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Why the Colour Changes of 2004?


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#26 CP5670

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 09:27 PM

View PostAanchir, on 30 July 2010 - 08:46 PM, said:

If LEGO didn't do any cost-cutting practices, then the amount LEGO sets would cost would rise even more every year. They still do rise due to inflation, but that's just one of the factors that makes LEGO more expensive to produce and distribute. Oil prices affect both production and distribution, as do steel prices (steel molds are mighty expensive). And both have risen a great deal in the past decade. Also note that before switching to adding their own colors, LEGO was getting their ABS pellets from an external supplier with color already added (if I'm remembering correctly).

All of those factors apply equally to the clone brand companies though. Despite that, even the better ones like Oxford are still able to undercut Lego prices by a huge amount, and the difference in color quality is no longer what it used to be.

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LEGO still has a standard of quality, and they adhere to that. But expecting perfection from anyone is unreasonable. Suppose a bad batch of parts came out, and the color was ever so slightly off. Is LEGO supposed to throw out the whole batch? After all, a lot of plastic doesn't like being re-molded, and all that would come out are brittle pieces. So instead, LEGO has in the past decade immensely streamlined their customer service department, creating a very convenient source for replacement parts. In my eyes, that more than makes up for the inconsistencies that are practically inevitable in mass production.

The replacement service is intended for one-off glitches. It's no good for widespread problems like the color variances. I doubt they would replace hundreds of parts in a set, and even if they did the replacements would likely have the same issues.

I don't actually blame TLG or expect any changes with this, as the market has certainly validated their decision with the clear ABS pellets. However, let's not pretend that TLG was "forced" into doing anything or has any intention of making the colors more consistent in the future. A bad batch of parts does not explain what we've been seeing for the last 3 years. I think they have simply revised what they consider to be acceptable profit margins over the years. They have seen by now that most people (including AFOLs) aren't that concerned about color differences, so as a business decision it makes sense for them to remain lax about it and continue making increased profits.

#27 vexorian

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 09:42 PM

View PostAanchir, on 30 July 2010 - 08:46 PM, said:

LEGO still has a standard of quality, and they adhere to that. But expecting perfection from anyone is unreasonable.

We are not comparing LEGO with unreasonable expectations of  perfection but with realistic precedent LEGO itself made until the 1990s. I had plenty of LEGO sets in that decade and the yellowing of white bricks is really my worst issue, very few bricks I own from that age have broken and I don't remember anyone breaking from normal usage. Color has been all consistent among very different sets and themes and years. You would think that if LEGO's intention was to keep up with the quality it would have improved or at least stayed the same after almost two decades of tech improvements, yet it got worse.

I remember an article mocking mega bloks and complimenting LEGO about how they survived their 2000s crisis by avoiding the outsourcing pitfall... Yet about 2 years after the article we had seen LEGO outsourcing production to China just like the rest of the industry.

What's worse is that price did not seem to go down after the quality reductions. Of course, fault is to costumers including AFOLs for keeping up purchasing LEGO sets even with all those issues. I guess though that the other problem is that TLG does not really have a global competitor that focuses on quality. We only have megabloks which seem to compete using things like licenses,  lower cost and articulated minifigs there are also oxford and cobi which are region constrained.

#28 Svelte

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 10:24 PM

The quality issue is a thorny one, but let's not derail the intention of this thread completely :wink: There's a helpful link in CP5670's sig which goes to the thread devoted to quality discussions.

One piece of hearsay that I did hear thrown around (probably on EB somewhere, although I don't remember a source for it) was that the colour change may in part have taken place to give the Star Wars licence a bit of a kick - new bley has more of a gunmetal look about it suitable for spaceships and such compared to the 'stoney' yellow-tones of the old grays which is better for Castles.

I have to say, I was just coming out of my dark ages when the colour change took place so most of my parts have always been in the newer shades. I do prefer the new bleys to the older grays which do have that 'pre-yellowed' effect to them. I am glad they introduced dark brown to complement red-brown (since it always seemed just a touch light for many models using it as a predominant hue) and old brown sits nicely somewhere in between them.




#29 vexorian

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 10:51 PM

Bley and stone changes themselves were positive imho. The new colors just look better. Although they are not as neutral of a color as dark gray and light gray were. I do have issue with many of my old gray pieces not being useful for MoCs of the recent themes.

The new brown color looks a little bad to me in comparison the old one. It is hard to explain,  I just think a tree made of the old brown looks better than one with the new brown.

