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My vintage LEGO sets (circa 1980) are difficult to unbuild. Some pieces are prone to break. Did the plastic recipe change with time or are the bricks simply degrading?

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Forgot to ask, you didn't glue them, did you? – Joubarc Oct 26 '11 at 18:15
Thanks for asking. but no :) – jfyelle Oct 26 '11 at 22:20
I don't have an answer, but the feel of Llegos today (2014) is not the same as it was when I was a kid (1970s). The bricks today "slide together" (dynamic friction) while my old bricks "chattered" (stick and slip static friction) and clicked when you pressed them together. My feeling is that the newer bricks have more of a flexible plastic, but perhaps it is just the surface is smoother due to better machining tolerances. – Mark Lakata Jul 7 '14 at 6:28
up vote 16 down vote accepted

The LEGO company switched to ABS in 1963, bricks produced before that have a markedly different quality.

However, if your sets are from around 1980, they should use ABS already and there should be no reason that the plastic is different.

Other possible explanations would be bad storage conditions (too warm, direct sunlight, maybe), or the fat that the set may have only been built one. Indeed, ABS bricks reach their optimal clutch power after having been assembled/disassembled about 8 to 10 times, so if you just built the set once and let it be (for display for example), then the bricks are in fact still too new and clutch together too tighly.

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Gah, you mean I need to pull all my Star Wars LEGO models apart and rebuild them a number of times? Noooo! – Zhaph - Ben Duguid Oct 26 '11 at 15:10
Thanks for your answer! My lego blocks were thoroughly used. It feels like they lost any elasticity they had. ie I'm breaking my nails on them. Newer lego sets are soft and gentle and are undone pleasantly... – jfyelle Oct 26 '11 at 21:32
ABS are not necessarily the same formula. Many additives have come on the market in particular to combat UV and cracking. – Erik Olson Oct 28 '11 at 9:36
Actually I was just checking my CA bricks and they are softer than my old ABS parts still. – Erik Olson Oct 28 '11 at 9:40

I was disassembling my Lego set 7674. It is not new but certainly not old. It was built once. Was kept in a sealed box. No direct sunlight. In fact no light at all. Perfect storage conditions. Room temperature and humidity. While disassembling one of the parts broke in my hand twice!!! It fell apart.

First time this happens. I have thousands of sets. Have sets from the 70's and also new ones. Never saw this happen.

Any ideas?

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