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Automatic Binding Bricks - The Oldest LEGO Sets

1949-54 Early Set Boxes 1949-54

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#1 LEGO Historian

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 10:47 PM

In my LEGO DVD/download I show the 4 oldest LEGO boxes, all Automatic Binding
Bricks boxes.

Well in 6 months when I ship out my next update (free to people who already paid
for or own the DVD/download)... there will be 2 additional old box images.

Here are 6 Automatic Binding Bricks box images of 1949-54...


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__________________________

1) The upper left box is the earliest of circa 1949-50.  It shows a "serif"
Automatic Binding Bricks label.

2) The middle left box is the next oldest of circa 1950-51.  It shows a thin
"san serif" Automatic Binding Bricks label.

3) The lower left box is the next oldest box of circa 1951-52.  It shows a thick
fancy Automatic Binding Bricks label.

4) The upper right box:  In 1952 TLG decided to add the word LEGO to their box
images.  The upper right image dates to circa early 1952.  This box from my
friend Richard in the Netherlands shows the same 1951-52 box as previously
mentioned, but there is a "LEGO" decal in the lower right area of the box.  For
the longest time I thought that this decal (which is found on wooden LEGO toys
of 1944-52) was removed from a different LEGO product, and arbitrarily added to
this box by someone outside the company.  But as has been discovered... removing
these type of decals is virtually impossible, so this decal must have been added
at the company.  And likely TLG had some older (1951-52) boxes in inventory, so
when the decision was made to add "LEGO", a few older boxes simply had the decal
added.

5) The middle right box: As just mentioned, in 1952 TLG decided to add "LEGO" to
the Automatic Binding Bricks boxes... and they displayed it as "LEGO Mursten"
(LEGO Bricks in Danish) on the box top near the upper center of the box.  This
box type was produced until 1953, when TLG replaced it with a different box top
type in Denmark... with only "LEGO Mursten".

6) The lower right box:  When LEGO sales started in Norway in November 1953,
oddly enough the boxes didn't have "LEGO Mursten" as the new (mid 1953) LEGO
boxes had... but continued with "Automatic Binding Bricks".  TLG Denmark must
have had a lot of LEGO labes with the old Automatic Binding Bricks artwork on
it, so Norway got a red box with the older label on it still with Automatic
Binding Bricks on it.
_________________________________

While TLG Denmark started LEGO sales in Norway to a Norwegian company called
Svein Strømberg & Co. (a Norwegian plastics maker).... new LEGO Mursten boxes
were sold in Denmark.  Within a year this box type was also sold in Norway, and
when LEGO was introduced in Sweden in 1955, the same LEGO Mursten box was
used... since "Mursten" was the same word for "bricks" (or a similar translation
thereof) in all 3 countries...  here's the LEGO Mursten box used in Denmark
(1953-55), Norway (1954-55) and Sweden (1955).


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This 1953-55 LEGO Mursten box top shows Ole Kirk Christiansen's 2 grandchildren Kjeld and his older sister Gunhild.  Today these 2 "billionaires" are the principle owners of Kirkbi AG, the Swiss incorporated company that owns TLG.... as well as all the LEGO patents.

Edited by LEGO Historian, 26 October 2012 - 01:17 AM.

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#2 Lasse

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 09:18 PM

I own this old wooden box:

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#3 LEGO Historian

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 01:38 AM

Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh!!!    *oh2*   ..... now you really peaked my interest...... can you take a picture of the inside??  I have a feeling this is a Danish retailer box...

Does the box top just come off, slide off... or have hinges?  Dying to see the inside....

Also... does the very bright looking "LEGO Mursten" on top of the box look like a LEGO decal that appears to be peeling off?

And also... does the box top entire image appear to be paper thin... or maybe cardboard thick?

Reason I ask these questions, is because I may send your image(s) to the TLG Archives folks and ask some questions about this wooden box.  I have 80+ different wooden LEGO boxes mentioned in my LEGO DVD/download collectors guide, but this one is not among them.  The earliest Danish LEGO wooden box with a top dates to 1958... and this one dates to about 1952-53.And interestingly enough... about 1/3 of the rare items that I send the TLG Archives an image of... they have no records of!  :wink:

Edited by LEGO Historian, 28 October 2012 - 07:55 AM.

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#4 LEGO Historian

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 07:48 AM

I was just looking at some images in my LEGO DVD/download chapter on individual LEGO parts sales, specifically the Danish wooden boxes of the early to mid 1950s.  And sure enough of the 4 boxes shown (2 lower boxes are circa 1950-53, 2 upper boxes date to circa 1955-56)... the lower left box has the same small LEGO decal as the 1952 dated LEGO box in the initial post on this thread... in exactly the same location (above the word "BRICKS").  So this was no accident... when TLG switched from "AUTOMATIC BINDING BRICKS" to "AUTOMATIC BINDING BRICKS + LEGO" in 1952... they took older boxes they still had in inventory and added a "LEGO" decal to the lower right corner, at an odd angle.  Very interesting.... and not an accident...

