Since I have not done a Lego review in a long time and that I just picked up the 60271 Main Square set and built it this morning, I figured it would be good to write up my thoughts on what looks like a grand set that in reality is somewhat controversial from my viewpoint as a hardcore collector of Town.
While browsing through sets I wish I could afford on Amazon, I ran across what I initially believed to be an old Lego set that was being re-sold. To my disbelief, I found my first truly imitation Lego set that for me is an utter insult to the brand of Lego and poses a definitive threat to their brand.
Lego is one of those toys that actually appreciates in value over time. And it’s quite quick to rise in value because people are pretty fanatical when it comes to collecting. As an experienced Lego collector, I wanted to share some tips on knowing when and what to buy Lego.
I had been digging around my house while and managed to shore up various mint-in-box (MIB) Lego stuff I had from the mid to late 90’s. Some I knew would be worth something some day, which is why I picked them up long time ago. A friend of mine though had asked me how I could determine what was and wasn’t valuable and I gave him a fairly lengthy explanation on my theories. He was quite impressed and suggested that I blog upon the subject. So I decided to finally write up a little article on my feelings on the subject for those who might want to get into collecting Lego.
In completing my Lego City review of the 10218 Pet Shop set, I decided to write up a small blog on a possible wish list. Right now, I’m quite happy with the direction Lego has gone with regards to the types of city structures. Most city structures over the years had a 2-3 revolving year policy between fire, police and gas station sets. Right now, we still see the fire and police themes make their rounds, but we also get the occasional deviation.
My thing is that as a hard core town collector, I would like to see even more deviations from Fire and Police based themes or at least give us more than 2-3 cycles and introduce other themes and styles into the mix. Although vehicles tend to be easy sells, the actual buildings themselves seem to have far less emphasis because I feel Lego sees them as not being popular with children. And probably that’s due to the lack of action features for most building sets. However, I think that the lack of realism at the expense of action features can hurt the city theme in terms of variety.
In order for me to put out my wish list, I first would like to review all the major buildings that we have seen over the years to see where our gaps are:
- Fire station
- Police station
- Gas Station
- Parking garage
- Pet Shop
- Town hall
- Train station
- Toys store
- McDonalds Fast Food restaurant
- Motorcycle shop
- Bicycle shop
- Repair garage
- Medical clinic
- Coast Guard
- Surf Shack
- Skateboard shop
- Bus stop
- Cargo Center
- Mini Market
- Various homes/apartments
- City construction yard
- Clothing botique
- Sea port
- Post office
- Pizza shop
- Race track
- Truck stop
I’m sure I’m leaving out numerous other types. But these are the main ones from my memory. For my money, I still feel that the town has an overall sense of emptiness. Or at least incompleteness when you compare it to an suburb or metropolitan zone. What we could use are:
- Shopping mall
- Electronics shop
- Hair Salon
- Power plant
- Major bank
- Homeless Shelter (good luck with that one though!)
- Liquor Store (or at least something like a 7-11 or AM/PM)
- More restaurants!
- Clothing boutique (smaller one)
- Church (not a big fan but it does belong more or less)
- Major store (e.g. Walmart, Target, KMart)
- Office building/corporation tower
- Car dealership
- A new metroliner
- Furniture shop
- Gardening Shop (Home Depot, Lowe’s Hardware, etc.)
- Club (disco)
- Theme park (Disneyland perhaps?)
I’m certain that a few of these sets already exist but just not for the City theme itself. I’ve always wanted a Lego shopping mall. Surprisingly, they’ve never done one. I have seen shots of a humor “Town Square” but I haven’t seen exactly what it will be. Perhaps, this set could fill in the shopping mall idea. If not, it would be neat to see a bunch of modular shops that you could configure via the connector pieces (like the downtown sets).
Some sets, I doubt we’ll ever see in existence. Others, like the school, furniture shop or barber are things that seem like an easy 100-200 part set. If you look at the old Ideas book (I think it’s 6000), you’ll see that Lego already can produce these types of sets and that the idea does exist. It’s mostly a matter of either producing stickers or a few specific pieces. I want to see them do it out of completeness.
