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Samsonite (USA/Canada) LEGO discussion

1973 TLG Takes over USA LEGO

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#1 Mariko

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 07:34 PM

So, I haven't been very active on Eurobricks for a while (work, school, marriage, etc.), but I figured I'd make my partial comeback in a big way. Earlier this year, my wife's stepmother's mother sent me a bucket of old LEGO from when her children were young--she said she began buying LEGO for her kids in 1971, but there are pieces here from the late sixties, as well. This blurry picture (better ones later) shows the amount of elements there were (as well as how excited I was!):
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I did an inventory today, and there were around 1070 pieces in there! Most of them were in excellent condition. If anyone wants a complete inventory, I can oblige, but for now, I thought I'd share some of the more interesting parts.

I'll start off with a 1x1 plate. Not really rare, but there was only one, and it was cool to see it with the old logo.
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Next up is the underside of the old-style 1x2 plates.
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And the underside of the old-style 2x8 plates.
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A printed 1x2 brick.
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Printed 2x3 bricks. Both these and the previous printed brick have a sort of embossed feel.
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Trans-clear 2x2 and 2x4 bricks.
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A tv aerial and an old pine tree.
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Some cool old swivel pieces.
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An old propeller.
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Old windows and doors.
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Some old wheels.
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I have no idea what this part is. Does anyone know?
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Here are some old catalog images.
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There were also enough pieces (and the instructions for) a (nearly) complete set. While I'll be posting a review of that in the Town forum within the next few days, here is a picture to give you a hint.
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(If this is the wrong forum, I do apologize)

#2 purpleparadox

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 07:39 PM

Wow, some of those are really cool! :sweet: Thanks for the pictures.

I too own the propeller, some old windows and doors, and some old wheels. As for the Samsonite plates and bricks, do they connect okay with ABS plastic?

Thanks again for the neat pictures!

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#3 Fugazi

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 09:02 PM

Some great old bricks, thanks for sharing your finds! :sweet:

View PostMariko, on 03 August 2012 - 07:34 PM, said:

I have no idea what this part is. Does anyone know?
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It's a hinge coupling used to connect vehicles and trailers in a number of sets. It's quite an un-LEGOish part and it certainly looks less useful than later two-part alternatives. But the cool factor is undeniable!
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#4 The Blue Brick

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 03:14 AM

I have a small bucket fool of these old pieces. They are definitely really cool. I love the look on your face, almost like you discovered gold.  :tongue:

#5 Hawkman

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 04:28 AM

Those are great - thanks for sharing. Wish I had some of my old bricks from back in the day.
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#6 legolijntje

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 09:15 AM

That's Samsonite  *huh*

I always thought I had an enormous useless box of old Lego...  :laugh:

Edited by legolijntje, 04 August 2012 - 09:15 AM.


#7 ShaydDeGrai

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 12:11 PM

Boy this takes me back.  I, too, have a few thousand of those pieces dating back to the early days of my Lego hobby, though it looks like your recent find has suffered less UV exposure than mine.  I've found that with my old Samsonite bricks the white bricks have yellowed and the clear have become a little foggy (other colors hold up better) and all of them tend to chip and scratch.  I'm not sure if the chipping and scratching is a function of the material, their age or both.

BTW the 2x2-to-2x2 plate-ish flexible coupling, as has been pointed out, is an early trailer hitch though I tended to use them as cheap train couplings, but then again I couldn't afford a proper Lego train set back in those days so all my trains had rubber wheels (the tiny ones with red hubs and a metal axle that snapped to the bottom of a  2x2 black brick like the ones you put on your sample car, only without the tread) and ran on a "track" that consisted of two parallel lines drawn with a marker on a big sheet of poster board.  My how things have changed...

Thanks for this walk down memory lane.


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#8 Multiverse

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 05:22 PM

This reminds me; I believe my grandparents still have a box of this kind of pieces lying around somewhere. I also think my other grandmother has a box of Fabuland pieces in a drawer. I should probably get around to asking them if I can have some of that (since I'm pretty much the family's only FOL).