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Note:   These are Danish "Pick-A-Brick" boxes where children could buy individual bricks (some factory second marbled bricks as well)... in sizes 1x2, 2x2, 2x3, 2x4, 4x4 corner, 2x8, 2x10 and rare 2x12 and 2x14.  Note the 2x12 and 2x14 sizes were discontinued in 1956, and TLG will likely NEVER re-introduce them again.
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#5 Lasse

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 09:03 AM

View PostLEGO Historian, on 28 October 2012 - 01:38 AM, said:

Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh!!! *oh2*   ..... now you really peaked my interest...... can you take a picture of the inside??  I have a feeling this is a Danish retailer box...


When I got the box it was empty. Today I use the box for my collection of old slotted LEGO bricks:

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View PostLEGO Historian, on 28 October 2012 - 01:38 AM, said:

Does the box top just come off, slide off... or have hinges?

The box top is defect. Its missing the beam at 3 of the 4 sides.

View PostLEGO Historian, on 28 October 2012 - 01:38 AM, said:

Also... does the very bright looking "LEGO Mursten" on top of the box look like a LEGO decal that appears to be peeling off?

No

View PostLEGO Historian, on 28 October 2012 - 01:38 AM, said:

And also... does the box top entire image appear to be paper thin... or maybe cardboard thick?

Paper thin.
Lasse Vestergård


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#6 LEGO Historian

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 06:39 PM

Well Lasse.... I have good news for you... this is very likely a "museum quality" LEGO Retailer box that dates to circa 1952-53.  The inside partitions have the layout of a real LEGO wooden box!  I'll post some images of similar wooden boxes later today...  this is a rare and beautiful box.

Something tells me that TLG doesn't have one of these in their collections.And back in 1952 there were only 2x2 and 2x4 LEGO bricks available, along with the 3 Automatic Binding Bricks window sizes and 1 door size.  Plus there was a thin 10x20 baseplate that was available at that time...it was thicker than today's baseplates (about 40% of the thickness of a LEGO brick).

I'll post more later.  But all the other LEGO parts... 1x2, 2x3, 2x8, 2x8 bricks were not introduced until 1953.Also, the parts in this retailer box would have been sold individually by weight (starting in late 1953, they were being sold individually by  part type).  So from circa 1950-53 TLG must have supplied their Danish retailers that sold individual parts in Pick-A-Brick fashion, with scales to weigh the bricks from.  TLG sold the Danish Retailers bags of loose bricks in 250 gram bags in that era.  Starting in later 1953, they switched to plain cardboard boxes for individual parts sales.

Edited by LEGO Historian, 28 October 2012 - 06:41 PM.

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#7 LEGO Historian

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 11:08 PM

Wooden boxes are the least understood of all LEGO items.  TLG made over 80 different boxes from 1950-1978.  No online database lists more than about 10... but in my Unofficial LEGO Sets/Parts Collectors Guide (1949-1990s) I have identified (and have pictures of) nearly 80 different wooden boxes.  The big problem with LEGO wooden boxes is that only about 5% of all the different boxes ever had a label on the outside identifying the set number.  Most of these contained a "Contents List" that had the set number, the different contents (by color and type), as well as usually some building ideas.  Once that contents list was lost (as it is over 90% of the time over many decades)... the owner of the box no longer knows what he/she has!!

The first LEGO wooden boxes were retailer boxes, where the retailer sold individual parts to the LEGO customer (usually a child) by individual pieces.  Such a process is a foreign concept to North Americans... but in continental Europe it was very common in the 1950s and 1960s.

Also introduced in wooden boxes were "high end gift sets" that more well to do parents may have bought their children.  The first of these gift sets were introduced in Sweden and Germany in 1957, and ironically not until 1958 in Denmark.  Here is a 1958 Danish retailer announcement from TLG informing the retailers of these new exclusive wooden box sets.  These wooden box sets insides look very similar to the early 1952-53 box that Lasse owns... (which is why I believe his to be original).  The major difference is that they had a removable 8 partition tray that held 4 large double sized partitions underneath (for the old 10x20 baseplates, garage plates, and other large plates).  These wooden boxes of that era virtually always had 24 partitions.... hence the set number in this image...700 K/24.

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The contents of these boxes usually looked like this....

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And the set number, the box top style and image were so varied... that it was almost mind boggling why TLG ever made so many different box top designs....  here's 17 of the 80 or so LEGO wooden box sets.  These date from 1957-78... and cover continental Europe, Britain and Australia...

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Chapter 15 of my LEGO DVD download shows all 80 of the different LEGO wooden box sets, and explains the contents, packing variations, contents lists, and other oddities about each one.  My 2800 page DVD download (with 6000 historic images) is still available with free future updates... (see the Eurobricks Bazaar for details)....

Edited by LEGO Historian, 28 October 2012 - 11:09 PM.

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#8 LEGO Historian

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 12:53 AM

Lasse, I love how you use your old 1952-53 Danish Retailer Box for old 1949-56 slotted LEGO bricks (and old windows/doors)... their original use.  In my investigations of old slotted LEGO bricks... so far I have come across 24 different colors... (Chapter 49 of my LEGO DVD download)....  some are very beautiful colors that they don't make today....

