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AFOLs are created not born

(Written by William)

When you become an Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL), you might at some point stop and ask yourself, “Why me?  Is there something coded in my DNA to be overly enthusiastic about a children’s toy?” The plain and simple fact is that it is doubtful that you are genetically disposed to seek a meaningful connection with plastic bricks. Rather, many AFOLs show a unique set of circumstances that determine whether or not they become what they are today. Let’s take a look at what those circumstances might be…


Many AFOLs will make reference to their “Dark Ages”. This is a time where a person like you and me spent not playing with LEGO. Now, if we look closer at that statement, we must realize that there was a time before those “Dark Ages”.

This time period usually takes the form of our childhood. This is a very important period since this is when we discover, create, and explore our connection with LEGO. It’s these bonds to our innocence that many of us rediscover as adults.

Therefore, it is highly important that an AFOL needs to have had a strong connection as a child to LEGO. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but the majority of AFOLs will have this strong bonding period.


When trying to find our way back to LEGO, there needs to be the right set of circumstances to turn us on full tilt. For starters, there needs to be discretionary income available. We as adults will give more attention to something we can invest ourselves in. This is why money needs to be free since we’ll need that monetary source to buy series of LEGO.

Next, we also need to be inspired. This usually relates back to our childhood. Consider the types of sets you had or the types of things you created as a child. Chances are that a similar set got you back into the LEGO world again.

Finally, you will need a supportive environment. Joining a LEGO fan group is one way to find camaraderie with other AFOLs. Unfortunately for many AFOLs, the negative word of a spouse will wither any growing excitement for finding your love of LEGO.


Once this ground work has been laid, you may then wonder what happens next. For many, the natural progression involves finding a niche to specialize in. This could involve building in a particular style, building in a particular theme, participating in a specific activity, or being interested in a certain aspect of LEGO.

Many of these niches will overlap one another and create hybrid specializations. For instance, a customizer is someone who likes to modify LEGO parts and pieces. This is a particular style of building. They could then specialize in creating movie icons. This constitutes as building in a theme. This is not the only possibility for this type of example, but it does give you an idea.


LEGO does have a thriving secondary market. This is primarily created by a strong AFOL community. However, you must be careful to separate your selling of LEGO from your playing of LEGO.

Everything that has led up to this point has turned you into an AFOL. It is important to remember that there are things that can make you leave this status as well. Selling happens to be the main reasons why AFOLs turn into sellers and little else.

Many combat this by having two separate LEGO stash; one will be for play while the other is for sell. Those who don’t do this are likely to start seeing everything as product they can make a profit on. When this happens, they start erasing the childhood creativity that ties them to LEGO and become adults that by coincidence have LEGO in their life.

A good example of this is the employees of the LEGO Company. Many of them are surrounded by LEGO constantly, but they have a degree of separation because they have to see it as a business. To see an example of this, check out Jonathan Bender’s book, LEGO: A Love Story. He writes about his own exploration through becoming an AFOL and all those he’s met along the way.


The life of an AFOL happens in stages for most of us. Like steps in an instruction manual, we put ourselves together. Childhood is followed by rediscovery which leads into specialization. The death of an AFOL is also possible when we try to make it too adult. Simply understand that we too are something created by LEGO. It just so happens that we’re not bricks…

So what do you think? Are you an Adult Fan of LEGO? Why do you think you still enjoy the hobby? Or if you are not an adult yet, do you believe you will continue in the hobby when you get older? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below! 😉

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • brickhead May 4, 2011, 8:03 PM

    These are interesting points. I wanted to argue a bit, but when I reflected on my own relationship with Lego bricks, it seems that what you are saying is pretty accurate. At least in my case.
    I will make sure to marry someone who likes Lego! Or at least tolerates my hobby! 😉

    • Will May 14, 2011, 12:37 PM

      Well, it surprised me too when I came to these realizations. And it’s just the case that the average AFOL turns out this way. Not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just an interesting point. And, yeah, marrying someone who likes or at least tolerates this hobby is much better than trying to hide it from them. Thanks for reading and posting a comment!

  • TomTom May 8, 2011, 10:39 PM

    Good points! The point about keeping your store inventory and personal inventory separate is especially relevant!

    • Will May 14, 2011, 12:41 PM

      That was something I learned from reading “LEGO a Love Story” by Jonathan Bender. It was nothing that I had ever though of before, but only a certain type of person can combine them and still keep their sanity. It just seems more natural for people to keep them separate to avoid making their hobby too serious. Thanks for reading and posting a comment!

  • jess January 12, 2013, 6:56 PM

    I love LEGO and I’m 13 I never knew that adults can be LEGO fans too until I searched it up..when I grow up I will participate to be a LEGO expert and AFOL!

  • K August 1, 2013, 1:11 PM

    Hi. I wanted to add, that I grabbed a LEGO MF no more than 6 months ago. My first set around 3 months ago. Since then, I swear by my AFOL-ness. I have always been a man of few hobbies. Comics and Magic the gathering were then only ones I have dedicated money, time and soul.

    But with LEGO…I found something that appeases many aspects of what I believe defines me….Ii is art, engineering, and a game. It is both beautiful and free but constrained by availability….you still need to follow “strict” rules if you wish for success (symetry, building techniques, etc)

    This is a hobby I can teach my son to love and respect. Were he learns to follow rules and break them. A place where he may build tall abstract towers of mono-chromed wishes, or a town of zombies…

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