When you sit and think about it, Lego is arguably the greatest toy ever made. The sets themselves could be insanely cool on their own, but once dismantled they often turned into something even cooler. Possibilities stretched as far as your imagination would allow, with the only real limit being your parent's budget.(Which was a real factor, some of these sets are expensive!) Sure, there were and are other building toys. You had your tinker toys, your K'nex, your mega blocks, and even some more obscure stuff. (Anybody else remember Zaks?) And of course, we can't forget the classic Lincoln log. While I built my fair share of miniature cabins and such, nothing remains quite as joyous as Lego. There's something about those kits and minifigures that make them instantly fun and appealing. They can make us have fun in present day, rocket us to the future, or make us experience the past. Seriously folks, Legos are plain and simply...great.
Before we get started here, I have to give a huge shout of thanks to www.toysperiod.com. I've been wanting to write this article for some time but I was held off by a major factor; I didn't remember the names of any of the sets I had. The thought of doing endless searches based on my own product descriptions was not something I looked forward to, and was one of the big reasons I put it off for so long. When I finally steeled my nerves for the job, I did a google search for "Lego sets from the 1990's". I found that wonderful website, which not only easily helped me identify each set, but made it fun to do so as well. So yeah, thanks again toysperiod.com. You rock.
The first building set I remember owning was actually a non-lego. It was probably mega-blocks and it contained a group of construction workers and a vehicle or two. I don't remember much other than that, and I couldn't find any pictures or anything. Just wanted to give it a quick mention. These following sets are actual Lego though, and are presented in no particular order of obtainment.
Recon Robot (1994)
I got this in my Easter basket one year, and boy was it cool. The heard turned, and the arms and claws all moved. There was a small storage compartment in the chest that opened and closed. There was also a computer terminal in back for the little guy to sit at and drive the robot. I remember always to take this outside, but I was always afraid that it would get dirty or ruined somehow. I was kind of stickler for that sort of thing. What I did do was have my robot drive around my room, living room, and kitchen, collecting samples and exploring worlds that existed only in my mind. On occasion, I even had the figure included fight the robot like it was some kind of boss character. After an epic struggle, he could then ride inside it, victorious. Recon Robot was part of the Spyrius series. I don't recall this being a massive collection. In fact, I only remember one other part of it. It was a robot similar to this one, only it bigger, taller, and looked more menacing. (For a lego set, anyway.) It always took me a long time to dismantle lego sets form their original form. When I finally did it to this one, the pieces served me well. The wheel were obviously useful, and I used the moving parts from the claws and arms to make my own robots and creatures.
Blizzard Baron (1993)
I can remember seeing commercials for the Ice Planet sets. My first exposure to them was at my cousin Alan's house. It was the first time I met him, I think. He had what seemed like a metric ton of Legos and I got to play with them. This was great and all, but I wouldn't get my own Ice Planet set until later. My mom's friend had moved to Colorado Springs. Her daughter was my sisters best friend and we still lived in Hesperia, CA. My sister went to visit and stay with them for a while. We eventually took a week or two to visit ourselves and take my sister back with us. I had some time away from school as a result, but my mom had got all my assignments to take with us. I got this set while I was there, but I couldn't even open it until my work was all done. Naturally, this drove me crazy. ;) This is a great example of a small set done right. The Ice Planet mini-figures were cool looking, and this guy came with ski's that attached and detached to the vehicle, as well as a chainsaw. The back of the vehicle detached, and acted like a beacon/computer.
Even though it wasn't a lot of pieces, there was a lot you could do with this. The saw could separate from the chainsaw base, which let me use the base as a gun. Like the recon robot, the pieces from this set, especially the wings, were of great use to me when I eventually took this set apart. I also got another set while I was out there in Colorado Springs...
