The older bricks that were made back in the day, "pre-2K", seem to be made out of a harder and more durable brick that would hurt your feet when you walked on them. Now it appears that since the other brother of the LEGO family took over, things have changed and you are seeing tons of themed sets coming out, (which is awesome), but at the same time they seem to have changed to a softer mixture of plastic.

Some AFOL's think that this is due to the fact that the bricks are now being made in China; they used to be made in Mexico.

If you compare a sword piece made in 1995 and compared it to the new stuff, you'll notice that even the color is different. The old Medieval swords were bright and shiny and hard as a rock. The old pirate swords you could be used like a tooth pick. Now they both seem to be made out of an entirely different plastic and bend with no effort.

I personally have not spent more than $200 in this last year down from $2000 the prior year for this reason. The only reason I bought anything at all was the new Friends sets. I loved LEGO until they took out the main reason I was buying their toys; their durability aspect. It was one of the only toys on the market that didn't turn towards profit and become mass produced in China, now I will have to start buying Playmobil.

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    You may want to clean up the question by removing speculative bits in it; as it is now it's quite hard to figure out what it is you're actually asking.
    – Joubarc
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 7:59
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    AFAIK, relatively few bricks are made in China.
    – Kramii
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 10:37
  • As @Kramii mentioned, my understanding is that most of the parts coming from China are textile parts like the capes and strings. Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 13:52
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    Some very special parts (licensed headgear, big dinosaurs) may also be produced there, but definitely no regular bricks whatsoever.
    – Joubarc
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 15:48
  • Considering Lego is the world's largest toy-maker, they have grown 15% per year for ten years, and AFOLs make up only about 5% of their revenue, I think your entire last paragraph needs to be reconsidered.
    – oddTodd
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 6:41

3 Answers 3


Some of it may be your own perception changing, such as a room you remember being big when you were a kid, but which you find small as an adult. So when you perceive bricks as being softer, it could actually be that they aren't, but that your perception changed. (If you were to walk barefoot on LEGO bricks for one hour per day, your feet would eventually harden enough that you wouldn't feel it anymore.)

However, some may actually hold true, especially for weapons. Swords that are produced nowadays are indeed not as hard as they were back then, and that is simply for safety reasons, as safety controls put in place become harder with times. In extreme cases, they'll even use rubber, for example for the tip of the big spike introduced with exo-force. Another more subtle example is the circular saw blade: ever thought how dumb it was that they didn't use a cross axle hole in that? Wonder no more: it's just so that kids wouldn't put it on a motor (I know I would have as a kid).

As for the perceived quality changes, well, it's a bit of the same, there's a lot of it which is just that, perception; but there are of course real quality issues that pop up from time to time, which LEGO usually assesses the best they can. One key factor here is that there's a huge stock in their factories, so any changes they make can take a while before they appear in released sets. For example, they have switched at some point from buying precolored plastic granulate to adding the color themselves to white granulate, but at some point they didn't add enough color, resulting in translucent and more fragile bricks. They fixed that, but a lot of the already produced bricks made it into sets.

Also, LEGO can only learn about quality issue when customers actually complain about them, so when facing a real quality issue, it's always best to contact the customer service and explain the problem. Not only will they usually be able to provide replacements for you, but this will eventually reach the production quality assurance.

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    I recently sorted through some of my bricks from the early 00s (so they're not nearly as old as 80s 90s bricks) and their clutch power is immense compared to my brand new bricks - after connecting two it was extremely difficult getting them apart even with a brick separator without damaging the plastic (with the separator!). I don't think it's just perception. I'm pretty sure there's real aging of the plastics at play here (though I'm less concerned about that aspect and more interested in knowing how I can soften them back up again - which I may open a new question for). Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 6:54

I can't definitively answer, but I can say that this has been a common observation around the late 1990's and early 2000's-- nothing to do with Chinese manufacturing.

I personally made the observation when comparing construction in large-scale creations in 1999/2000 and later in 2005. The large scale creation in 1999/2000 was a very large building, commissioned for a music school, and used elements that were likely molded in the 1996-1999 timeframe (they were brick and plate accessory packs). In 2005, we worked on the LEGO Millyard, producing similarly large buildings using very similar techniques for roofs.

Each project used stacks of large plates (black in 1999 and dark stone in 2005) for the roofs, and the behavior of the elements was distinctly different. In 2005, the plates had a tendency to "moosh" their way apart unless connected fully (and even then sometimes worked their way apart as the sections were handled), whereas in 1999, I didn't have that experience.

Around that time (2000 or so), hobbyists were commenting on the fact that it seemed like newer molded elements were softer, and didn't have a tendency to "click" together quite as much as they had in the past. And again, this is prior to Chinese manufacturing or dye-injected coloring changes.

The theory had by some was that this was a conscious change on LEGO's part to make the elements easier to use for younger children. Around that time (1997), LEGO was attempting to lower the age range on Town sets to bridge the gap between Duplo and System, and such a change may have been a part of that effort. According to one account by an AFOL that was involved in plastics manufacturing, this is often achieved in ABS plastic by adding more vinyl to the ABS mixture, giving it a more spongey quality.


Plastic pieces will become harder over time. Not sure why, but I think it is that the substance that were added to make the plastic a little softer evaporates over time.

I have been told that the people designing sets for LEGO never use pieces older than 2 years. This is because harder pieces will have more clutch power than softer pieces and because of that, they might accidentally design a set that will fall to pieces when built with only new pieces.

  • Don't you contradict yourself here? They never use old pieces, and they don't use new pieces?
    – Gruber
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 6:01
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    @Gruber - nope teabox said that they don't use old pieces because they might have more clutch than newer ones - so by ensuring that their parts are no more than two years old they can ensure that the model will stay together with new bricks. Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 10:22

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