Forty-three year old Pierre Chum guesses he has 100,000 Lego pieces in his collection. The Oakridge resident and insurance broker got hooked on the coloured bricks as a kid in the 1970s when his grandparents bought him a Galaxy Explorer space set for Christmas.
Now the spokesman for the adult Vancouver Lego Club, Chum claims 20 per cent of Lego purchasers are adults buying for themselves rather than purchasing for children.
“We choose to put our time and money into our hobby and it is for the enjoyment of all as opposed to say a video game where it is very insular,” Chum said while standing beside the club’s display at the Oakridge Centre Lego store, the only one of its kind in Vancouver.
October’s display, made by club member Andrew Robertson, is of a train and station with characters dressed in Halloween costumes lining the platform.
The Lego brand hit a sales slump 10 years ago when it was struggling to compete with less expensive copycat companies, but judging by the many people streaming into the Oakridge store just after it opened on a recent Wednesday morning, the Lego bricks that first came to market in 1958, once again intrigue iPhone-toting children as well as mature builders who make Lego the “bricks” of their trade.
Vancouver’s adult Lego club has 30 members of both sexes and from various backgrounds. Most are married or in long-term relationships. They are highly creative people seeking an outlet not provided by their day-to-day work lives, Chum said. The members, who must pay a nominal fee to join, meet once a month to show off creations and talk about their hobby.
Chum said members spend anywhere from a couple of hours a week to a few hours a day building with Lego depending on what they are creating and if there is an upcoming event. In preparation for something such as the recent BrickCon 2013 convention in Seattle, where adult builders from around the world try to impress each other and the public, members would be working on their creations every spare minute, said Chum.
It isn’t a cheap hobby. In the store, the pick-a-brick pieces are $10.99 for a 16 oz. cup of bricks or $19.99 for the 32 oz. cup. Sets can run anywhere from $10 to $500. In order to save money, serious Lego enthusiasts buy, sell and trade pieces on unofficial Lego selling websites such as Bricklink.com.
The Vancouver club showcases their work at many local community events such as at the VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights with the Make a Wish Foundation. Chum said parents who come out with their kids to see the builds are often looking for something that gets the family away from electronic screens. The Lego creations seem to do the trick.
He recalls a little girl about seven who was so fascinated with three of the club’s displays at this summer’s Mini Maker Faire — a crawler town, a steampunk version of Cloud City from Star Wars and Fun Haus, an amusement ride based on the Mexican Day of the Dead — she spent half an hour pouring over each detail, begging her dad to let her stay and look at it longer.