Also, a funny little notion: when I saw the photo, I my first thought was how much your jacket resembles that minifig torso with the classic space logo - and sure enough, when I glanced at your avatar I learned that you're clearly aware of that, yourself! :laugh:

#9 lightningtiger

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 11:06 PM

Thanks for sharing those images 'Mariko', though I have always wondered why a suitcase maker would want to import toys ? :laugh:
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#10 Legocrazy81

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 04:32 AM

Very cool! It's awesome to see the underside of bricks before the tubes came to be. And the old logo as well. :classic: Thanks for sharing.
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#11 Mariko

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Posted 07 August 2012 - 05:20 PM

View PostMultiverse, on 04 August 2012 - 05:22 PM, said:

Also, a funny little notion: when I saw the photo, I my first thought was how much your jacket resembles that minifig torso with the classic space logo - and sure enough, when I glanced at your avatar I learned that you're clearly aware of that, yourself! :laugh:

The funny thing is, that jacket was a gift from a non-FOL!

#12 Rook

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Posted 07 August 2012 - 09:38 PM

That’s like strange trip down memory lane.
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#13 LEGO Historian

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 12:34 AM

That old stuff is what I first grew up with.... got my first Samsonite LEGO set in 1961, when the first licensed set came to the USA.

As it turns out a 3rd generation Shwayder Brothers member was on a ferry (this scenarios happens all the time to the Christiansen LEGO family).... and he met Godtfred Kirk Christiansen.... who starting in 1958 was the Managing Director of LEGO.

He wanted to expand to the USA and Canada, but a small Danish company with only about 200 employees was too much for the USA/Canada market (ditto for Britain/Ireland/Australia).  So Mr. Shwayder was the grandson of one of the 4 Shwayder brothers who founded a luggage company in Colorado in 1910 (which later became Samsonite).

The first LEGO sets sold in the USA came out in late 1961, produced from a Samsonite plant in Stratford Ontario (although specialty parts were still produced in Denmark).

By 1962 the Samsonite plant was also producing LEGO for Canada.  In 1965 a USA plant started producing LEGO from Loveland Colorado (a suburb of Denver).

Samsonite had their own LEGO font on the studs... it was smaller and fatter with the "O" more open.  For some reason red and yellow LEGO produced for USA Samsonite often was still made of Cellulose Acetate (which warped), while the rest of the world was making LEGO (starting in 1963) out of ABS plastic, a more stable plastic.

You can always tell Cellulose Acetate red an yellow... the red was more red-orange, and the yellow a "Chiffon Yellow".

That connector part was universally introduced in the 400 and 401 wheel sets of 1962-63.  It was the first LEGO part made of Nylon, and was a milky white translucent color.

Yes USA Samsonite LEGO really took a beating, compared to European LEGO.  My guess is that American kids always played with it on the cement front porch or driveway, thus scratching it much more.

TLG was not happy with the underperformance of Samsonite sales in the USA, and in 1970 started litigation to revoke the license.  That catalog that you have is the 1971-72 Samsonite LEGO catalog... the last one before TLG took over LEGO sales in the USA, and moved production to Connecticut.

Samsonite of Canada toe-ed the TLG corporate line much better than Samsonite USA, and they were able to keep the license until 1985, when TLG bought it back.

But what is kind of silly is that when it comes to celebrating first LEGO sales for USA.... TLG uses the 1973 date, while in Canada they use the 1962 date.  Posted Image
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Also... that 1971-72 Samsonite LEGO catalog you have (that are in pieces) ... it has some very strange things in it....

For example the 112 baseplates are 40x40 baseplates... a size not found elsewhere.

Also the 110 Vehicle Accessory Pack has never ever been found.

Neither has the 111 Home Accessories Pack....

My guess is that Samsonite never made these 110/111 packs, but just sold the regular toy stores the same 166 Wheel Accessories Pack and 167 Home Accessories Pack intended only for Sears (as sales catalog exclusives).  And since they were going to lose the LEGO license anyway... they didn't care what the catalogs said!  Posted Image

Edited by LEGO Historian, 08 August 2012 - 12:39 AM.

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#14 AussieJimbo

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 12:35 AM

Thanks Mariko for sharing your excitement with that great haul of vintage Lego and cheers LH for the interesting historical info.

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#15 LEGO Historian

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 02:18 AM

Thanks AussieJimbo....