My car dealership idea is just a variation on the parking garage idea. But it seems like a great idea to have. Maybe a small shop with some guy cooking hot dogs outside, a flat plate with several parking spaces and including 3-4 variations on SUVs, sedans, sports cars and possibly a carrier.
Also, I would love to see Lego do more partnerships with companies like a Walmart or Target in producing an in-store only type of set. I loved the Toys-R-Us toy shop that Lego did a few years back. It wasn’t a fancy set but I really liked how Lego provided something that was drastically missing all these years.
My other main wish is that I want Lego to revert back to the 4 stud wide vehicle style. I can tolerate to a degree the 6 stud wide vehicle style, but anything beyond that like the dump truck is just ridiculous. I dislike the inconsistencies in scaling and hope that Lego moves back to standard 4 stud wide scale. It just feels that most of the vehicles set are being overcharged and that there’s too many that take up space unnecessarily by being 6 studs wide.
The Lego 10218 Pet Shop City set is another modular downtown city structure that hard core town collectors will absolutely love. Like the other downtown city structures, this one is three stories high and can be connected via the sides to other downtown city structures. However, the building itself has an additional divider that allows you to separate the pet shop with the apartment section for more customization in configuring your town.
Once again, Lego does a magnificent job of putting an incredible amount of detail into these downtown city structures. Here, we see what is from my memory, one of the only toilets in existence. After piecing this part together, I had to take a picture because it’s something you really don’t see in Lego sets. You have to admit this is one nice looking toilet. Stanley Kubrick would be proud (and if you don’t know the reference, check out the various interpretations of how Kubrick incorporates restrooms in his movies).
The first part you’ll put together is the first floor of the apartment section. Outside of the little bathroom, this side is such a wonderful piece. It reminds me a bit of the architecture in the Bay Area with the stairs leading to the apartment and the window structure. You get a little gated garden and mail box (mail included!) along with a stylish porch overhanging.
The interior of the first floor beyond the toilet is basically a living room. Right next to the door, you have a coat hanger with someone’s hat resting. Nearby is a black leather sofa and flower vase that shows a very cozy environment to the person living here.
The rear of the apartment has a small door and what looks to be a basement. The doors do open but the space underneath is pretty small. Also, you get your normal garbage can.
I didn’t capture much of the second floor unfortunately. In all honesty, there wasn’t much to really demonstrate. You do have a spiraling staircase that leads to the second floor, which seems to be either being renovated or for rent. You have a painter putting the first layer of paint against the brown wall.
The third floor itself is again not really remarkable. We do get a balcony with a small garden. The interior though lacks any features outside of the next flight of stairs leading upwards and some crates. Probably, it’s meant for you to fill in with additional furniture.
Here’s another view of the apartment by itself. One little detail I enjoyed was the pipe drain on the side. It’s a nice touch.
The picture above shows the beginnings of the pet shop component. Here, you can see a relatively new piece, which is a larger plastic trash can. Just outside you can see a mouse just sticking outside it’s mouse hole while a cat prowls nearby.
This is inside of the pet shop. Here, I’m starting to work on the dog cage. The set gives you three bones, one of which is placed along side the little dog here. The dog is a cute little set piece.
Once the first floor is complete, you can see the various things for sale, including the dog, supplies (including a plastic frog), the aforementioned cat and a fish tank (not shown). From this angle, you can see the cash register as well as the finished dog cage. The dog cage sits under a stair case leading to the 2nd floor of what seems like someone’s apartment.
Here’s a shot of the exterior. It includes some merchandise such as a rubber ball and two bones for your dogs. Also, you can see the lamp post on the street corner here.
Unfortunately, for us who wanted a bigger pet shop, we won’t be getting it here. The upper floors of this building are dedicated living quarters. You can see someone’s kitchen. I have to say though that the rent hopefully should be cheap considering that they’d have to live above a pet shop!
