(Written by Mark H. Avery)
In this series, I have been sharing my own personal story in the LEGO hobby, including slowly building up a collection of sets from the 1970s to the 1990s, and constructing a LEGO city. If you like, you can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 by clicking on the links. For today’s chapter, I will show you some of the official LEGO sets I purchased for my LEGO city…
I do spend a lot of money on toys for myself, but I always operated on a budget. I’m not sure how I would compare to other hobbyists, but know that a good model train can easily cost $500 – $800 for just one locomotive! I try to remind my spouse of this fact, but it’s an ongoing debate. Then again, as she says, I don’t smoke, drink, or gamble. As a vice, LEGO is not so bad.
The bottom line is that I’m always cognizant of prices, and I’m always looking for discounted sets. (If you know of any bargains that might be useful for my city, please let me know!) I sometimes see older discontinued sets at what I consider exorbitant prices. I’m not interested in these, no matter how much I want them, even if it is one of the sets that was lost in the fire I wrote about in a previous chapter.
I’m a confirmed LEGO Town/LEGO City builder. This means that most of the sets I have bought over the years and incorporated into my city are from these themes. I also purchase basic bricks to modify sets or to build my own custom structures and vehicles. Moreover, sometimes sets in other themes lend themselves to adaptation into a LEGO City layout.
➡ LEGO CITY STARTER SETS…
The LEGO City starter sets from the past couple of years have been great; four minifigures for $10, plus a little truck, boat, or other prop. The list of such sets is fairly long, but here are some examples that I like and purchased multiples of. The #60163 LEGO City Coast Guard Starter Set only has three minifigures, but it also includes a shark (I do have an aquarium and river in my city, but how many sharks can they accommodate?). The included beach buggy is cute, and I can add the surfboards to the city’s beach scene. The #60127 LEGO City Prison Island Starter Set has a similar buggy, a tiny boat, and four minifigures. The #60157 LEGO City Jungle Starter Set comes with three minifigures, a nice little boat, a bit of vegetation (always useful!), and an alligator (like the shark, I can only use a limited number of them). The #60184 LEGO City Mining Team is another nice set with a mining truck, and the three miners could just as well be construction workers around the city (there are lots of opportunities for road repair and construction scenes). Speaking of construction, the #60072 LEGO City Demolition Starter set has a great little bulldozer, and the minifigs can join the team of construction workers.
I’m bored with all the cops and especially the robbers in the LEGO City Police sets, but I can legitimately use the ATM machine from the#60136 LEGO City Police Starter Set in at least ten different locations throughout town (without the explosion feature). And, the crooks can easily become regular folks in the city. The #60106 LEGO City Fire Starter Set includes a regular minifig and three firefighters (those are hard to repurpose as they have very specific gear and helmets). The fireboat is nothing special, but the brown pieces for the dock are always useful, and the engine makes a great piece of equipment to put on a flatbed truck or two. The #60100 LEGO City Airport Starter Set has a good selection of workers, a useful hand-truck, and some other accessories. LEGO already has too many helicopters, but the small helicopter included in this set is nice, and I find the parts quite useful too.
➡ SMALL LEGO CITY & LEGO CREATOR SETS…
A few years before the LEGO City starter sets, LEGO released a series of easy-to-build LEGO Creator Basic sets for $10, with an interesting mix of standard bricks. At the end of each sale cycle, they were offered at a reduced price. The sets include the #5898 LEGO Creator Cars Building Set with a very simple gas station, the #5899 LEGO Creator House Building Set, the #4636 LEGO Creator Police Building Set, the #4637 LEGO Creator Safari Building Set, the #6193 LEGO Creator Castle Building Set, the #5930 LEGO Creator Road Construction Building Set, and the #6191 LEGO Creator Fire Fighter Building Set. Some of these were given away as presents, but others provided lots of good bricks for my own LEGO builds. So far, I have opened at least fifteen LEGO Creator Fire Fighter Building Sets and ten LEGO Creator Castle Building Sets just for the parts.
Between 2008 and 2010 there was another series of mini LEGO City sets that caught my attention. It included the #7566 LEGO City Farmer, the #7567 LEGO City Traveler, the #8398 LEGO City BBQ Stand, and a doctor with a stretcher (sorry, I don’t remember the set number). All of these little sets provided lots of props for my city. Some polybags, like the recent #30356 LEGO City Hot Dog Stand, also serve the same purpose, but unfortunately, they are typically not cheap.
➡ NON-LEGO CITY SETS…
Maybe I’m just not very sophisticated, but I also like some of the LEGO Juniors sets. The #10667 LEGO Juniors Construction set and the #10750 LEGO Juniors Road Repair Truck are easy to build, and more importantly, it’s easy to place such sets into any construction or building scene.
