The Lego bricks and the Lego sets before us have a history which goes back to the 1940s with roots firmly planted in Denmark. While the toys available today are very different to those of the early years the principal idea of Lego is still very much the same. We will now take a look at the history and the progression of the simple Lego set into what we see today - a multibillion dollar business.
The early history of Lego dates back to the 1930s when Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen began building wooden toys in 1932. Such was the early success and the very positive feedback from these wooden toys that the now famous Danish carpenter created his own company which he called "Lego" - a term which is derived from the Danish phrase "leg godt" which literally means "play well".
The year 1947 was a major landmark in the history of Lego as the company began to produce plastic toys with the now famous Lego pieces introduced in 1949. The original term used to describe the bricks was "automatic binding bricks" but this mouthful never really caught on and the product is now simply known as Lego. Many people will be surprised to learn that while the history of Lego can be traced back to Denmark in the early 1930s the product itself is actually based on a UK patented "self locking brick", a sample of which was given to the Danish entrepreneur in the 1950s.
While the development of plastic bricks was obviously a major stepping stone in the creation of the Lego phenomenon which we see today it was not until 1954 when the company really began to take off. Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, the son of the original founder, took up a very junior management role in the 1950s and after a conversation with an overseas buyer the idea of putting Lego bricks together as a toy system for children really began to take shape.
It will surprise a number of people to learn that while the brick that we see today was created back in 1958 it was not until 1963 that a suitable material was found from which to build the bricks. The Lego patent was created at 1:58 PM on 28 January 1958 and all of the bricks that we see today are derived from this particular patent.
Development of the Lego brand name
While we have seen many prominent toy companies come and go over the years Lego Plc is still an independent company based in Denmark. However, due to the worldwide demand and the worldwide popularity for this particular children's toy there are now moulding plants in Denmark, Hungary, Monterrey and Mexico to name but a few. There are also many other locations where the bricks are shipped in and packaged ready for the local market.
Such has been the massive demand for Lego style products over the years that the company believes in excess of 400 billion Lego bricks have been produced since the original patent was granted. Currently annual production is around 36 billion bricks per year which equates to just over 1100 bricks per second. Incidentally some of the more bizarre figures relating to Lego show that if the total number of bricks produced were split equally amongst the worldwide population each of us would have 62 bricks each. Inadvertently, the company could also be considered the number one tyre manufacturer in the world as it produces over 306 million tiny rubber tyres a year!
Over the years we have seen a number of very prominent licences agreed with the Lego Group which include Batman, Ben 10, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spiderman, SpongeBob SquarePants, Thomas the Tank Engine, Toy Story and perhaps the most popular of all Lego Star Wars. There is no doubt that more licences will be agreed in the months and years ahead as the company strives to stay at the forefront of the children's toy market.
The company has also introduced a number of Lego video games which again take in the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, Harry Potter and other well-known franchises. There is no doubt that the ability to play games online has benefited the likes of Lego Plc which has managed to remain one step ahead of the competition in so many ways. Indeed the company also has five Legoland amusement parks located in Denmark, England, Germany, California and Florida. Such is demand for the Lego brand name that a 70% shareholding in Legoland Parks was recently sold for $460 million with the remaining shares still held by the parent company.
Lego around the world
As well as themed Lego sets, Legoland parks around the world and online gaming there are also nearly 50 retail outlets around the globe. While the vast majority of the stores are situated in the United States of America, one of the main markets for Lego, there are also stores in the UK, Germany, Canada and obviously Denmark. Indeed such is the influence which Lego now has in the children's toy market that a separate entity has been created called Lego Education.
The company has invested heavily in specially trained staff that who able to teach children between four years and 12 years of age about various subjects and various events using Lego. This is still a very early stage development of the Lego brand theme but brings us up to date with regards to the massive exposure which the brand now has across the world. Films, magazines, board games and even children's clothing have also failed to escape the clutches of Lego which must now be one of the best-known brand names in the world and still remains one of the bestselling children's gifts nearly 80 years after the initial seeds of Lego were planted.
Lego is one of the few global products which has remained an independent company over the years and managed to escape the clutches of the likes of Disney, etc. This is a brand name and a concept which continues to attract the attention of children and many believe that the Internet offers a very exciting new stage of development for the company. We await, with anticipation, future developments from the very forward-looking and very well-informed Lego Plc.