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LEGO colors – introduction

(Written by Maxx)

When thinking of LEGO colors, RED, WHITE, BLUE, YELLOW and BLACK come to mind to those of us over 30. If you are younger, you probably know a lot more LEGO colors; like GREEN, PINK, DARK RED, and even SILVER. But you might be surprized to learn that in the early days of LEGO most of these colors were already around! 🙂

Here is a brief overview on how LEGO colors evolved:

1949-1956: LEGO bricks are called Automatic Binding Bricks, or ABB for short. Colors are plenty and we love seeing them, as plastic is new to us and these bright colors are great! LEGO comes in 3 different YELLOWs, ORANGE, 4 GREENs, 3 REDs, 4 BLUEs (with even LIGHT-BLUE), 2 WHITEs, TRANSPARENT, PURPLE, PINK and BROWN. A wild mix of colors!

And to top it all of there are even marbled bricks! These bricks had multiple colors in them, coming in beautiful swirls. Marbled bricks were considered second-grade quality and sold for less than the full color bricks. Today it is the opposite. 😉

1956-1958: LEGO bricks are now called Mursten – meaning “brick”. The multitude of colors is downsized. We now have a steady supply of WHITE, RED, YELLOW, BLUE, GREEN and TRANSPARENT – with GREEN being very rare.

1958-1978: we now recognize bricks to be “real” LEGO, but something strange happened to them; apart from getting tubes underneath, something strange went on with colors….They all but disappeared!!!
For years on end, the only colors available became WHITE and RED. Great for building houses with roofs, but a bit boring. 🙁

There were actually a few other colors around – BLUE, YELLOW, BLACK and TRANSPARENT – but they were rare. GREEN is only seen as baseplates and trees.

Towards the end of this period we are slowly getting more colors again – BLUE, YELLOW and BLACK are becoming normal in the LEGO color mix.
With the Classic Space Sets LIGHT-GRAY reappears, and some GREEN and PINK also comes to join the LEGO world.

1978-1997: as far as LEGO colors these are the best years ever. Towards the end of this period LEGO is having a major 100 plus colors! WOW!!! Anything is possible! All colors are available! The sky is the limit!

But our dream could not last forever. The LEGO Group gets into some bad times and they are on the edge of going under. They need to reshape their product, and one of the things needed to save money is to use less colors. From over 100 different colors, LEGO goes back to about 50 colors. (At this time, DUPLO 2×2 bricks come in the most colors, numbering 46 different ones.)

1997-2003: luckily for humanity, LEGO survives and slowly rebuilds. Colors are kept to a minimum, but still we have a lot to choose from. We are happy, and can build rainbows and landscapes. Unaware of the horrible thing ahead of us…

2004 till present: the oldies amongst us think of this as a terrible, confusing period – one we would like to erase from common memory. LIGHT-GRAY got replaced by LIGHT-BLUISH-GRAY, DARK-GRAY by DARK-BLUISH-GRAY, BROWN by REDDISH-BROWN and our beloved PINK by BRIGHT-PINK. Some other colors are also changed, but not enough for us to notice.

Still LEGO is not ready with modifying colors! To save money, they no longer buy pre-colored ABS pellets (the plastic pellets LEGO is made from). They started to mix the colors themselves. The best example of this is the Harry Potter purple bus (set 4755) coming in multiple purples. Due to this change other bricks are becoming translucent against the light.

But in the end, we all love our LEGO and the colors it comes in. It feeds our imagination and makes it possible for us to build virtually anything and everything! 😀

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • roadrunner March 22, 2011, 9:54 AM

    This is very interesting! I had no idea lego has such a rich color history! Your color collection looks very enticing! I’m tempted to start one myself!

    • admin April 6, 2011, 10:06 PM

      Go for it, roadrunner! And don’t forget to share your pictures! 😉

  • Maxx April 29, 2011, 4:24 PM

    If you really wish to start, give me a call and I might be able to help:)

  • blog4block June 2, 2011, 6:28 AM

    Wow! I had lot of LEGO in my childhood in 90’s, but I had no idea, that they was made in so many colors!

  • Heidi August 3, 2011, 7:34 PM

    In going through my old legos with my 5 year old son. I noticed that I have pat pend bricks. Possibly some Bayer bricks also, because the bumps are rough to the touch. I also have some white bricks that have a hole on each side and have a clear plastic part inside the bottom, I have always wondered about those bricks? Any ideas? I could email a photo to be more helpful later.

    • admin August 3, 2011, 8:19 PM

      Heidi, I hope Maxx will have the time to answer your questions. He is the color expert. 🙂

      And, yes, if you have some pictures that would probably help to identify what you have. Also other readers might like to see them as well. 😉

    • Maxx September 1, 2011, 3:20 AM

      Hi Heidi,
      Great fun to hear you are going through your old LEGO with your kid.
      Most adults forget you must sometimes play WITH your kid:)
      Those white bricks with holes in the sides are most likely wheel bricks: https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?P=7049
      About some being Bayer bricks, I can’t really tell from your description, but easiest is if they have weird colors, also they only come in 2×4.
      You can always contact me, just ask Anna or I don’t know how this would normally work…..