This is the last aspect of the Pet Shop building. Here, we see that it’s someone’s bedroom. Fortunately, they designed it on the 3rd floor as opposed to the 2nd floor. Imagine if this guy was nutty enough to put his bed over the dog cage! That would royally suck!
Overall, this is such a wonderful set. It is quite expensive but the design is very mature and a great addition to any town. It also shows how far Lego has come with all the various animals pieces it has delivered to us over the years. It’s not an action packed type of set but adds another common aspect of life to Lego’s city dwellers. Also, with the Town Hall and Movie Cinema coming out, we’ll be adding even more to the growing demand of variety.
Lego 4429 Helicopter Rescue is a good upgrade from the last hospital set, which was oddly built on a raised plate. At 425 pieces, this system feels like a mid sized hospital with a fair sized helicopter as one of the main components. It includes 4 figures, including one victim, a female paramedic, helicopter pilot and doctor.
The first aspect you will be building is the ambulance. It’s a traditional 4 stud wide vehicle type and features a rear panel to insert one of the two gurneys that accompany this set. The victim is shown holding a banana of all things, so optionally you can place him on the stretcher inside of the ambulance (maybe he had an allergic reaction like myself to the banana).
After completing that portion, you will then move on to the helicopter. This piece includes one of the larger canopies. As demonstrated in the photo, the only way to insert the figure is through removing the canopy and then replacing it. The interior is quite plain outside of the steering wheel to control the helicopter. Much of the room inside is devoted to storing the other stretcher piece. The helicopter here has a generic “action oriented” type of feeling and is placed above the garage.
Probably the only notable moving part outside of the helicopter blades is the rear panel to store the stretcher. Quite surprisingly, there are no tool boxes or gadgets for helping patients while they get airlifted to the hospital.
The hospital itself is split into two separate bags. One part focuses on the first floor while the second part focuses on the second floor and long window section as well as a few extra components. The first floor itself is pretty simple, having a nice garage and lobby with two seats (but no clerk).
The second floor has a minor operating room or diagnosis area with two beds, and a small computer and perhaps a dialysis machine. There’s a regular door similar to the one on the first floor where those being air lifted can be quickly transferred to the operating area.
Overall, this set is a good component to any city. Lego rarely produces hospitals and I felt that the previous one, while long overdue, was a structural disaster. This hospital, although plain, can easily fit into any city. It’s not a terribly huge set, outside of the lengthy helicopter and is reasonable for the price.
Considering that Lego in 2012/2013 has just produced the most epic fire station in their history, I feel that a hospital of similar proportions is in line in the next year or two. While writing this review, I felt that there was very little I could say beyond what the pictures provided. The set suffices a specific need but demands more attention in a future set. Having visited a hospital almost on a daily basis this past year, I felt that this set does not do a typical hospital justice in the lack of details and general size. Although there isn’t much to add the way a fire station could via more vehicles (except perhaps a paramedic car), the set really needs more levels and should be built up more vertically. Where are the stereotypical horrible cafeteria? Or patients’ private rooms? The helicopter part feels as though takes up far too much space and that this building acts more like an above average clinic.
At any rate, I sincerely hope that Lego produces something more worthy as an addition to the city. For the price, this serves a purpose but it’s somewhat disappointing after you consider how Lego has produced highly satisfying police and fire stations. Even the parking garage this year is amazing by comparison. There definitely is room for improvement.
As an avid, life long collector of Lego, I feel compelled to speak on the direction of the company in recent years. I think overall Lego is quite possibly the best toy ever invented. What it inspires is unparalleled and the company deserves a great deal of credit for creating generations upon generations of inventive minds. However, the one aspect I feel the manufacturer is moving in the wrong direction is the quantity, size and cost of their products.
While growing up during the 80s, I could buy sets for between $2-40 on average. Of course, inflation changed a lot of this, but a huge influencing aspect has been the size and number of sets that has increased in the past 20 years. Although you have far more choices for sets, the sheer volume produced is overwhelming. As a hardcore collector, I had to give up on getting every single set and now am forced to pick things that I can afford. What’s sad is that I can technically afford more as a worker. However, I am very prudent about my money and feel that the quality compared to the output isn’t worth it anymore.
