A unique set with limited availability – only 40,000 copies produced – sounds like a collectors dream. Is it worth sailing through the locks and picking up a copy?
Price: $249.95 Pieces: 1184 Available: Now
Set 2000451 Panama Canal caused a bit of a stir when it was first revealed to the fan community earlier this year. On the surface it has a lot going for it in terms of being a collectors item. Originally only available physically at the Panama Canal, a fan would have to travel in order to obtain one. Throw in the fact that only 40,000 were produced and the makings of a potentially hard to find collectable were in play. Thankfully, several months later it was made available worldwide, with free shipping no less, via the Panama Canal’s STEM website. Can this set stand on its own without the hard to find card in play?
There are some sets where context and the intent of designers must be kept in mind when passing a reviewer’s eye over the model. 2000451 is emphatically one of them. Requiring the Panama Canal to meet some of the regular set metrics AFOLs judge by and it will come up lacking, possibly quite severely. However, evaluating this LEGO Education set on the basis of whether or not it accomplishes the purpose for which it was produced results in a different outcome, namely a resounding success.
2000451 is not a normal LEGO set, it is part of the Education series. This model is not meant to be played with, or collected by an average fan. The very inclusion of a minifigure feels out of place with this set. Instead, Panama Canal belongs in the hands of teachers seeking to educate young minds on how this modern marvel functions. I can think of no more perfect tool. Constructed in five sections which can be easily disconnected so young eyes can observe how the canal functions from any angle, the complexity of the actual canal is on full display yet eminently understandable.
There are three types of sections which makeup the model – the entrance/exit, lock doors and the locks themselves with variable water levels. The locks are activated by rotating gears and the water level is raised through a rotating handle. The lock doors in particular are very well executed as smooth blue plates are attached at their ends so that as the locks disappear they are replaced by water at the exact same level as the lock itself. My kids immediately understood how locks work after seeing it demonstrated with this set.
That easy understanding of a difficult to explain concept is the brilliance of this set. There is no substitute to seeing how an enormous Civil Engineering project like the Panama Canal works in three dimensions. Even a documentary has to rely on images of the individual sections. Seeing it all on a tabletop distills the complexity into simplicity. If I were a teacher tasked with teaching about the world famous canal, I would want this set. Considering those teachers are the target audience of this set, a perfect match has been made.
However, most of those reading this review are not teachers, does this set have any place in the collections of AFOLs or kids? The answer to that question is a qualified maybe. At $249.95 this set is not cheap, even with free shipping. Much like a LEGO Minecraft set, it is not constructed using any unique or special bricks. Similarly, the piece count in relation to the price is nothing to write home about. As a display piece it begins to redeem itself, and if one is a collector of unique or rare sets 2000451 will be hard to resist – when you have been collecting LEGO products for a long time, something a bit different becomes more desirable.
I can’t picture many instances where a child would want this for more than a day or so, it has no play value, but the right kind of adult collector will proudly display this unique set.