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I've been reading about the history of the LEGO palette, most notably the transitions in gray and pink that have happened over the years where older shades were more or less completely replaced with newer ones.

What is the shortest-lived official LEGO color or shade? To be clear, I'm asking about shades that were officially released for public purchase as a set or individually (so no prototypes, test runs, employee swag, or third-party retints). I'm also not concerned about what parts were specifically made in that color, just the history of the color itself. If a particular color appeared in a 1x2 plate for two years, that part was retired, but the color was then used for a 2x4 brick for a year, that counts as three years for the color.

For example, have there been any colors that were released in only one set or theme and were fully retired when that set or theme was retired, never to be revived again?

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According to the BrickLink Colour Guide, there have been three solid colours that were used for at most one year:

  1. Fabuland Orange (1983; half barrel from Peter Panda Takes a Bath)
  2. Very Light Orange (2000; only example being the aforementioned crouching cat)
  3. Clikits Lavender (2005; four examples)

In addition, there has been one "chrome" colour (solid with metallic detailing) with a single-year run:

  1. Chrome Black (2009; Darth Vader torso)

And finally two "speckled" colours, both from 2006:

  1. Speckle Black-Copper (2006; Karzon Visor)
  2. Speckle DBGrey-Silver (2006; three examples, all helmets)

As noted in one of the other answers, there are additionally some new colours for 2020. In my opinion it is too early to say whether these will have a single-year run.

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    While brikclink doesn't have an image of an item in Fabuland Orange it has the Fabuland Orange bathtub listed in its catalogue. "zero examples in Bricklink" is a bit misleading here. – jk - Reinstate Monica Jun 30 at 20:09
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    @jk-ReinstateMonica: Bricklink does have an entry and even an image of the Container, Barrel Half Large, Fabuland Orange, but there seems to be something wonky with their database. In particular, on the Peter Panda Takes a Bath set page the part is marked with "Part Color Code Missing". – Ilmari Karonen Jun 30 at 23:38
  • @jk-ReinstateMonica Thanks for spotting that. Will amend my answer. – Tom Wright Jul 1 at 7:52
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Further to Alex's answer, from that source I found eleven colours that only lasted a year:

  • Fabuland Orange 1983
  • Very Light Orange 2000
  • Clikits Lavender 2005
  • Chrome Black 2009
  • Chrome Green 1999
  • Satin White 2020
  • Satin Trans-Light Blue 2020
  • Satin Trans-Dark Pink 2020
  • Glitter Trns-Orange 2020
  • Speckle Black-Copper 2006
  • Speckle DBGray-Silver 2006

Of course the three 2020 colours may continue next year!

Fabuland Orange was only used for one item in one set for one year, so could be considered the rarest colour. The set was "Peter Panda Takes a Bath", and the part was Peter Panda's tub, a part barrel affair.

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    Kudos for spotting more colors. – Alex Jun 29 at 19:18
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According to Bricklink, Very Light Orange was only used by single part for one year only - in 2000. It was used in 2 sets (Scala and Belville) and 1 "gear".

That part is this cat:

enter image description here

Another color is Clikits Lavender used by a number of parts (9, to be precise) for Clikits theme and these were produced in 2005.

Here's a picture by Ryan Howerter

enter image description here

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