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.
The one on the left clearly is the knock off. What’s interesting is that the set is derived from an older set 7945: Fire Station. A few key things that you can see from the fake set are:
- No visible Lego mini figures
- Additional helicopter (which they probably used from a different set)
- Slightly altered roof top (such as the lack of a fire insignia flag)
- Other settings that are missing or altered (like a rear staircase and a palm tree as opposed to a pine tree)
- Faintly darker gray color
I think upon a close up view of the set, you can also see that the studs do not bear the Lego logo neither (for obvious reasons). The brand is clearly a Chinese one too with the name “QLT QIAOLETONG STEM” in front of the set title.
Now, here’s where things get really interesting. The reviews are all 4-5 stars coming from the US. Some have pictures to make the review seem more authentic (and possibly are authentic) but I’ve heard that one of Amazon’s issues right now is a plethora of fake reviews being bought and coming from China. Worse yet, some reviews even call this item Lego.
And the worrying thing is that this isn’t just a single set. There’s a great of other sets like this one being sold on Amazon and being marketed in related links to Lego.
Again the issue here is that these sets are being sold as not only compatible but of 4-5 stars quality. It’s a very disturbing trend especially for life long Lego fans.
From what I’ve been told, there’s very little that Lego can do on the issue because the manufacturers are in China. From what I imagine, these sets might simply be re-sold sets that have the Lego brand wiped out and possibly re-purposed to avoid a direct copyright violation and/or to be able to say that they are these company’s own products. Yet these aren’t 4-5 star worthy in my book and should not be for anyone who truly want to call themselves a proud Lego collector.
However, the rise in popularity with or without the fake reviews and maybe from a few real reviews poses a clear message to Lego directly: your prices are too high. One such review points this out (and it’s one that I believe is real):
This reviewer does make a very poignant remark in describing the cost of this being dramatically lower than many sets these days being produced by Lego. Many newer sets seem to boost their parts count up with tiny pieces and adding unnecessary polybags and increasing the box size. I feel that these unnecessary elements have boosted the cost of the average Lego set without improving the quality, which might lead a fraction of buyers towards fake Lego sets coming from China.
But take a set such as the new 60306 Shopping Street as an example of where the price is clearly inflated compared to what it probably should be worth. This set is only a little over 500 pieces. The bulk of this set is the new street piece while the buildings included are very mediocre at best. The only positive that might make this set worth anything to a collector is the tiny pretzel shop. But is that shop truly worthy of $80 at the target price?
Instead, a town collector might take a look at the influx of these fake town sets that are easily half the price with double the parts to help bolster up a more realistic town. They might not be able to have the authenticity of a Lego stamped logo on every part but they might achieve a similar effect in being able to create a sprawling cityscape with spiraling towers in bulk buying up these cheap Chinese rip offs with their plethora of office windows, large, long bricks and flat roof elements.
With the pandemic posing a threat on the fragile global economy and the rise of prices on basic consumer goods, entertainment becomes a non-entity to the average person. There’s already talk of couples forgoing children because of the cost. Imagine families that are struggling for ends meat and can’t even afford Lego but might still want to provide a cheaper alternative for educational value to their children.
And unless the US imposes some heavy duty trade barriers against China (or perhaps other parts of the world) or against Amazon and similar sites, there’s little that Lego can do in this battle outside of re-examining what they’ve been doing these past 20 years. While Lego itself won’t go away in a day or even say 5 years from now, these knock off companies can pose enough of a short term threat where it eats into the Lego brand at a critical time where price means everything to the discerning customer.
Also, let me add that Lego needs to lower the volume that they have been producing every year. Currently, their product cycle is releases every 6 months. Worse yet, not everything is A+ quality anymore. Too much co-branded garbage like Star Wars have in my opinion really de-valued the core of Lego. As a hardcore collector, I practically have to be extremely selective of anything I buy from them just because it’s impossible to keep up anymore.
And this over-proliferation is never a good thing in my book. It simply over saturates the market and de-values the whole system. For instance, there is zero reason to buy an X-Wing anymore compared to when it first was released because just like the Lego fire station that comes out every 2 years, we know that a new one will eventually make its way into the product line up in a short cycle.
More importantly though, having that much glut just seems like a waste. I’d rather having a total of 10-20 products produced a year with very high quality that I know will be worth something in 10 years compared to the random reiteration of designs that have 1-2 newly minted parts that don’t diversify my existing portfolio of sets.
Yet these knock offs will provide a very competitive alternative potentially for those who just want to create the sets of their dreams with all the spare parts that can be bought cheaply. Also, many parents, who aren’t very discerning about the details and probably only care about shutting their kids up and the price, won’t have the same emotional investment as a collector, which means that Lego should be fearing that they too will face a reckoning.
So Lego, as an earnest collector, please consider taking a deep examination of your current situation and start changing your value system. The basics are good but the prices and market saturation are de-valuing your own product which is allowing these knock offs to come in and beat you.