Opening the vault – the long history of LEGO re-releases
The recent news of the LEGO Group re-releasing the Taj Majal set has caused a stir – but it is far from the first time it has happened
The Taj Mahal is back. The official announcement of 10256 Taj Mahal has set the conversation going again about re-releases, with fans discussing the merits of the LEGO Group bringing back the classics. This is of course far from the first LEGO set re-release.
First it should be clear, that re-releases and updated versions are not the same thing. The LEGO Group definitely prefers the latter, issuing new sets based on subject matter covered before but updated with new parts and techniques. Sometimes the difference is drastic, as it was in the case of 75144 Snowspeeder. While the original looked fine at the time, blocky and dated are the words that come to mind when viewing it next to the 2017 version. Even the awesome 10179 UCS Millennium Falcon looks a bit rough around the edges now that 75192 exists.
In the case of the Taj Mahal, this set falls into the re-release category rather than being an update. It is not the first time that the LEGO Group has reached back into past product lines and plucked a set from the archive to release exactly as it was. Well, sometimes it is just close. Often re-released sets have slight modifications to account for parts that no longer exists.
10199 Winter Toy Shop (2009) and 10249 Winter Toy Shop (2015)
Fans of the Winter Village product line were livid two years ago when, instead of producing a new instalment for the beloved theme, the LEGO Group elected to re-release a minimally modified version of the first official Winter Village set – Winter Toy Shop. This was a re-release, intended to give folks who had gotten into the theme after they realised it was going to be an annual tradition a chance to add the original model to their collections. While this made decent sense, and was welcomed by many, those who owned the original and re-sellers especially were disappointed at best and furious at worst. The only difference between these sets are a few architectural tweaks, printed parts, some additional pieces and details on the minifigures.
7150 TIE Fighter & Y-wing (1999), 7152 TIE Fighter & Y-wing (2002), and 7262 TIE Fighter & Y-wing (2004)
For some reason, the LEGO Group re-released the original 7150 TIE Fighter & Y-wing set two more times with different set numbers, 7152 and 7262 respectively. What made these especially odd was the fact that each successive re-release occurred within the time frame that a set is usually available for. The first set came out in 1999 followed by the next three years later in 2002 and the final in 2004. The third’s box art changed slightly, calling it out as Original Trilogy Edition, but there was no difference in the content.
7641 City Corner (2009) and 60031 City Corner (2013)
Many are familiar with the previous two examples, but this next one is relatively unknown. The original City Corner, 7641, was released in 2009. Then, upon its retirement, it was re-released in identical form under the number 60031 in 2013. The second run was short lived and relatively few of the 60031 sets were produced in comparison to 7641. Why the LEGO Group re-issued this set as opposed to just extending its lifespan is currently a mystery.
1999 – 2004 – classic re-releases galore
All of the previous examples pale in comparison to the era of the early 2000s. As the LEGO Group flailed around trying to find something, anything that would stick, a new strategy emerged. Concurrent with such horrors as Galidor, the company seemingly at random would reach back into the vault to extract a set, or sometimes a whole theme, for re-release. For those of us that were alive and collecting at the time it turned into an amazing opportunity. This was before a truly active aftermarket even existed, so being able to snag a set that had not been on shelves for 20 years was a revelation and almost an out of body experience. Some of the offerings were from not too long past like the re-release of multiple large sets from the Western theme.
The decade immediately preceding, the 1990s, were an obvious favourite source of re-make fodder. Seeing quality sets on the toy shop shelves alongside the juniorised releases of the time made for a stark contrast. The result was random offerings of 1990s era sets within the pages of Shop at Home catalogues. They must have sold because soon they were grouped together under a banner – LEGO Legends. Some true treasures were re-released such as the iconic Metroliner, along with some work horses such as gas stations.
It must have worked because the LEGO Group then reached even deeper within the vault to pull sets from the 1980s and even earlier. Some went back all the way to advent of the minifigure or beyond. Favourites included the re-release of the original pirate ship, the Black Seas Barracuda or Dark Shark, and Main Street. Castle was also resurrected with classics such as the Guarded Inn and Black Falcon’s Fortress.
It was an exciting time to be a collector. One never knew what opportunity to score a long discontinued set would pop up in the next catalogue.
Now, fans may get that opportunity again. 10256 Taj Mahal is being promoted as a straight up re-release, following 10249 Winter Toy Shop in 2015. If this continues, fans may once again get a taste of regular opportunities to buy classic sets at non-inflated prices – and they are likely to enjoy making the most of that.
LEGO Creator Expert 10256 Taj Mahal will be released on November 27, exclusively at shop.LEGO.com and LEGO Stores.