A metallic gold C-3PO could break LEGO’s own design rules

Rumours abound that this year’s May the Fourth set will include a drum-lacquered gold LEGO C-3PO minifigure – but would that fall short of the LEGO Group’s quality standards?

According to a tentative report from Instagram user legohio (who, it should be noted, has yet to be proven as a reliable source), this year’s rumoured Ultimate Collector Series 75341 Luke’s Landspeeder will include an entirely drum-lacquered gold C-3PO minifigure, using the same shiny coating we’ve seen in sets like 80012 Monkey King Warrior Mech and 76191 Infinity Gauntlet.

It’s a decoration typically seen across tiles and other smooth, non-studded elements, for the sole reason that drum-lacquering a piece isn’t the same as manufacturing that element in a specific colour: instead, the brick is simply covered in the metallic gold or silver coating after the fact. And that means that with enough use, it can eventually wear away.

As LEGO Star Wars Design Manager Michael Lee Stockwell explained to Brick Fanatics and other LEGO fan media last month, that outcome doesn’t really live up to the LEGO Group’s own design standards.

LEGO is something that we hope people are going to use to rebuild other things with, and we know that if you connect two elements together repeatedly that are drum-lacquered that have studs, you will gradually wear the finish off, and that we don’t perceive to be the best quality,” he said. “So in almost all cases, we restrict ourselves to only metallising elements that are without studs, because that way they can be reused without their appearance deteriorating.”

That means sets like 75328 The Mandalorian Helmet must instead rely on traditional base colours – in that set’s case, light grey – with only splashes of drum-lacquered gold or silver, often used as a trim or to highlight specific sections of a model. But following that logic, it’s difficult to see how a drum-lacquered gold C-3PO minifigure could fit into the equation.

Yes, there are technically no studs on a minifigure. But that doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity for the kind of wear and tear that could diminish the metallic finish: the arms moving against the droid’s torso feel like they could prove to be a particularly problematic spot, for example, while the general kind of movement a minifigure must withstand during play seems likely to exacerbate the issue further.

All that said, if this rumour does turn out to be true, the drum-lacquered gold Threepio would only be included in a set designed for – and specifically marketed towards – adults, as all UCS sets carry the 18+ label. It could be that the LEGO Group has determined the risk of damage (through wear and tear) is therefore pretty minor, as adult collectors are more likely to simply pop the minifigure on display.

We’ve had chrome minifigures before, of course, most recently in 2012’s TC-14, and prior to that in a chrome gold C-3PO given away in 2007. Those feel like a lifetime ago at this stage, though, and it’s not unreasonable to think that the LEGO Group’s quality standards may have changed in the past decade.

Is a shiny metallic LEGO C-3PO minifigure on the way?
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We’ll know for sure if and when the rumoured 75341 Luke’s Landspeeder is officially unveiled, but until then, take all word of that set – and any accompanying minifigures – with a pinch of salt. For now, you can grab three new (and very real) additions to the LEGO Star Wars Helmet Collection at LEGO.com, including one with plenty of drum-lacquered elements in 75328 The Mandalorian Helmet.

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Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

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