Averaged out since Lego first began selling addictive bricks, and discounting the structural redesign of existing bricks (Like the 2x4. Tubes were added, but it was still a 2x4) how many shaped elements has Lego added per year?

To be clear, I'm asking for a shape count, not a color or piece count, and the average number of released shapes over the years, not a breakdown of the treasures recently heaped upon us.

  • 2
    For LEGO, this isn't quite as easy as you might expect. The reason for this is that there is disagreement over what constitutes a different "shape". For example, there are two main variants of 2x2 round tiles; those that have a single central "tube" on the bottom, and those that have a cross. For most purposes they are interchangeable, but not for all. There are lots of parts like this, and it has never been obvious to me how we should categorise them. For most practical purposes, none of this really matters. But I think it is interesting, nonetheless. – Kramii Mar 22 '17 at 12:34
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    Have you tried to download the complete Bricklink catalog and group the items by description or item number? I noticed that e.g. the Brick 2x4 variants are called 3001, 3001f1, 3001old, 3001oldf1, and so on. Thinking about it, I will do a "bricklink catalog statistics" Google search. Someone must have done like this before!? – Aziraphale Mar 22 '17 at 14:51

The BrickLink catalog has this option. List all parts, then click on "Year summary". There are 45510 parts in total. The list starts in 1950 (8 parts!), everything before that year is year "0". 2002 was the first year with more than 1000 parts, 2016 saw an impressive number of 3490 parts.


As pointed out in a comment, the entries in the BrickLink catalog contain all kinds of variants of the same shape. One example:

Brick 1 x 2 with Yellow Left Arrow and Black Border Pattern Brick 1 x 2 with Yellow Down Arrow and Black Border Pattern Brick 1 x 2 with Yellow Grille Pattern Brick 1 x 2 with Black Grille Pattern Brick 1 x 2 with White Grille Pattern ... and so on

It turns out that part descriptions are structured like this:

<shape description> "with" or "without" <details>

So all above items are "Brick 1 x 2" shape. I wrote a script that takes the csv-formatted BrickLink catalog, deletes all part descriptions from "with" or "without" onwards, and then deletes all duplicate lines.

Result: from the 45510 parts of the catalog remain 17236 entries. Looking at this list, I would say that this number is an upper limit to the number of distict shapes that have been produced. Maybe 10% have to be subtracted to get a good estimate.

Example: There are 52 types of Bricks left. There are some transparent bricks and "solid studs" that are not a shape of its own.

Brick 10 x 10 Brick 10 x 20 Brick 10 x 20 - Undetermined Underside Type Brick 12 x 24 Brick 1 x 1 Brick 1 x 10 Brick 1 x 12 Brick 1 x 16 Brick 1 x 1 Transparent Brick 1 x 1 x 3 Brick 1 x 1 x 5 Brick 1 x 1 x 5 - Solid Stud Brick 1 x 2 Brick 1 x 2 Transparent Brick 1 x 2 x 2 Brick 1 x 2 x 3 Brick 1 x 2 x 5 Brick 1 x 3 Brick 1 x 3 Transparent Brick 1 x 3 x 5 Brick 1 x 4 Brick 1 X 4 Brick 1 x 4 Transparent Brick 1 x 4 x 1 Brick 1 x 6 Brick 1 x 6 Transparent Brick 1 x 6 x 5 Brick 1 x 8 Brick 1 x 8 Transparent Brick 2 x 10 Brick 2 x 12 Brick 2 x 14 Brick 2 x 2 Brick 2 x 2 Corner Brick 2 x 2 Transparent Brick 2 x 2 x 3 Brick 2 x 3 Brick 2 x 3 Transparent Brick 2 x 4 Brick 2 x 4 special (special bricks, test bricks and/or prototypes) Brick 2 x 4 Transparent Brick 2 x 4 x 3 Brick 2 x 6 Brick 2 x 6 x 3 Brick 2 x 8 Brick 4 x 10 Brick 4 x 12 Brick 4 x 18 Brick 4 x 4 Corner Brick 4 x 6 Brick 8 x 16 Brick 8 x 8

This exercise gave me some insight at how many parts exist. Did you know, that there are 64 "dog" shapes, but only 8 "cat"?

I hope this answer did help somehow.

This is the method to manipulate the catalog (Linux environment):

First, load catalog (tab-delimited list) into Excel, and export the column containing the part names to an ASCII file.

Now delete everything including "with" from the lines:

awk '{if (index($0," with") != 0) {print substr($0,1,index($0," with")-2)} else {print $0} }' parts.csv > temp.csv

Now sort and remove duplicate lines:

sort -u temp.csv > unique_shapes.csv

That's it. In Linux, there are 1000 ways to do this. I like to use commands that are easy to follow. Now one could refine the method and delete other items that don't qualify as shapes, e.g. cloth or the above mentioned "transparent" bricks. There are endless possibilities :)

P.S.: Reading the question, I just realize that I missed the "per year" part. But this topic is far from over, anyway.

  • 2
    While this is a very helpful answer, it is worth noting that these numbers aren't entirely reflective of the number of unique molds (or "shapes") introduced in a given year. Bricklink parts consider printing, so those 3490 new parts for 2016 include, for example, hundreds of unique minifig head prints. – jncraton Mar 22 '17 at 18:25
  • You are right. I am looking at the catalog right now. The numbering complicates thing even more. It seems to be less consistent than I thought. Some part variants don't start with a number. One example: bhol04 is a 2x4 brick without bottom tubes.... – Aziraphale Mar 22 '17 at 21:07
  • @jncraton I updated the answer. The method should at least remove all printed variants, and everything that is described using "...with..." or "...without..." in the catalog. – Aziraphale Mar 24 '17 at 13:58
  • Nice work. It's helpful to see that broken down. It would be cool if you could post the script somewhere in case others want to build on this concept. – jncraton Mar 24 '17 at 14:52
  • Excellent effort. Excellent answer. – Major Stackings Mar 24 '17 at 17:23

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