Mariko.... even though there are pieces in your lot that may appear to be earlier.... that may not actually be the case.  USA Samsonite retooled many old LEGO molds, and kept reusing them.  For example... waffle bottom bricks were retired in Europe in 1963... but can be found in USA Samsonite sets as late as 1972 (as in your case).  Also 1x6 and 1x8 beams have tube bottom in Europe starting in 1964... but the hollow partition bottom 1x6 and 1x8 bricks can also be found in USA Samsonite sets as late as 1972.

I do believe that TLG Denmark sold USA Samsonite many of their old molds that they would otherwise have retired.  Samsonite retooled many of them... so you will find some bricks with more than 1 font on the same brick.... and not even going in the same direction!

My 2,800 page Unofficial LEGO Sets/Parts Collectors Guide (1949-1990s) on DVD or download goes into all sort of anomalies that can be found with Samsonite sets.  Such as the late date for Waffle Bottom plates.  One of the strangest things I've seen is sloped bricks in Samsonite sets with 1950s LEGO font.

You will find a great deal of different fonts on your LEGO part assortment.  I just call it "LEGO Mayhem".  Also some LEGO plates have a "non-italics" LEGO font.


I always tell folks that a normal Samsonite set has at lesat 2-3 fonts on the assortment of  parts....   Posted Image

Edited by LEGO Historian, 08 August 2012 - 02:18 AM.

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#16 Mariko

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 04:46 PM

LEGO Historian, thank you so much for the information! I love finding out such fascinating historical things. I'll have to look at the studs now and try to find the odd fonts! I'll also compare the red and yellow bricks to new ABS bricks. It does make sense that these would have been bricks from the 1970s, rather than the 1960s, as that's when she started getting them for her kids. Was set 345 (the one that I found instructions for, and was able to build--the review is in the Town forum) produced until the 70s? I would imagine so, since there weren't as many products out as there are now.
There's a possibility (however small) that my wife's grandfather might still have one of the Samsonite-released town plan sets in his basement somewhere. If I ever find it, I'll be sure to post pictures (that side of my wife's family lives in the Denver metro area, where Samsonite has its headquarters, and which was, I believe, the first US city to have LEGO).

Also, I'll have to save up some money to buy your book--it looks like something I could spend hours upon hours poring over!

#17 Mariko

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 06:23 PM

So, I looked through the pieces again, and I did indeed find some odd things! Here are a few pictures.

Here is a 1x2 plate with the logo facing different directions (with a normal one for comparison):
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Here's an example of the different fonts you mentioned:
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This shows the old-style undersides for some bricks:
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Last (and not really odd) is a picture of some old raised baseplates (note the two different kinds of bottoms):
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#18 wolfwing

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 08:16 PM

Did you get any of the old lego figurines? :>  No hands, just bumps on the body and the legs for a single piece, no aticulating legs or anything.  I think I still have some of my old ones somewhere, I have the baseplate for 363-1 http://www.peeron.co...ns/363-1/8and http://www.peeron.com/scans/357-1/1

#19 LEGO Historian

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 08:24 PM

Thanks Mariko!!

My UNOFFICIAL LEGO SETS/PARTS COLLECTORS GUIDE (1949-90s) has several chapters that have large parts devoted to USA/Canada Samsonite LEGO set.  There is even a chapter on USA/Canada Department Store Exclusive Catalog Sales sets (sold nowhere else in the world).

TLG Billund didn't keep tight reins on early LEGO production in some other countries (USA/Canada/Norway/Sweden)... so there are a LOT of sets that are not in the Vault in Billund Denmark, as well as a lot of sets that they have no records of in the LEGO Archives.

I had a lot of fun dealing with the LEGO Archives folks in putting my Encyclopedic (at 2,800 pages... it is indeed encyclopedic) volume.

There are some really cool parts that were made for USA Samsonite only, that were not found elsewhere in the world... such as 4x8 waffle bottom plates in black or gray, or 2x8 and 2x10 bricks in trans clear (only ever produced in a USA (only) #045 parts pack).... 2x8 and 2x10 trans clear bricks are unknown elsewhere.

Another rare early LEGO item were those 4x4 corner bricks (12 studs).... they were only sold in red, white, blue and yellow... except USA/Canada, where they were also sold in black (unknown elsewhere).