#30 Clone OPatra

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 11:19 PM

View PostSvelte, on 30 July 2010 - 10:24 PM, said:

One piece of hearsay that I did hear thrown around (probably on EB somewhere, although I don't remember a source for it) was that the colour change may in part have taken place to give the Star Wars licence a bit of a kick - new bley has more of a gunmetal look about it suitable for spaceships and such compared to the 'stoney' yellow-tones of the old grays which is better for Castles.


This is an interesting idea, and I can certainly see that the new shades would add more of a kick to a predominantly grey theme.  Still, the one thing that I like more about the original X-Wing than the re-dos is how drab the thing looks; exactly like the original film!
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#31 ThatGuyWithTheBricks

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 11:54 PM

View PostSvelte, on 30 July 2010 - 10:24 PM, said:

The quality issue is a thorny one, but let's not derail the intention of this thread completely :wink: There's a helpful link in CP5670's sig which goes to the thread devoted to quality discussions.

One piece of hearsay that I did hear thrown around (probably on EB somewhere, although I don't remember a source for it) was that the colour change may in part have taken place to give the Star Wars licence a bit of a kick - new bley has more of a gunmetal look about it suitable for spaceships and such compared to the 'stoney' yellow-tones of the old grays which is better for Castles.

I have to say, I was just coming out of my dark ages when the colour change took place so most of my parts have always been in the newer shades. I do prefer the new bleys to the older grays which do have that 'pre-yellowed' effect to them. I am glad they introduced dark brown to complement red-brown (since it always seemed just a touch light for many models using it as a predominant hue) and old brown sits nicely somewhere in between them.

I think that some of it may have to do with the yellowing of ABS over time. By switching from yellow bases to blue and red bases, the problem of yellowing is cut down drastically!

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#32 Joebot

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Posted 31 July 2010 - 02:07 AM

An interesting discussion! For a really fun time, go dig up the old threads on Lugnet back when the color change first hit. I still remember the very first picture that somebody put up, showing the new grays. Everyone assumed it was just a weird glitch. Days went by and more and more people reported the new grays and the new brown. It took TLC a long time before they finally owned up to the color change, and man, did the sh-t ever hit the fan then. I believe the term these days is "nerd-rage."

The whole thing is still a nightmare for me whenever I build in those colors. I've got a huge collection of the old colors, and an ever-growing collection of the new colors. I think they look terrible when they're mixed together, so I have to keep them separate. The initial anger over the decision has faded, but it's still aggravating.

#33 dr_spock

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Posted 31 July 2010 - 02:23 AM

It is not too big of a problem for me as I don't have much of the old grey colour.   I do notice the difference when I look at my old AT-AT and newer AT-ST on the display shelf.

#34 Aanchir

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Posted 31 July 2010 - 12:30 PM

View PostJoebot, on 31 July 2010 - 02:07 AM, said:

An interesting discussion! For a really fun time, go dig up the old threads on Lugnet back when the color change first hit. I still remember the very first picture that somebody put up, showing the new grays. Everyone assumed it was just a weird glitch. Days went by and more and more people reported the new grays and the new brown. It took TLC a long time before they finally owned up to the color change, and man, did the sh-t ever hit the fan then. I believe the term these days is "nerd-rage."

The whole thing is still a nightmare for me whenever I build in those colors. I've got a huge collection of the old colors, and an ever-growing collection of the new colors. I think they look terrible when they're mixed together, so I have to keep them separate. The initial anger over the decision has faded, but it's still aggravating.
I don't know... I've actually seen some really innovative MOCs that use old and new gray colors together for weathered stone walls and the like. Of course, I understand how that really only helps if the old parts you have are fairly basic bricks, plates, and tiles-- more specialized parts can't really be used in that way, nor can parts that were discontinued before the switch to bley.

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#35 CP5670

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Posted 31 July 2010 - 06:58 PM

View PostJoebot, on 31 July 2010 - 02:07 AM, said:

The whole thing is still a nightmare for me whenever I build in those colors. I've got a huge collection of the old colors, and an ever-growing collection of the new colors. I think they look terrible when they're mixed together, so I have to keep them separate. The initial anger over the decision has faded, but it's still aggravating.

I actually ignored the issue back then, thinking it wouldn't affect me. :tongue: I figured that the old gray parts would remain on Bricklink for a long time and most of my set purchases back then were old sets off ebay anyway. It has become more of an issue for me over time, as the old gray supply on Bricklink has dried up.

The majority of gray in my collection is still the old kind, so I end up sticking with that for my MOCs. I think the two grays can substitute for each other as long as you don't use both in the same model. However, some parts only exist in one color or the other, which I find is especially an issue in Technic models where you need both types of parts to achieve a certain functionality.

