“It’s nice to have dreams, but seeing them come true is even better.” (Author Unknown). These words are on a poster I spotted at a local shop in Billund, Denmark. I felt that this really summed up exactly what Jason de Vries and I had just experienced.
At 9.50am this morning Jason was nervously pacing around in excitement and anticipation on a street in Billund as we waited to meet someone who would take us on a tour of the LEGO® Company Vault. This vault is something that we had heard about, heard people talk about visiting it, and seen it mentioned on various LEGO documentaries, and somehow a visit to this vault had ended up on Jason’s bucket list. And why should it not be on there–he is after all one of the biggest fans of LEGO that I know (and I have met my fairshare of fans now!)
At 10am we are greeted by Niels (who FaceBook stalked us prior to our meeting so he knew who we were and who to look out for). Niels has been working for the LEGO Company or six years now, working on designing Star Wars sets. It felt such an honour to meet someone who has talent enough to be selected by LEGO to design sets that are sold all around the world. And what a wonderful person he is that he was willing to take time out of his day to meet us….travellers from NZ, who just desperately wanted to see and feel the history of the LEGO Company.
The first thing we are shown is a cabinet of old tools that were originally used by Ole Kirk Christiansen the founder of LEGO when he made his wooden toys. This was immediately something that connected with Jason–who by trade makes furniture and recognised these tools as equipment he had seen his own grandfather use.
We are then shown into an area that started the tour of the history of the LEGO company that would eventually lead to the vault. Now I must quickly note that when we were told we would see the vault, I thought we would be shown down a dark hallway and then wait while a fancy door was unlocked…instead what we experienced was way more! This first area is set in the original house of Ole Kirk Christiansen. In here was a cabinet dedicated to the infamous Duck toy, plus other cabinets of many other wooden creations by Ole, photographs of the factory, information on the toys, on Ole, on how he made items, plus more. I was blown away by seeing the number of wooden toys he designed–what we photographed was only a small portion of what we saw.
I really enjoyed seeing the information on the fires that the LEGO Company experienced as it is such a reminder to never give up. A reminder that even those who are now ‘big shots’ all started somewhere and that sometimes that journey is not easy. Good things come to those wait.
As we moved on from here we are shown the first moulding press. We saw the patent document and moulds of the patented designs. We got see the original building system and first sets made. More information and images on this era of the company. A cool fact that stood out to me was what the company did with the decommissioned moulds–they were buried into the concrete foundations of the factory so that no one could copy them back then. They later changed this due to environmental concerns and they sent the moulds to local steelworks for disposal.
After taking all this in–and there was so much to take in, to read, to look at, that I feel we could of spent four hours there and still not read it all–we were taken ‘backstage’ as the curator told us. At the bottom of some stairs, some rather non ominous doors were opened and there we were in the vault.
We looked down the room to see a great line of especially designed moving units all with a year stamp on them. We are asked ‘well here you are, what would you like to see?’ It didn’t take long before Jason is off to the furthest end to open up cabinets from the 90’s and earlier–checking out the space sets, the technic sets (that went something like, “got that, wanted that one big time, got that one, oooo don’t have that one…”). As we moved deeper into the cabinets Jason found two sets that meant lots to him–his first set ever and first Technic set ever owned
Now I know Jason has told me this before but I had forgotten the story–and how cool it was to hear this again. Jason rather excitedly picked up a box and laughed as he told of how his grandmother had encouraged him to order this particular set because she knew just how much he wanted it, which he did. Sometime later his parents received the call to say the set had arrived. Jason then had to explain to his parents why he had ordered it (now can you just picture that scene of a 11 year old kid trying to explain this situation to possibly upset parents–it makes me giggle a bit thinking about that!). They agreed to get it for him and then Jason mowed lawns for several month to pay it back. Shall I just note that Jason was given the instruction books but had to wait until it was paid off to receive the LEGO bricks!
As we talked with the curator we learnt cool facts such as they started actively archiving sets in the 1990’s and what we got to see was a collection that has been put together since 2005. After this we headed back upstairs to the gallery and further explored the narration of the history of LEGO. We saw snippets of information on the management of LEGO, checked out old sets, new and everything in between. Saw their documentation on how the LEGO Company are working to make their bricks sustainable. Checked out the Star Wars area (there are seven designers in this area and each got to select three models to put on display!) where we took a photo of our tour guide Niels with a set he designed (above)
There is so much more to add to what we experienced but it could turn into a lengthy story, if you see us at a show or visit us at House of Bricks, be sure to come and ask us about it. What I will say is, if you are a fan of LEGO or history, and should you get the opportunity to visit Billund, make sure you somehow find a way to visit this informative and well put together LEGO gallery of history of their company.With this bucket list item ticked off I will first wait for Jason to come down from cloud nine, and then I look forward to figuring out what is the next bucket list item we will work together to make a reality.
Editor’s note: Thank you to Rachel de Vries for supplying the story and images. You can check out House of Bricks HERE and the FaceBook page HERE Jason and Rachel travelled to Billund, Denmark and Skaerbaek Fan Weekend in September 2019. (Still there when this story was uploaded) If you have a story to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org