There is a special chapter in the LEGO DVD that lists country specific LEGO parts.  Such as for the USA only subchapter, it lists the 2x8 and 2x10 trans clear bricks... and the 50x50 green/gray roadplates (#078, as listed in the BL database).  Another USA only item was the 40x40 baseplate... only sold in the #112 pack that is shown in your "fragmented" catalog.

My favorite parts in that chapter were for Norway... where a set of green classic windows/doors (1954-56) were produced... and would fetch 100 Euros each.

Anyway... here's the link to ordering my DVD... either as a DVD... or a download (for folks who choose the DVD and ask nicely.... I send them the download (immediately) as well... and that way the can see right away what is in the guide.  Also, nice thing about getting the download... no wait, no customs, no shipping charges... and... if you get a new computer or (Lord forbid) a virus that requires wiping their computer clean.... I'll send a new (free) download copy.

Here's how to order directly.... (pointing to a Europbricks site prevents me from any violations of forum etiquette)!

Also check out some of the other cool stuff (mostly never before seen by AFOLS)....
http://www.eurobrick...showtopic=72926

Cheers,
Gary Istok

Edited by LEGO Historian, 11 August 2012 - 09:32 PM.

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#20 wolfwing

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 08:28 PM

http://www.flickr.co...N05/7760659222/

I'm not sure how to imbed the image, but here is my old bases,along with the tear that is probably almost as old as they are from being in a toybox with tons of other stuff in it.

#21 LEGO Historian

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 09:31 PM

View Postwolfwing, on 11 August 2012 - 08:28 PM, said:

http://www.flickr.co...N05/7760659222/

I'm not sure how to imbed the image, but here is my old bases,along with the tear that is probably almost as old as they are from being in a toybox with tons of other stuff in it.

Wolfwing... it took me a while to figure it out too... but if you maximize your image in FLICKR.... put your cursor on that maximized image, and then RIGHT click it... the 3rd drop down menu item down says "OPEN IN A NEW TAB"...

You LEFT click that. That will open up a new tab (a deep link as they call it). Then you go to that page... at the top... and highlight the link line, and then RIGHT click again... selecting "COPY" from the drop down menu list.

Then you come back to this screen... LEFT click on the symbol for a framed image of a picture (2 avatars to the right from the smiley face at the top of your post here. This will give you a small box with "//http:". Put your cursor within that white area with the "http"... then RIGHT click and select "PASTE" from the drop down bar.... and you should get this below... your image.

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#22 Homer_S

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 11:42 PM

So I was looking through my collection for some instructions and I came across this.
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Don't know when or where I got it but I do know its mine LOL
All I know it was made by Samsonite Canada right here is Stratford Ontario (can see the old factory from my work)and that it was produced in 1975 and contains 330 pieces.

Any more info that anyone can share I would appreciate, mainly the inventory.

Bricklink
Lugnet
Peeron

thanks in advance, I hope I got this in the correct forum

Edited by Homer_S, 06 September 2012 - 11:45 PM.

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#23 purpleparadox

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 02:56 AM

Unfortunately I don't have any info to share...but just wait til "LEGO Historian" drops in. He'll know this for sure. :classic:

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#24 LEGO Historian

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 06:08 AM

First of all I leave all LEGO set inventories to the online Databases.... which they don't have for this exclusive set...
But for those of you who have my Unofficial LEGO Sets/Parts Collectors Guide as download (E-Book)....  (it's available on the major auction site at "such a deal")....  see Chapter 12 - USA/Canada Department Store Catalog Sets (1961-75).... it's mentioned on Page 3 and shown on Page 4.

And for the rest of you..... this was a 1975-76 Eaton's Mail Order Catalog set that may have been sold in their department stores as well.  (See more comments below)....

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I use tables like this one above throughout my E-Book so that folks can get a broader picture of what was produced.

There's another part to this Chapter 12 which deals with plain cardboard box department store catalog sets, where the brown cardboard shipping box was the only box for the set.  This was common in the 1966-73 era in North America for mail order, but not in Europe, which really didn't have a lot in the way of mail order sets.  The one notable European set that had a plain cardboard box was the 1970 Weetabix Castle set, which was just a plain cardboard shipping box.  Otherwise European mailed sets were almost always colorful (inside the outer shipping box.
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#25 Homer_S

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 12:04 PM

Thanks for the reply, I will have to do a count on what is in there to see if there are as many pieces as the box says.
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