For instance, I love Town Lego and make a concerted effort to pick up as many Town (City) elements as I can. However, some of the best sets are priced at a ridiculous $60-100+. And most end up being horribly redundant and just clones of previous models such as Fire Stations. It wouldn’t be so bad if Lego put out a single $100/year. These days though, it feels as though each theme gets it’s own $100 set. When you add up all the themes, you can easily spend $1000+ just picking up the top of the line stuff.
But then look at how vehicles are constructed. Most are now 6 studs wide as opposed to the previous 4 studs. That increase in studs has made most of the vehicles bulkier and to a huge degree, incompatible with older vehicles. And this style is inconsistent. You can find a mixture of 6 and 4 stud vehicles. Sometimes, even more as in the case of tractors or cranes. Yet what purpose outside of creating an illusion of scale does changing the width of a vehicle?
Again, the answer is quite plain: money. Sold individually, many of these new vehicles can price at $20+. A similar type of vehicle sold during the 80s would cost between $5-9. Even humble vehicles like delivery vans are fattened up and scaled to cost. It doesn’t stop there. Throw in more elements for vehicles just to pad an extra buck or two for even the smaller sets.
Yet from a product point of view, this all feels unnecessary. I don’t really need an extra bicycle for my car or a cat in a tree. It’s nice adding these environmental elements but I want something that I can pick up while getting supplies at Target. You can’t really do that these days. You can’t simply grab a few sets, pay $40 and feel like you’ve added some nice elements to your collection. Instead, you pick up one item and squeeze it into your overflowing bookshelf.
As time passes, this is becoming the norm for set design. Probably, the most disturbing aspect was when a friend of mine linked an article which talked about the real target audience for Lego. The statistics demonstrated that it’s older folk like myself who have (had in my case) jobs that end up being the main consumer for Lego. Although it’s nice that Lego acknowledges people like us, there’s some invariably wrong about aiming at us as a demographic.
I feel that the toy should cater to the 4-12 year olds in both price, size and complexity. The Town Jr series was a disaster but we’re going far off into the opposite direction. Even sets like the Super Star Destroyer, Ultimate Series Millennium Falcon or exclusive modular town sets are really not geared towards 16 year olds. They’re for adults with excessive income and a serious hobby compulsion.
But as I continue collecting, I always have to wonder if something is worth the investment. Take the Star Wars series. Look at how many iterations of the X-Wing are in existence. Why not just re-issue the original? Seeing the $100+ Helms Deep Fortress set, I asked myself earlier if I should even bother picking it up since there’s a high chance Lego will just make a better one.
The thing for me is that I simply do not want to keep re-paying $100 for the same model every other year. I don’t even want to pay $20 for things like fire trucks if they’re just the same thing redone with slightly different configurations and the occasional new part. It’s too overwhelming and costly. I would like to see something else produced that’s innovative or something that isn’t in my collection (such as the pet store) if I were to invest a significant chunk of change into a set. Also, I would like there to be less redundant sets overall or even less sets. It’s impossible to catch up anymore. As much as I support Lego, I can’t financially keep doing this. When you add space into this equation, things end up feeling wasteful.
So as a plea from a long time customer, I must ask Lego to cut back heavily, start shrinking the size and cost of your sets and add more variety to them to re-entice me into spending my money on them. Also, branch out from “safe” sets like fire stations more frequently. Give us stuff like hotels, shopping malls, etc. on the town side. And finally kill the whole Star Wars and Harry Potter series. It’s been far too long and not exciting as when it first came out.
Lego 4207 is actually an older set from 2012 that I just picked up. I hadn’t made a major Lego purchase in a while but I knew that I absolutely had to own this set. Essentially, the City Garage is a remake of the only other city garage type of system back from 1988 known as the Metro Park. Because of the scarcity of that type of set and the scale that Lego was able to reproduce it, this set becomes a must have for any hardcore City Lego collector.
