Sunday, 3 May 2015

AFOL? What? You Like LEGO? - LEGOBrien's Introduction to becoming an Adult Fan of LEGO

Hello, my name is LEGOBrien and I am an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO).  How did that just happen?

LEGOBrien, my 'sigfig'

About three years ago my partner (P) started buying bargain LEGO sets whenever he found them.  ‘What for?’ I thought, we only had one child then and he was just a baby, and he probably was not yet even able to put two Duplo bricks together.  P reasoned that our son would love LEGO when he was older and that was why he was buying it now, when it was cheap.  I was a bit irritated at the expense and the frequency but P was right our son (and now his brother too) loves LEGO, and those bargain sets have served us well as presents for a few Christmases, birthdays and treats.  LEGO is a great toy, it is educational, artistic and fun!  

One night, while sorting through some of my boys’ many LEGO pieces, I did not expect to fall in love with it myself.  What is the attraction to LEGO?  Apart from the obvious possibility of playing/building anything only limited by your imagination and ability?  I can only speak for myself, but here are some suggestions:

The Bricks
As soon as you hear the sound of running your hand through a box of LEGO bricks, you get a huge wave of nostalgia.  It is a lovely, familiar sound.  One of the first things you think as you start building with it is that there are so many different, new bricks compared to when you were a child.  I say bricks but they are far from square.  As a child, we only had bricks, plates, slopes, wheels, windows, doors and trees, I’m sure.  And the only colours we had were red, blue, yellow, green, grey, black and white.  There are so many more beautiful colours now.

A recent second-hand LEGO haul

If all the LEGO in the world was shared equally, there would be around 62 bricks per person (source).  That is not much to your average LEGO fan, like most things you find a multiple number of, massing a collection becomes a mission.  LEGO comes in boxes of assorted bricks intended for imaginative building and play but mainly it comes in themed sets with its own instructions to be built with very few bricks left over.  These sets are meant to be played with or displayed with other sets from the same theme.  Original set themes include LEGO City, Ninjago, Legends of Chima, Friends and Elves, but most of the sets are themed on popular franchises such as StarWars, Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, The Simpsons, Marvel and DC Superheroes.  These themes make these sets collectable not only by LEGO enthusiasts but also fans of those franchises.  Every LEGO set has a finite production run, so when a set is retired that makes it more collectable too.


You can buy LEGO direct from the company online and it has its own amazing stores located internationally. In the stores you can pick-a-brick from a wall of LEGO pieces and turn up for fun events and promotions. Becoming a VIP member is a must for the LEGO fan.  But you can pretty much buy LEGO everywhere; online, brick and mortar toyshops and even supermarkets.  It is not cheap though, new or used, so the best time to buy is when it is discounted, Amazon do a lot of deals.  There is a massive second-hand LEGO market that can be accessed via eBay, Gumtree and charity shops (if you’re lucky enough to find it there first).  eBay is useful for finding complete sets but it is often expensive and there are lots of clone bricks out there that you need to beware of.  A fair priced source of LEGO to buy, sell and/or trade is this friendly Facebook group.  Adult LEGO fans who make MOCs (make your own creations) often buy LEGO by the brick from websites such as BrickLink and Brickowl. I get the most pleasure from finding bargain second hand ‘hauls’ both out and about and online.  A fair price to pay for used LEGO in the UK is £10 per kilo.  For your reference, a supermarket carrier bag holds about two kilos.

The flip side of buying is selling. Different outlets are better for different sorts of sales.  For making a profit on sets and collectable minifigs you would probably sell on eBay.  Some people invest in collectable sets (such as StarWars ones) to sell new, in mint, sealed condition at later date when they are retired.  Some sets are worth more when they are ‘parted out’, that is sold brick by brick on BrickLink and Brickowl, especially sets that contain new sorts of LEGO bricks that are desirable by serious builders.

Sorting and Storage
As soon as you start amassing LEGO you need to store it somewhere.  LEGO makes some fun storage but as soon as you outgrow these you need something more built in and sorting it for easy access becomes a necessity.  I have found that there is a peculiar pleasure in sorting LEGO.  There are many options you can sort by brick type, by colour, by size.  There is a whole nomenclature of LEGO bricks, in fact the official terminology for bricks is ‘elements’. Just as every LEGO set has its own set number, every LEGO brick has its own part number! This helps with buying the parts you need and for creating an inventory for selling or for entering into Rebrickable, a website that shares LEGO instructions that you could make with the bricks already in your collection. 

There are actually over 9 million different possible ways of combining six, regular 2 studs x 4 studs bricks in building arrangements.  Practically everything has been recreated or built from scratch in LEGO.  I have some ideas for some MOCs that I am working on and I have set myself some ground rules for them.  I can only use my own bricks, not the kids’ and I must start by prototyping them from small to large, starting in one colour first.  It is really difficult to think of something that no one else has built in LEGO before, but that’s what I want to do, if I can.   

The Community
LEGO has a really friendly community.  I was surprised to find out that the place to hang out with LEGO fans and see their marvellous creations is FlickR!  Not Facebook nor Twitter.  Perhaps it is because LEGO is very visual.  I’ve also noticed there is some great photography of LEGO displayed there so I’ll be needing to brush up on my DSLR camera skills.  YouTube is a great source of reviews of LEGO sets and Brickfilms (stop-motion videos made out of LEGO).  In real life, there are LUGs (LEGO User Groups) where AFOLs meet and share their hobby interest, I have yet to go to one but will blog about it if I do.  A great way for anyone to get a taste of the AFOL scene is to go to a Brickshow, there you will find displays, activities and marketplaces.  If you’re not feeling sociable you could always just read about it in some of the magazines available such as Bricks, Blocks and Brick Journal.

My video of the Tanfield Brickshow 2015

So there you have what I’ve learned so far about being an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO).  I’m sure there is so much for me to get to know.  If you think I have missed something important, please comment below so I can check it out.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience becoming an AFOL!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Colin!