I find the LEGO Friends sets too gaudy, so if I do buy one I try to tone down the colors. The #41130 LEGO Friends Amusement Park Roller Coaster is almost a whole amusement park by itself. To fit with my city, I modified the park’s train to be a tram that takes kids around the zoo.
The bridge from the old #4852 LEGO Spider-Man Final Showdown set is an interesting structure with a nice cable car. I bought four of them to make a two-lane bridge across the river. In addition, I also have several superhero cars, which I plan to modify into regular city cars (or sometimes give them away as presents). Balloons from the Batman Joker sets fit in the zoo, in the park, and even at street corners. I don’t like to overdo it, but a Spider-Man, Batman, or Superman on a roof somewhere is kind of fun to have and adds some whimsical element to the city.
The #7785 LEGO Batman Arkham Asylum from 2006 is a wonderful set in my opinion. I have added the guard tower to my city to watch over the train yard, but the buildings are still looking for a spot around town. The boathouse from the #4850 LEGO Spicer-Man’s First Chase is also waiting to be incorporated somewhere along the waterfront.
I also purchased several copies of the #1371 LEGO Jurassic Park Spinosaurus Attack set. The airplanes fit the airport so nicely. The set also comes with a big tree, and I can never have enough trees around town. The #3825 LEGO SpongeBob SquarePants Krusty Krab crab shop serves as a restaurant along the waterfront.
LEGO Harry Potter is another theme that I borrowed from. The house from the #4728 LEGO Harry Potter Escape from Privet Drive seemed nice, so I purchased two, and combined them into one residence (I think I might have two more of this set in storage). The light-blue car is a bit oversized though compared to regular LEGO City vehicles. The #4756 LEGO Harry Potter Shrieking Shack serves as a boarded up house in town. I also got the old LEGO Harry Potter Castle, as it is a nice build, but I took it apart because my grandchild wanted to rebuild it, but he never did.
As I noted in a previous chapter of this series, I also integrated various LEGO sports sets into my city. For example, the #6740 LEGO Xtreme Tower is set up along the waterfront. And, I like the old raised baseplates, as they add some variety to the landscape. Two baseplates from the #7047 LEGO World City Coast Watch HQ serve as the bases of several waterfront luxury homes. An old LEGO Paradisa baseplate is used in a similar way.
➡ OTHER LEGO CITY & LEGO CREATOR SETS…
For some reason, the #60117 LEGO City Van and Caravan from 2016 was sold at great discounts from its original $20 price. I don’t remember how many I bought, but some made nice presents for grandchildren, and others I have built for my city. Some I modified with different trailers and I even made one of the trucks into an open back pick-up. Several of them are parked on an overlook by the waterfront. I don’t have a forest in my town, so the #4440 LEGO City Forest Police became a park police, with the brown bear relegated to the zoo.
From the LEGO Creator line, I added the #31036 LEGO Creator Toy and Grocery Shop, the #31050 LEGO Creator Corner Deli (with an added drive-by window), the #5766 LEGO Creator Log Cabin, the #31048 LEGO Creator Lakeside Lodge, the #31038 LEGO Creator Changing Seasons house, the #31035 LEGO Creator Beach Hut, and several #7346 LEGO Creator Seaside House sets (which were converted into a seven-story apartment house).
Everything is built or rebuilt on conventional LEGO baseplates. While I typically don’t modify LEGO, I am willing to cut baseplates in half or even quarters if I need to. I have at least four types of road-plates; the old light-grey, the old green, the old dark-grey, and the newest grey (which provide little space for pedestrians or street furniture). I try to keep the different baseplates in different areas of town, but it’s not always possible.
LEGO used to sell various parts packs, which were sometimes discounted. For example, they had gray train windows on sale for a while. I have used these as windows on several city houses. They also had windows/panels (1x4x3) on sale at some point. I must have bought a dozen of those and incorporated them into various buildings. Discounted red plates made graduated roofs for some buildings, so did sand-red angle pieces purchased before the color disappeared from the LEGO color-palette. The LEGO Pick-A-Brick wall carried 1×2 light-blue bricks and 1×2 translucent bricks. Those two became the main parts for my Chana Plaza.
What I’d like to see is more classic sets with regular bricks in good, sedate building colors like white, tan, dark-tan, dark-red, dark-green, brown and gray, without any specialized pieces and without all the purples and pinks. My goal has always been the overall look of my town, rather than a specific spectacular building or two. But as I said at the outset, cost is certainly an issue.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Next time, I will discuss my LEGO train collection and the town’s transportation network and their role in my town. Your comments, questions, and feedback are welcome. Thanks for reading!
Mark H. Avery is a LEGO Town/City builder and collector for over 30 years. This is the first of a series that will trace his personal LEGO experiences and offer his personal insights on LEGO related issues. All opinions are his own.
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