At 933 pieces, this set is another epic level creation. You get an amazing four vehicles and fully operational elevator for your cars to traverse up and down this multilevel structure. It might seem slightly empty when you look at it from the outside, but don’t let appearances fool you. This set has a great deal of elements and is quite a blast to put together.
The first car you get to build reminds me of a mini cooper. You get a female occupant as the driver. It’s got a sleek feeling and differs slightly from the other yellow car included in this package.
This van is quite a set in itself. Rarely, do you get to see plain vans so this vehicle is a nice addition to the Lego city universe. It reminds me of a scaled down Volkswagen Van that was sold. While there’s only a single driver, inside you can see room for another occupant. There’s a small cup inside behind the driver’s seat, which is a nice touch. Also, the hub caps are a neat little touch.
The next pair of vehicles are another wagon type of car and tow truck. The wagon is notable for the driver who reminds me of an ex-coworker, except that he’s dressed in a suit. Behind his seat, you can place his suit case.
The tow truck is an interesting vehicle included in this set. I say interesting in that it’s an odd choice to a degree. There is a small repair shop on the 2nd floor of the garage. You can see at the end of the instruction manual though that some where down the line, the little yellow wagon has some issues and requires the aid of the tow truck.
From there, I decided to photograph each of the major sections as I assembled it. The first section of the building is a gated entrance to the structure. It’s pretty cool in that you have a system that looks to operate like a toll booth at your parking garage. You get a ramp that leads to the elevator once the elevator is at ground level. Also, as part of this section, you get your fuel pump. The fuel pump is detached from the main set. In some ways, I wish that it was part of the structure but there’s no room within the set to place it.
The other bottom section is a car wash. I think the older Metro Park also had a car wash, but this one is slightly updated in that it contains the little brush-like pieces and techniques used to cleanse your vehicles.
The next area you get to build is the security office. This was a nice touch to the set where you get a middle aged (probably underpaid) guard who uses his surveillance camera to monitor the second level. Also, on this level you get to see the first little parking spot for your vehicles. Altogether, the set has six spots available for average sized cars, not including the space on the ramp and elevator.
On the opposite side of the security office on the second floor is a make shift repair section. There’s not a lot to this area except some tools for the guy running the tow truck. I thought that was a bizarre element to add to this set, but it does add a little more color/depth to the set beyond just boring, empty parking spaces.
Next you come to the third floor, which pretty much are duplicates on both sides. Here, you have four spaces, two on each side with the elevator gadget in the middle.
The elevator aspect is pretty cool in that it uses a pulley mechanism to lower and raise vehicles to each floor. It’s quite sturdy and probably can hold more than the vehicles supplied in this set as long as they can fit on the elevator platform. A small gear on the side allows you to operate the pulley. And of course, we get the standard Octan symbol advertising the garage.
Ultimately, this set is such a wonderful set. It has a tremendous amount of detail with all the stickers enhancing what could’ve been a far more bland structure and making it seem lively. It has a very sturdy feel to it and despite the seemingly thin beams providing most of the vertical structure, it feels strong with small 3×1 smooth tiles reinforcing these beams vertically.
Although the set can serve as a car wash, gas station and repair shop, the main feature as the city’s monolithic garage really adds a great deal of flavor to the Lego world. Given any of your spare pedestrian vehicles, you could make this set feel even fuller by occupying each of the free spaces. At $129, this set can be daunting for most people. I personally would love to have multiple of these if I had both the money and space because of the sheer usefulness from a set like this. Every town needs a garage like this so if you missed out on the older Metro Park set, don’t miss out on this one.
As a long time fire station Lego collector, I’ve seen them all and I think I might have virtually every Lego fire station in existence. So imagine how pumped up I was in seeing this 2013’s newest edition: 60004. Entitled simply “Fire Station”, 60004 quite possibly is the most epic Lego fire station ever made. Certainly by the price, this set is the most expensive to date. At 752 pieces, it might very well be the largest fire station in the history of Lego (I really don’t want to count the other major one a few years back that interconnects with the other mega downtown city set themes; I thought that wasn’t truly representative of most Lego fire stations). Regardless, this set deserves its own review by the sheer scale.