Sonar Security (1993)
This was part of the Space Police series, and the only in that series I owned. While not as cool as the Blizzard Baron, there was still plenty of fun to be had here. The six wheeled buggy was neat, and the back part was attached by a pair of ball-and-socket pieces, which was unique. I really liked the rocket/sonar. Was it sonar? Was it radar? Could it be a rocket that launched and was retrieved later to study what it detected? Sure, if that's you wanted. I'm pretty sure I did all that and more with this set. I also really liked the green neon windshield. I remember a few other things about those couple weeks in Colorado. Before we got there, my sister and her friend went to go see Free Willy in theaters. I tried playing and failing Metal Gear for NES. They rented The Goonies, which I had never seen before. Unfortunately, I was asked to leave the room until the movie was over because of the profanity. :( My sister's friend was a huge fan of of the Disney Afternoon cartoon TaleSpin, and she had a ton of toys from it. She even had Baloo's plane, the SeaDuck, and Don Karnage and his plane, along with the TaleSpin Tiger handheld LCD game. It was a really cool collection. Anyway though, back to Lego.
Celestial Sled (1993)
I know I had this, but I'm not sure when I got it. I think it may have been the same time I got the last two, but I just don't know. This would be the only other Ice Planet set I had, although there other really cool much larger vehicles available. I had fun with it and all, but I what I remember most of all are the skis. I tried to make other vehicles that used them, with varying results. They were really long though, and at one point I actually cut the ends off a couple of them to shorten them. I immediately wished I hadn't done so but I tried to make use of them anyway. In the end, I ended up just throwing them away. Overall it wasn't great, but the Celestial Sled was still fun little vehicle.
Blue Ribbon Bucket
I got this a Christmas gift one year after asking for more legos. Yeah, it wasn't a specific set, but I ultimately got more use out of this bucket than any other Legos I had. In addition to assorted bricks with different sizes, it also had a green base, windows, shutters, doors, and plants. It also had wheels and other parts to make a car, which I greatly appreciated. The spinning piece used for the windmill provided a nice way to make helicopters as well. This bucket is the one thing of all my legos that survived the longest. While many pieces got lost over time, any surviving pieces from dismantled sets ended up in here. I held onto this bucket all the way through high school. In fact, it might still be somewhere at my parents house for all I know. I didn't donate it or throw it away that I'm aware of. I'll have to look for it next time I visit. I had a lot of good times with all those legos. Robots, boats, flying machines, fortresses...I made them all and much more.
Black Knights Castle - 1992
This castle was another Christmas gift, and was the biggest traditional lego set I owned. I was thrilled at the idea of owning a castle and putting this together was a lot of fun. When completed, it had a working drawbridge, backdoor, and a secret dungeon in the middle of the floor. The figures that came with it were really cool. Each of the different knights had head ornaments for their helmets, along with swords, spears, and arrows and crossbows for the archers. There was a ghost included that glowed in the dark, and there was also a bad guy. He was a thief, a member of the Wolfpack. And speaking of them, there was a set called Wolfpack Renegades that featured two wolfpack members and a wagon. This wagon folded up to reveal a secret hiding place.
I want to say I had this because that wagon looks really familiar. It could have been something that I eyeballed in a catalog, but I'm not sure. Getting back to the castle, I think I played it where the Wolfpack guy had a traitorous connection in the castle and tried to overthrow it. Swords clashed, arrows were fired, and mischief was managed. It was a lot of fun and I was very thankful to have it. When I took it apart, the base the castle sat on was huge in my creative endeavors. I'd build different towers and fortesses, and I would set up minifigures on it for nerf target practice. At one point, I cut a hole in the side of the base to make a cave. Unfortunately, that just made it look broken.
That was the only fantasy/medieval set I had. I loved it, but something I really thought would be cool was if Lego made a wild west series. In 1996, I got my wish. A new catalog in the mail introduced me to the world of Legoredo. It had bandits, calvary forts, six shooters, and almost all of the stuff of romantic western legend in Lego form. That christmas, I received not one, but three sets in this series. It would be my last major haul of the little plastic bricks. Here's what they were:
Gold City Junction - 1996
I don't know about you, but when I think of a western town, I immediately think of a saloon. I don't think Lego ever made a saloon, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about that, but this general store and bank were still pretty cool. The banker had little bars at his counter, as well as a safe for the cash. The general store had a shovel, pick-ax, and a few other wares for sale. The money wagon was cool because of the rifles mounted on top. They rotated and looked like something out of Wild Guns for the SNES. It had a couple townspeople, a calvary man, and a bandit. Now if you have a bandit and a bank, you can only assume he try to rob it. Should he be caught, there's only one place to put him...