View PostAanchir, on 31 July 2010 - 12:30 PM, said:

I don't know... I've actually seen some really innovative MOCs that use old and new gray colors together for weathered stone walls and the like. Of course, I understand how that really only helps if the old parts you have are fairly basic bricks, plates, and tiles-- more specialized parts can't really be used in that way, nor can parts that were discontinued before the switch to bley.

This method can look good on historical or post-apoc MOCs, but it really depends on what kinds of things you build. I like to build Space and Technic models that are supposed to be pristine, as if they just rolled out of the factory, so it obviously looks bad there. :tongue:

#36 Hrw-Amen

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 09:13 PM

I have just been reading some old threads about the change of colour from grey to light bluish grey and the dark grey equivalent.

All very interesting, but the in spite of there being much discussion about the pros and cons of the change and who liked what or was upset about it or perfectly happy to have both, (Of which there was an awful lot of pages of discussion!) nowhere in any of the threads did it answer the question I have been thinking about. (It has been one of those irritating things in the back of your mind you keep meaning to ask but always forget.)

Anyway, the question is why did they decide to change the colour and why for the dark grey was it such a huge change whereas for the light grey (At least under artificial light.) it is hard to tell the difference? What made them do it when the old colours had been around for years and everyone was used to them?

#37 cortman

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 09:28 PM

See here. *huh*
I get the feeling this subject has been flogged. to. death...

Edited by cortman, 05 March 2013 - 09:30 PM.

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#38 davee123

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 11:07 PM

Here's the most relevant official response from LEGO:

http://news.lugnet.com/lego/?n=1791

Basically, they didn't think anyone would really care all that much, and they thought it would make the product slightly better, so they went ahead and did it.

After they decided to do that, though, they ran into a lot of problems, and pretty much promised never to do it again (at least without informing the community).

The hobbyist community basically went nuts-- they couldn't believe that LEGO would seriously treat such a change so lightly, so a lot of other theories started coming up, none of which have ever shown any evidence of being true.  Basically, the management at LEGO really DID just make a dumb decision.

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#39 BrickG

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 04:00 AM

Although it's kind of annoying I do think the new colors are far superior strictly from a color perspective.  I'm a paid artist and notice this kind of stuff.  But still...  it WAS very annoying :P.

#40 Hrw-Amen

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:07 AM

View PostBrickG, on 06 March 2013 - 04:00 AM, said:

Although it's kind of annoying I do think the new colors are far superior strictly from a color perspective.  I'm a paid artist and notice this kind of stuff.  But still...  it WAS very annoying :P.

That is an interesting read and does help to understand the reasons better, it was just that whilst the threads on here discussed the pros and cons none of them seemed to address the why, so thanks for your help in finding that.

#41 Fugazi

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 09:12 PM

Merged with a very similar topic. :classic:

View Postcortman, on 05 March 2013 - 09:28 PM, said:

See here. *huh*
I get the feeling this subject has been flogged. to. death...
That's not very helpful.
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#42 cortman

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:27 PM

View PostFugazi, on 06 March 2013 - 09:12 PM, said:

That's not very helpful.

I've often found it's best to direct people to information, rather than just say it (that way they get the source, not tainted with *my* opinion). No offense meant.
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#43 Fugazi

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:47 PM

View Postcortman, on 06 March 2013 - 10:27 PM, said:

I've often found it's best to direct people to information, rather than just say it (that way they get the source, not tainted with *my* opinion). No offense meant.
It's all right. It wasn't clear though which of these sources of information you were directing him/us to, and lmgtfy.com has a 'you should have googled it yourself instead of asking' underpinning.
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#44 LEGO Historian

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 08:28 AM

Well since someone opened the LEGO "Pandora's Box"... let me add a few things from a historical and also sideline perspective (I stayed out of the great Bley War of 2004).  And forgive me if I wander around on peripheral subjects... I've got too much to say..

For about 1/2 century the ABS (and prior to that in the 1960s... Cellulose Acetate) were produced for TLG by German chemical giant Bayer GmbH (the aspirin maker).  Bayer is one of the worlds largest chemical companies, and had been making Cellulose Acetate LEGO parts, under the brand name "Cellidor" in the 1950s and 1960s.  And when the switch to a more stable plastic was introduced in 1962-63, Bayer was the producer of the ABS plastic that replaced Cellidor.