  • VAMPIRE KITTI April 12, 2012, 4:18 PM

    dang dude thats awesome!!!!!! i love legos!!!! i think i will start a lego collection

    • Maxx April 21, 2012, 7:59 AM

      Yes, you should, it’s fun to collect all these great colors.
      Plus you get to play with LEGO(c:

  • Glenn May 6, 2012, 5:08 AM

    Any chance of this getting updated with the new Friends colors?

    • admin May 6, 2012, 9:04 AM

      Glenn, that’s a good suggestion. As far as I know Maxx already added the Friends colors to his 2×4 LEGO brick collection, and I hope he will update us on them. 🙂

  • Maxx June 8, 2012, 2:20 AM

    I will see what I can do when I have real LEGO time again.

    There are several new colors, including new DUPLO ones.
    I had all these new colors through my connections way before these sets came out(c:

    See also: https://www.flickr.com/photos/maxx361/6352753707/in/photostream


    • admin June 8, 2012, 9:18 AM

      Maxx, yeah, the new Friends colors are just lovely! 😀

  • Vlad August 28, 2012, 7:24 PM

    Hello, Maxx. I had no idea about Lego color history, though I am collecting and building Legos for a year now. I have some old sets and I love them even more than new ones. Definetly going to start exploring and collecting different collars and printed blocks . Once again I am convinced there is so much more about Legos I will learn ))) that what makes this hobby so amazing and promising ))

  • Misato November 29, 2012, 7:26 AM

    I love and hate Lego at the same time. I am currently a big fan of the Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series sets. Probably the biggest and most expensive sets Lego makes.

    The reason that I hate Lego, is all the damn colors and the very slight difference between a lot of those colors. For example, I find it very hard to tell the difference from old gray to blueish gray in some of the real tiny pieces, and I have 20/20 vision.

    I made the mistake one day of dumping all of my legos in one huge container to save space in my room by taking the empty boxes to the attic. HUGE mistake. Don’t ever do this people. Keep all the bricks in the box they came in or you will regret it.

    Between all of the Ultimate Collector Series sets I have, I have over 12,000 lego pieces. This is a nightmare. I am still sorting the gray pieces. I mean, it’s like trying to tell the difference between bricks that are 1000 parts gray and one part white and bricks that are 1000 parts gray and two parts white.

    Like I said, the bigger pieces are usually identifiable, but the real small pieces that are either old gray or blueish gray are a bitch to tell apart.

    And then there are the pieces that are so old they get a little discolored just from age, and they look just a little different from old gray, but they also look a little different than blueish gray, and you know they are one or the other but you can’t tell which.

    • admin November 29, 2012, 10:06 AM

      Misato, I feel your pain! One thing I found is that the best time to separate old gray and new gray is when the sun is at its brightest. Also, I found that with tiny pieces, if you stick them together to make a column it is easier to tell them apart. Or, just don’t bother separating them. Especially the old light gray and new light gray are very similiar. The darker grays are easier to distinguish. A lot of LEGO fans use both old and new gray in their MOCs asthey give a nice variation and more realism (like for castle-walls).

      As far as sorting LEGO, the best I found is to sort them by type as that way you can easily find the pieces as you are working on a project. However if you are a collector, and you only build according to official instructions, they yeah, separating sets into their original boxes makes more sense.

      Just keep looking, the perfect storing and sorting solution for your LEGO is out there. Many articles have been written about the topic by LEGO fans who are battling the same dilemma. It is not impossible. 😉

  • kim October 17, 2013, 9:26 AM
    • Maxx November 2, 2013, 7:27 AM

      A bit expensive(c:
      But Admin has those same colors in 2×2.

      If you want to start a color chart, go buy the parts on BrickLink or from LEGO.
      It will save you a lot of money and it’s more fun!

  • Håkan January 15, 2014, 4:11 PM

    Hmm, comparing these lists with set lists at Bricklink, it seems many of the early rare colors would actually be due to sloppy quality control.

    I hear people complaining today about how the nuances of various bricks differ, but it seems to have been an even worse situation in the 50’s, where you could have gotten a brick of an entirely different color, depending on which batch that was produced in the factory…

  • Håkan August 14, 2014, 3:45 PM

    Looking through Bricklink, it appears that most tertiary colors have been produced, except reddish orange, for some reason. Maybe it wasn’t considered distinct enough, or something… Would be useful to add highlights and gradients for rainbow-colored builds.

    Turquoise/ teal has been phased out, alas, but possibly the Friends azure would be close enough to double, and lavender seems close enough to double for violet/ bluish purple. (The old violet only had one 2×4 produced as an ordinary brick, anyway.)

