Happy 40th Anniversary to the LEGO Minifigure!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the original LEGO Minifigure! From the anonymous figures in many LEGO sets to the specific characters in sets representing such fandoms as Harry Potter, Marvel Comics, and Star Wars, the Minifigure is beloved by most of the LEGO-adoring community.

This is the re-issue of the original police man Minifigure. If you look closely, you can see that he is holding a LEGO kit, the original kit that he came in. Image: LEGO

The very first LEGO Minifigure was an adorable police officer who came in a small set along with a police car (which was actually too small for him to ride in). He was quickly joined by some other basic figures in other sets, all with the iconic yellow heads and hands and smiling faces. Most of us weren’t lucky enough to get this original figure, but now LEGO has reissued it in the blind packs in the Series 18: Party Minifigure sets! The police man figure may be hard to find, but there is supposed to be one in each full, 60-Minifigure retail box.

LEGO Minifigures today are awesome, and come in almost every set. But, what existed before the Minifigures we know today? Were there people? Yes. Yes, there were people. But they were much larger than the modern Minifigure.

Here are some of my Homemaker set people. In the lower left is an early Duplo piece, I believe. Photo: Jenny Bristol
Another Duplo figure, some Minifigures, and two that were the super early, non-articulated figures. Photo: Jenny Bristol
A couple of construction workers from my first themed LEGO set. Plus another guy. Photo: Jenny Bristol
From one of my early LEGO sets, these Robin Hood-esque characters have a bit of detail. Photo: Jenny Bristol

When I was a kid in the ’70s, we had some really nice basic LEGO sets. We built houses, vehicles, and a variety of objects. Also as part of the sets were the beginnings of LEGO people. But they only included a head, neck, shoulders, and arms/hands. You could turn the head, and the shoulders/elbows/wrists were well articulated. There were also hair pieces to add to the top of the head. But that was it. If you wanted a body, or legs, or feet, you had to build them yourself. We made good use of these, but their legs weren’t articulated, obviously, so having these figures walk around wasn’t really a possibility. Still, they were fun, and they were all we had. I’ve now learned that they were called Homemaker Figures and were included in Homemaker sets from 1974 to 1982. The Homemaker sets allowed you to build the rooms and furnishings for your own LEGO-style house, and were targeted to girls.

Also in the ’70s, there were some proto-Minifigures, tiny figures that came in three pieces: a head, upper body, and lower body. And they could wear tiny hats. There were no proper arms or legs. But, these were Minifigure size, at least. So they’d fit through the doorways and were easier to fit into vehicles. I seem to have two of these as well, but have no idea which set they came in, since all of my childhood LEGO sets were mixed together.

One of the Series 18 LEGO Minifigure blind bags.
Here are all of the possible figures for Series 18. It's a birthday party theme! With costumes! Image: LEGO
From the sample blind bags they sent me to check out, these are the figures that were contained therein. Photo: Jenny Bristol

Fast forward to 1978 and the LEGO Minifigure as we know it today was officially born! To this day, they are still a real draw to LEGO sets, and they are a collector’s item in and of themselves (the modern blind packs are proof of that). You can even design your own Minifigure, with different clothes, faces, and accessories.

But, whether you collect the LEGO Minifigure sets themselves or just cherish the figures that come in other sets that you own, the love of the LEGO Minifigure seems to be pretty universal. Happy Anniversary, LEGO Minifigure!

Note: I received some LEGO Minifigure samples for review purposes.

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This post was last modified on April 2, 2018 7:14 pm

Jenny Bristol: @https://twitter.com/jennywbristol Jenny Bristol is an Editor at GeekDad and a founding Director at GeekMom. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, losing herself in history, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.