Ever since Town Junior made its mark many years ago, it seems that Lego decided to move into the opposite direction after scathing criticism and the fear that Lego was becoming too simplistic. Since that point, the fire stations have grown steadily in size and complexity. I believe the last 2-3 re-introduced the garage elements. What 60004 has done is culminate in every element of all fire stations into the mega complex that many of us hardcore Lego fire station fanatics have been waiting for. And it sure has not disappointed.
Let’s start off with the paramedic unit. The mode for this vehicle follows other recent paramedic vehicles. The rear can be lifted open in holding an oxygen mask and tank. The driver though is a female, which is something new in concept since older sets had suggested women were more in the office. Now, we’re seeing women figures take more active roles in these sets.
The next major component is the helicopter. I believe the last fire station was missing a fire helicopter, which is why it felt smaller in some respects. However, this set has one and makes it quite complete in terms of all the varying elements that Lego has introduced over the years to fire stations. The chopper itself isn’t anything special, only serving as an air unit with a single hose to put out fires from the sky.
For the last of the vehicles included in this set, we have an aerial ladder styled truck. I was a bit ambivalent on this truck. This year, we’ve seen several other very similar sets added into the mix. I was somewhat surprised that Lego decided to go this route. While this component does not outshine 60002, it does seem redundant in comparison to 60003. Part of me wishes that Lego had done something different for one of those sets as they share too similar features without any particular one standing out.
What really stands out for me are not the vehicles but the station itself. The station has so much detail and contains all the cliches Lego has developed over the years and then some. For instance, we see the prototypical fire Dalmatian along with a box filled with flames (strange element but hey it’s different; maybe they use it for practice?)
The bottom floor of the station contains the main “office”. Here, I planted the fire chief to manage the calls and monitor any alerts that occur on the map. Off to the side, we can see a small trolley which contains several tools. This is one element that is new to the fire station genre.
Compared to the top and bottom floors, the second floor is somewhat bland. It’s main purpose, inside of the tower that is, is to hold spare tools. My one complaint about this floor is that it also is used to hold the helicopter platform. Unfortunately, there are no doors that lead to the helipad. Instead, Lego somewhat cheeses this by leaving the office side open. I find this detail a big subtraction since we’ve seen older police stations with doors leading to their helipads. If this section had a wall, I would probably scream.
The top floor is the dining “hall”. It contains a small sink and stove. There’s even a little hot dog you can cook over a frying pan (how ironic). On the back of the box, one of the funny little stories Lego tells is how a fire man is lounging in the rear, waiting for the next call. Like the 2nd floor of the tower, this floor also leaves one side of the building exposed. Unlike the 2nd floor though, this seems to have no purpose outside of cheap summer air conditioning.
One element that took me by surprise was the sliding pole. I should clarify that “surprise” for me was seeing how the 2nd and 3rd floors had one exposed window frame. The slide element made sense for this aspect and reminded me of another fire station that had a similar structure a few years ago.
Overall, I found this set to be one of my personally anticipated sets of all time. A few years ago I had mentioned in another blog post about how Lego was leading towards an epic fire station. This set feels as though Lego has throughout its career created the ultimate fire station. It feels as close to perfect as you can expect. While I do have a few complaints, they are completely drowned in favor of a great design and meeting all expectations coming from the hefty $110 price tag.
The question that comes out of this is “Can Lego beat this?” That is highly subjective. I think Lego can continue creating permutations of this type of set. Outside of my quips, my three ideas for improving upon this set would be to have a bedroom, a third garage for another set (since there was only one set in the history of Lego fire stations that ever had more than two garages for its vehicles) and making the set more modular by allowing sections of the set to be interconnected with other small fire station garage type of components.
That said, design-wise, there’s not a lot of room elsewhere. I hope that Lego eventually comes up with a similar set for a hospital. I feel that all the types of sets that Lego has come up with for town should have a once-in-a-lifetime-minimum treatment where they receive an epic design. Glad to see that the fire station finally got its due.