From 1963-73 the red and yellow ABS plastic was a bit of a darker color than it was after 1973.  This was due to the colorization process by Bayer included Cadmium... a heavy metal.  Red and yellow appeared to be more difficult to color... so the addition of Cadmium eased the process.  However by the early 1970s... envoronmentalists and TLG themselves decided that having LEGO parts in land fills over long periods of time (centuries?) would not be good for the envoriment, and therefore removed most Cadmium from the colorization process.  (Note: recent testing of modern LEGO elements still show trace levels of Cadmium in some LEGO colors, but the colors would not leach out of the bricks.)

Gray LEGO elements had been used sparingly by TLG from 1953-62... in very few slotted bricks, but mainly in LEGO 10x20 thick baseplates.  Then in late 1962 small plates started coming out in gray.  This was followed by the large gray baseplate (50x50 studs) in 1964, and other larger gray plates and other (specialty) parts.  The use of gray in regular LEGO bricks was introduced in the very rare and highly collectible 1650 Maersk Line Container set of 1974 that had a large number of 2x3 bricks in gray.  However it wasn't until the late 1970s (when 32x32 roadplates were introduced, and the 50x50 baseplate was replaced by the 48x48 size)... that LEGO bricks were produced in regular sets (the 722 Basic Set was one of the first), as well as the new Technic (1977) and Space (1979) sets.  Also, in Europe LEGO bricks spare parts packs in gray were introduced, but not in USA/Canada.

Then by the mid 1980s the Castle System switched from the (375/6075) Yellow Castle to gray castles sets.  So gray became more common in sets... but the gray spare parts packs were still only found in Europe.  Now fast forward to 2004.  The new gray was introduced.  Well you know what hit the fan... and because the number of gray parts had always been greater in Europe than in North America... Europeans as a whole were "more" impacted by the switch to the new gray, although the outrage was on both sides of the Atlantic (and elsewhere).

So there were some very very nasty fights on Lugnet, the main LEGO worldwide LEGO fan site back then.  If anything... I do believe that it exacerbated the "diaspora" or proliferation of more LEGO fan sites, although that was also caused by other issues on Lugnet.

So the goodwill that TLG was trying to achieve back in 2001 by starting LEGO Direct... the first AFOL related acknowledgement of the fact that there are adult LEGO collectors out there (TLG wasn't the fastest horse in the race on that one)... was sort of damaged in 2004 by many AFOLs who were outraged and felt betrayed by the color change.

Now... the color changes happened to brown, dark gray and gray... but only gray had been made for many decades... brown and dark gray were of more recent vintage (late 1990s) and were not as impactful as gray was on the general AFOL community.  And what made it worse was the fact that LEGO Town and other systems were nowhere as impacted as were the LEGO Castle, LEGO Space and Technic Systems.  So there was a lot of arguing back and forth among the LEGO community over how big of a deal the change was.

So Europeans were more impacted than North Americans (no gray parts packs sold here), and LEGO Town and other systems were not as impacted as were Space, Castle and Technic.  Ugly ugly battles were fought in the online community in 2004 (and beyond).  And like I said... this was almost like the "Tower of Babel" of LEGO... people started going off and starting other LEGO related fan sites as well.

Now go to 2006.  What happened around that time was TLG was loosing money in the mid 2000-2010 era.  One way to cut costs was to move production of LEGO to cheaper sites... such as Mexico and the Czech Republic (China came later for Minifigs).  Another way to save money was to stop buying colorized LEGO pellets from Bayer... which TLG had done for over 1/2 century.  The best way for TLG to do that was to stop the storage of vast increases in the number of LEGO colors (remember by 1990 there were only about 8 LEGO colors, by 2006 there were over 40).  So TLG stopped the importation of precolored LEGO pellets from Bayer, and just bought the milky clearish-white pellets from multiple sources and started handling the colorization process themselves at production time.

So in doing their own coloring of the parts... using uncolored LEGO pellets from multiple sources, and adding color at multiple sites, with slight variants (temperature, quantity, etc.) the quality of "even-ness" of coloring of parts began to suffer.  One of the first big sets that saw this problem was the color purple in the first Harry Potter Knight Bus.  The colors became a problem... but TLG greatly improved their "replacement parts" service to compensate for this.  And that is basically where we are today with the problems of variances in LEGO colors... it is a problem... and TLG will provide replacement parts when so requested.

Well I've been long winded enough... but I think I covered the major issues...

Oh... one last thing... trans-colored parts are not made of ABS plastic (although they were made of Cellulose Acetate prior to the mid 1960s)... ABS is not trans-clear... so Polycarbonate is used to produce those colors.

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Edited by LEGO Historian, 07 March 2013 - 08:44 AM.

