LEGO Minifigures turn 40: Here’s their original patent (and some prototypes, too)

Chris Burns - Aug 28, 2018, 5:01pm CDT
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LEGO Minifigures turn 40: Here’s their original patent (and some prototypes, too)

LEGO bricks are far older than their epitomous Minifigure friends, and today, 40 years after the first Minifigure was born, we’re having a peek at the first patent. The patent comes after the first Minifigure, but it shows a sort of figure that’s already evolved beyond the original release. LEGO celebrates the birth of the Minifigure in the release of the original “LEGO building figure,” a terrifyingly odd creature born in 1974. It wasn’t until 1978 until the form of the true Minifigure came to fruition.

In 1974 the LEGO building figure began production. It had a head, arm pieces, and hats that differed from what we see today. It also featured peg-hands – and the arms eventually found their way to other sets as machinery components. In 1975, the first “LEGO stage extra” was released. These were effectively Minifigures without arms or moveable legs. These proto-figures also had no faces.

In 1978, the LEGO Minifigure was released – androgenous, yellow, and moving. The arms and legs were there, the hats, the hair, and the printed bodies and faces. LEGO suggested in their most recent timeline that 1979 was the introduction of the first “male hairpieces,” and that before this, all male minifigures wore hats. We know better. They weren’t boys or girls – they were just minifigures, and they were awesome.

Have a peek at the timeline above – tap to see closer – to learn all there is to know about the history of the LEGO Minfigure, courtesy of LEGO’s history department. If that’s a job, I’ll take it. Thank you kindly.

The patent we’re looking at is the original US-filed USPTO-bound document for the LEGO Minifigure. This document shows the basic ins and outs of the Minifigure as it existed in its most basic form. It is with this document that LEGO remains highly unique, and highly brand-powerful here in 2018. In the gallery above you’ll see scans of the patent as provided by LEGO this week.

Look like anyone you know? Next we’ve got some early prototype photography going on. These were also provided by LEGO to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the LEGO Minifigure. Look at these oddities in awe.

If you happen to have any of the stranger prototypes shown in the gallery above in a box under a chair in your sewing room, or remember playing with said figures at your Grandpa’s house, good on you! Don’t you dare sell them on eBay! Just go ahead and send them in a padded box to SlashGear, care of Chris Burns. I’ll put them right here, on this shelf, with all the other toys and such, where they’ll sit in honor for another 40.


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