What would a western town be without a jailhouse? Here the sheriff and his deputy kept watch over their prisoner and kept their watchful eye over the town's citizens. There were a couple small details in the sheriff's office that stood out, like the wanted poster on the wall, but coolest thing here was the cell. Yeah, it was tiny, but it also had a spring loaded wall on it. When you placed the dynamite block in a small whole on the side, the wall "blew" off and the prisoner was free to escape. One of the bandits included here was a gambler, complete with top hat, hand of cards (painted on brick of course), and shirt with all the playing card suites on them. Now then, once bandits escaped, where would they go? Try to rob the bank again? Maybe. But more than likely, they probably have some sort of hideout to escape to...
Bandit's Secret Hideout
Nothing says bad guy hideout like an abandoned mine. There's plenty of rock cover and these bandits even had a cannon on the old mine cart track to protect them. Many an epic showdown was had here. What I would usually do is start with an a nice morning in Legoredo. Everything is just peachy but then a bandit at the local lock-up was busted out by a buddy. They would then rob the bank and make off to their hideout with their loot. Naturally, local law enforcement pursued them along with a few calvary members who happened to be in town. Bullets were traded, cannons were fired, and some folks didn't make it...but in the end, the good guys always one. Good times.
Something else I used to do was play with my western mini-figures on the train that went around our christmas tree. I had done that with other legos for a few years before that, but western legos dueling it out on a train was just perfection. The bandits had bandanas that covered their faces, or could be turned around and worn regularly. A small detail, but greatly appreciated. I also loved the little six-shooters these guys came with. Yeah, the rifles were cool, but the pistols just made my day. They were used as blasters in the Star Wars sets later on. They were also used as tailpipes in some of the vehicles in the Lego City Undercover video game. Now, even though this was the last big batch of legos I got, I did get one more Lego set a few years later. It was part of the Lego's Technic series, and it belonged to the world of Star Wars.
Say what you will about the prequels, but the fact is there was a time when all us couldn't wait to see Episode 1. While it's popular to hate on it now, I still think Destroyer Droids, or Droidekas if you will, are cool. I saw this at a friends house in high school and was immediately drawn to it, despite having no interest in Technic before. It could even roll into a ball and lock in that position. I think I got it for my birthday after that. You built it in parts. The arms were separate bags and instructions, as well as the head, back...etc. I don't know if it was because I had never done a Technic set before, but this thing took me around 3 hours to put together. I asked my friend how long it took him to build his and he said "Oh, about half and hour."
Still, I was really happy wit it when I was done and displayed it proudly on my dresser until I moved out. I held onto it for awhile after I got married. I even began to collect Star Wars lego sets from episodes 1 and 2 and had quite a few, but I guess I just lost interest over time. I don't have any of them, including the destroyer droid, anymore.
That does it for what I had. But before I finish up here, I wanted to take a second and mention a couple sets I would have liked to owned. I've always thought pirates were cool and thought it would be neat to own one of the pirate ships.
Ships were always expensive though. My parents were open to getting me one for christmas when I brought it up. It would be my big gift though and I think at the point I opted for a video game instead. I don't regret it, but I still think a ship would have been nice to have. I did, however, have a pirate captain keychain.
I think I got it for free through some type of mail-in offer. I don't remember who, but I got a flintlock and cutlass for him from somebody. There's another series that came out I was really interested in. I'm a big Indiana Jones fan and while Indy Lego sets came eventually, they were preceded by a series called Adventurers. They wore their inspiration clearly on their sleeve.
I thought these looked so cool. I love the old-timey look of everything. There were lost temples, skeletons, ancient pharaohs, and more. Heck, they even traveled in time. These evolved into Ancient Asia and Egyptian explorer sets. And while it's certainly nice to have actual Indy Legos, I think these as a whole are a little cooler.
That is that. One thing that really stood out to me when researching this is how most of the sets from back in the day were original. Franchised lego's are much more common now. This isn't a bad thing. Lego's by their very nature can built into anything you want. Still, going down the lego aisle and seeing countless Star Wars, Scooby Doo, Jurassic World sets makes me miss hearing about original ideas like Ice Planet and such. But I guess as long as imagination is around, it doesn't matter what theme the legos are. Which I guess is the whole point. Until next time, stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.