    • admin August 14, 2014, 4:25 PM

      I really like teal and have a few elements in that color. It isn’t really similar to the Friends medium-azure. Teal is a lot darker – I would say that it is closest to regular green. The Friends lavender color is very nice and I really like it, but it is much different that the violet colors. While lavender is basically light purple, the various shades of violets are a slightly purplish blue. I really recommend putting together a color-chart for yourself. It is very useful to have as you are planning for projects, or just because it is so pretty see all the LEGO colors together! 😛

      • Håkan August 15, 2014, 6:18 AM

        Yeah. I could look up some of the older colors on Bricklink, buy a few bricks and see which would work suitably. Some colors have such a limited brick assortments they aren’t useful for much more than occasional high-lights, though…

        • admin August 15, 2014, 9:50 AM

          That is true. It is still nice to have all the colors of LEGO. I collect 2×2 bricks, and Maxx (contributor here and personal friend) collects 2×4 bricks. His collection is huge with some really unusual colors that were only made for LEGOLAND parks. I have some very rare colors as well, along with a mistery color that has not been identified. I call it “cream”. Collecting LEGO colors is a very interesting hobby.

  • BuilderFox August 19, 2014, 3:33 PM

    where can I buy bayer multi color bricks?

    • admin August 19, 2014, 3:35 PM

      You would have to contact Maxx. He sometimes has some for sale, or he can get you in contact with others who may have them. These are very special bricks and most people won’t part with them for any price. But I know Maxx sometimes has extras he is willing to sell. To make this easy for you, you can contact him through his store. It is currently closed as he is busy with work, but you can send him an email through the Contact Store tab: https://store.bricklink.com/maxx3001?p=maxx3001

  • c turner December 30, 2015, 3:53 PM

    having had lego when a child in 1960’s i know bricks with holes were for wheels to be placed on the long or short side of the brick. Remeber getting very excited when I received pale yellow curved bricks, 4 to complete a circle!!!

  • Adrianna Diaz June 30, 2018, 5:44 PM

    In another article of yours, you mentioned Bayer AG had a partnership with LEGO in the 1960s. Both companies are a bit secretive about that.

    I have read a bit about the history of LEGO and it was in 2004 when Jørgen Vig Knudstorp decided for LEGO to manufacture its own plastic to save money instead of buying coloured plastic pellets…?

    It was from who that they were buying it? Could it be that there an ongoing deal with Bayer for the LEGO plastic which had lasted for over four decades and then when it was cancelled in 2004, that LEGO could not obtain the original formula from Bayer and had to make do with new colours, thus the serious change specially in the grays?

    By the way I buy a lot of used LEGO and I can’t help but notice the change, I have a single 1×4 arch brick that is light yellow but not quite the same as the rest my bin of egg-yellow bricks. I can send you a picture!

    • admin June 30, 2018, 5:49 PM

      Adrianna, let me ask Maxx or Gary about this. Give me a couple of days. LEGO’s history is full of interesting twists and turns, and those two known a lot about them. 🙂

    • admin July 1, 2018, 10:27 AM

      Adrianna, here is the response back from Gary Istok:

      TLG and Bayer had a relationship going back into the 1950s. Here is a 1959-60 brochure included with all LEGO basic sets that mentions Cellidor (Cellulose Acetate) as a Bayer plastic used for LEGO bricks… written in 10 languages.

      LEGO Beyer 3

      LEGO Beyer 2

      When TLG switched over to ABS plastic in 1962-63, they had both Bayer and BASF corporations testing out new plastics. Bayer won out and produced the colorized plastic for LEGO in all of continental Europe and Asia. Borg-Warner was the colorized plastics producer in USA/Canada (from a subsidiary… Marbon… of Washington West Virginia in the USA, and Marbon…. Cobourg Ontario. In Britain/Ireland/Australia the Borg Warner plant of Grangemouth Scotland produced their plastic.

      Here is a 1967 Bayer ad for LEGO for Germany.

      LEGO Beyer 1

      The production of LEGO plastic changed for UK/IRE/AUS to Bayer in 1979.

      In the 2004 switchover, I think the problem with colors for TLG was the fact that the die was added to the plastic at molding time for when the parts were produced. This is what causes so much color variations since then, because the quality controls were not what they should be.

      I doubt that the gray, dark gray and brown color changes in 2004 were due as much to the changeover from Bayer to TLG… as it was TLG wanting to come out with new versions of those old colors. Old gray does have a somewhat dirty color to it… especially once it starts yellowing.


  • Håkan January 1, 2019, 9:38 AM

    Rough translation of the German headline:

    “We’re making the chemical solution, from which the greatest toy of the decade is made.”

    And the motto:

    “Making it/ Creating new and better: That’s Bayer!”

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