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#45 1974

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:22 AM

View PostLEGO Historian, on 07 March 2013 - 08:28 AM, said:

... brown and dark gray were of more recent vintage (late 1990s) ..

Dark grey was used for castle helmets (1979) and 12V train sleepers (1980), allthough regular bricks didn't show up until 1998

Edited by 1974, 07 March 2013 - 09:23 AM.

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#46 LEGO Historian

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:05 AM

View Post1974, on 07 March 2013 - 09:22 AM, said:

Dark grey was used for castle helmets (1979) and 12V train sleepers (1980), allthough regular bricks didn't show up until 1998

Yes, there were some exceptions... those didn't come to mind though... but in 1985 I was at a Detroit area Kmart store, and saw a huge LEGO model of the Gothic style Brussels Belgium Town Hall (Hotel de Ville).... all made of tan and dark gray LEGO bricks!!!  :sceptic:
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#47 1974

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:53 AM

I also remember seeing colours in LEGOLAND/Billund that I couldn't find in sets, tan being one of them (I was there many times from late 70's to late 80's .. I should dig out some old photos)
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#48 antp

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:59 AM

There was also a change in the pink colors, but as those were rare it does not concern many parts.
In the 90s there was the Paradisia Pink. Later, other pink parts were produced (but that change occurred already long before 2004), close to that pink but not exactly the same one. Like for the greys, the old color is a little more yellowish. Here the main problem is that these two pinks are listed as only one color on Bricklink. Peeron however lists both separately, as it has a Parapink color (incorrectly matched to Bricklink's Light Pink, but I think that Bricklink made a change there afterwards).

#49 Aanchir

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 01:41 PM

View Postantp, on 07 March 2013 - 10:59 AM, said:

There was also a change in the pink colors, but as those were rare it does not concern many parts.
In the 90s there was the Paradisia Pink. Later, other pink parts were produced (but that change occurred already long before 2004), close to that pink but not exactly the same one. Like for the greys, the old color is a little more yellowish. Here the main problem is that these two pinks are listed as only one color on Bricklink. Peeron however lists both separately, as it has a Parapink color (incorrectly matched to Bricklink's Light Pink, but I think that Bricklink made a change there afterwards).
Yep, and in 2004 both of the then-current pink colors (9 Light Reddish Violet and 22 Medium Reddish Violet) were replaced with 222 Light Purple and 221 Bright Purple. Again, the differences between Bright Purple and Medium Reddish Violet are so subtle that Bricklink does not differentiate between them and refers to both as Dark Pink.

Another color that has undergone some major changes even since 2004 is Silver. The first "pearl" silver color was 131 Silver, which was used up until 2006 even though it tended to be very inconsistent (it is referred to as both Pearl Light Gray and Flat Silver on Bricklink, depending partly on what plastic material it's used for, since in softer plastics it often appeared darker). In 2006, there was an attempt to replace it with a new color, 296 Cool Silver. This did not go over too well, though, because Cool Silver had a somewhat "washed-out" look and still was not free of inconsistency. In a move that I don't think I've ever seen happen with any other color, 131 Silver was brought back in 2007 and remained the standard until 2010-2011 when it was replaced with a newer color, 315 Silver Metallic (which Bricklink more consistently as Flat Silver, since it's a fairly consistent darker shade).

Gold has had similar changes, but it was a bit different in that the original pearl gold (127 Gold) coexisted with a few other gold colors such as 147 Sand Yellow Metallic and 189 Reddish Gold (which Bricklink often refers to, quite frustratingly, as Copper, despite not being nearly as brownish or reddish as the OTHER three or four colors they call copper). Every one of these pearl gold colors was replaced in 2006 with 297 Warm Gold which has been used consistently ever since.

Anyway, apologies for rambling. I'm very interested in the LEGO color palette, and enjoy sharing what I know about it.

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#50 LEGO Historian

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 03:37 PM

View Post1974, on 07 March 2013 - 10:53 AM, said:

I also remember seeing colours in LEGOLAND/Billund that I couldn't find in sets, tan being one of them (I was there many times from late 70's to late 80's .. I should dig out some old photos)

Yes... I have sveral LEGO friends who collect PAT. PEND. LEGO.... the bricks from the early 1970s and before that still had the "PAT. PEND." on the underside of the elements (mainly bricks and plates).  And in their collection are tan and dark grey parts.  In fact the Tan colored LEGO bricks were really introduced into the Modulex LEGO Archurtectural System (smaller than and not compatible with LEGO bricks). of 1963.
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