my head already)

However I know that provision of credit is a bit issue – and not necessarily part of TLCs core business. SO perhaps the “lay-by” system would work better?

So my question dear lfan is – has TLC ever considered this? Have they ever totally ruled it out?



PS – I’m not sure “lay-by” is an international term. For readers not aware of it; A customer agrees to purchase an item – the item is removed from sale and stored in a back room somewhere while the customer pays installments. When fully paid – the item is available for collection (or shipping).

Dear Stephen,

All new LEGO related questions are welcome for this blog.

This “pay before you receive a product” service is offered by some retailers (Kmart, Sears, etc) in the USA but not directly by TLG.  Our term for “lay-by” is “layaway”.  I think your idea has merit because it encourages saving and is practical in these  difficult economic times.  However, I do not know if TLG would be willing to offer such a service because it would increase the complexity of their inventory and warehouse systems.  Keeping layaway sets in storage for long periods of time may not be in their best interest.

Creating an option for the current “gift card” program where you could send in “X” number of money each month and then spend when you are ready may be the best option.  I will pass along your suggestion to the appropriate people.



Building a collection after the Dark Ages

Posted in Collecting Bricks & Sets, Marketplace by lfanquestions on October 15, 2009

David writes:

I’m a 40-something that has had my interest in LEGO re-sparked by the opening of the LEGO store in Frisco, TX.  I’ve been reading LEGO blogs and following LEGO news since then, but I haven’t got back into the actual building side of the hobby.

My question is what is the best way to get into the hobby while staying within a budget?  Is it best to start with a generic block set to start building a brick inventory or is it better to dive into a theme?  Is it best to start at the LEGO store, LEGO online, superstores like WalMart, toy stores like Toys R Us, online stores like bricklink, auction sites like eBay?

The product and purchase options are overwhelming.  I want it all.  But I’m afraid if I make a poor choice in emerging from the Dark Ages, it will tarnish my image of LEGO building and dampen my enthusiasm while I’m just starting.


Dear David,

My first piece of advice is not to go overboard with your LEGO purchases.  Fans coming out of their dark ages often purchase a bit of everything and then do not end up using much of it.

Did you have a favorite theme when growing up such as Space, Town, Castle, or Technic?  If so, this is a good place to start collecting.  There are often sales at retail stores (Toys R Us, Walmart, Target, etc) and online (LEGO Shop at Home, Amazon, Barnes and Noble) during the winter holiday season.  Building new sets is a fun way to get back into the hobby.

Once you have built a few sets, I would recommend increasing your collection of bricks for making creations.  Buying sets with large piece counts (Medieval Market Village, Green Grocer, Fire Brigade, etc) is a good way to add to your collection.  You should also check out the Creator line of sets for more elements.  Bricklink is an excellent resource for finding the exact pieces you are looking for to complete a creation.  Learning which elements to purchase and the quantity needed is a skill that will take time to master.

Garage sales, flea markets, and eBay are also great sources for used lots of vintage sets which are often incomplete.  If you prefer to build with the selection of elements from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, this will be worth exploring.

I hope you enjoy growing your new collection, building creations, and joining the larger fan community.



Set Prices in Neighbor Countries

Posted in Marketplace by lfanquestions on October 15, 2009

KAZ writes:


i just want to know how the Lego Group determines their exclusivities policies. I’m living in France and here many sets are exclusive Shop@home like the 10197 Fire brigade. But in Germany or Belgium (our neighbours) it’s not an exclusive item and then the price was lower… (169.99E vs 149.99E) it’s not fair !
I could buy these sets from them but the shipping rates raise the cost and it’s no more valuable.I can’t see any explanation. A guy who owns a shop tells me “These ref are even not in the French list of authorized sets” so they can’t ask about get some.

Thanks for all

Dear KAZ,

Part of the problem is how LEGO set up marketing and distribution channels for their products in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Many countries have their own team that determines which products will be available and how to price these products.  Unfortunately this leads to price differences between neighboring countries.  It also prevents customers in a country to purchase any set they want directly from TLG.  Construction toys in general may be more costly in your market and this will lead to higher set prices.  LEGO sets are usually priced at what consumers will pay for the items.

On the other hand, the prices in France are still much more reasonable than many other places in the world.  Numerous countries do not have a direct presence by the company and must rely on one or two distributors.  These distributors have the market cornered and often charge three to four times the normal manufacturers suggested retail price.  In addition, the LEGO selection is much more limited than in Western Europe.



Bionicle Price Increase

Posted in Marketplace, Set Design by lfanquestions on October 12, 2009

Justin writes:

Alright, I love the Bionicle line, but I noticed something; the heads, and sometimes the weapons, are only used once or twice and then thrown to the curb. Set prices have gone up from $10 to $13 (USD), all in one jump. It seems to me that using some of the hundreds of parts they have yet to reuse would lower the price a bit. Why don’t they do this?

Dear Justin,

There would be some cost savings to reusing molds more frequently.  I tend to look at Bionicle as an internal “licensed” line.  Licensed lines are often marketed to kids and adults who are collectors of each set.  Many people want unique figures and elements in new sets.  It helps drive demand.  This practice is worthwhile as long as the volume of sales is high to make up for the lower profit margin per set.

Unfortunately for Bionicle fans, the popularity and high sales of the line has declined from the highs of previous years.  This is why many Bionicle sets have been on sale in the past two years.  Lower sales volume could have led to higher prices.  But also keep in mind that increased labor costs, material costs, and the loss of value of the dollar are likely factors in the price increases.  This is also true of many playtheme system lines such as City and Castle.  Sets in those lines have gone up in price and some had their piece counts decreased.