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#9 jonwil

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 01:26 AM

View PostLEGO Historian, on 28 October 2012 - 07:48 AM, said:

Note the 2x12 and 2x14 sizes were discontinued in 1956, and TLG will likely NEVER re-introduce them again.
Why do you say that LEGO is so unlikely to use a 2 x 12 or 2 x 14 brick if they have a reason to make such a part?

#10 LEGO Historian

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 02:17 AM

View Postjonwil, on 29 October 2012 - 01:26 AM, said:

Why do you say that LEGO is so unlikely to use a 2 x 12 or 2 x 14 brick if they have a reason to make such a part?

That's a very good question!  For some odd reason TLG has a tendency to not re-introduce parts once they've been retired.  The 2x12 and 2x14 bricks were retired in 1956... and although we've found plates that size... no more bricks in that size have ever been produced. Ditto for the 4x4 corner brick of 1955-72.  It's been retired for 40 years... and it would be a useful piece to have, but it's still retired.  I remember when they reintroduced some of the 20th century classic sets in the 21st century... such as the new Main Street set (no Cypress Trees and rail caps, both were already retired).  Ditto for the remake of the 398 USS Constellation (no 1x1 windows... just the back of headlight bricks).  

On occasssion TLG will come out with some new similar parts (the 1x2x2 windows)... but I don't recall them reintroducing the same parts once they've retired the molds.  Another part that we'll likely never see again is the 1x3x2 lattice gates/bases.  They made them in the 1970s in red and black... but again... not since (but they still make the 1x4x2 lattice gates/bases).

Maybe one day they will reintroduce some very old parts... but I can't recall it being done to date....

Edited by LEGO Historian, 29 October 2012 - 02:19 AM.

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#11 LEGO Historian

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 05:02 AM

Lasse, I just sent a copy of both of your images to the folks at the LEGO Archives and Collections... to see if they have any information on this very interesting wooden box.  I will let you know!  :classic:
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#12 Lasse

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 04:48 PM

View PostLEGO Historian, on 29 October 2012 - 02:17 AM, said:

That's a very good question!  For some odd reason TLG has a tendency to not re-introduce parts once they've been retired.  The 2x12 and 2x14 bricks were retired in 1956... and although we've found plates that size... no more bricks in that size have ever been produced. Ditto for the 4x4 corner brick of 1955-72.  It's been retired for 40 years... and it would be a useful piece to have, but it's still retired.  I remember when they reintroduced some of the 20th century classic sets in the 21st century... such as the new Main Street set (no Cypress Trees and rail caps, both were already retired).  Ditto for the remake of the 398 USS Constellation (no 1x1 windows... just the back of headlight bricks).  

On occasssion TLG will come out with some new similar parts (the 1x2x2 windows)... but I don't recall them reintroducing the same parts once they've retired the molds.  Another part that we'll likely never see again is the 1x3x2 lattice gates/bases.  They made them in the 1970s in red and black... but again... not since (but they still make the 1x4x2 lattice gates/bases).

Maybe one day they will reintroduce some very old parts... but I can't recall it being done to date....

An exception is the pigtails hair.

The pigtails hair was in a lot of sets from 1975-1991. Then it was retired and was not in any set in 18 years. In the new Main Street set it was replaced with another hair. But in 2010 it was re-introduced in this set:
http://www.bricklink....asp?S=852769-1


View PostLEGO Historian, on 29 October 2012 - 05:02 AM, said:

Lasse, I just sent a copy of both of your images to the folks at the LEGO Archives and Collections... to see if they have any information on this very interesting wooden box.  I will let you know!  :classic:

Thanks, I'm looking forward to hear what they know.

In November 2010 I was in work experience at the LEGO Idea House. Therefore I know some of the people.

At the moment my 1:1 MOCs can be seen in their historical exhibition:

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Edited by Lasse, 29 October 2012 - 04:51 PM.

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#13 LEGO Historian

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 07:04 PM

View PostLasse, on 29 October 2012 - 04:48 PM, said:

An exception is the pigtails hair.

The pigtails hair was in a lot of sets from 1975-1991. Then it was retired and was not in any set in 18 years. In the new Main Street set it was replaced with another hair. But in 2010 it was re-introduced in this set:
http://www.bricklink....asp?S=852769-1


Interesting about the pigtail hair.  I was just checking out the construction helmet, since the re-introduction of the Maersk Blue helmet sent the price of those nosediving from hundreds of dollars down to just a few dollars.  Although the construction helmet had a continuous production (especially in red), unlike the pigtails.... there were differences between the rare older Maersk blue ones, and the new 2011 ones, thus justifying (for a few sellers on BL) a higher price of nearly $100.

I'd be curious to see if there were any mold differences between the old and new hair with pigtails.  And if these are made in China (like so many minifigs)... then it likely wouldn't take much for some insiders at the factory to crank out some white (very rare and going for $20-$60 on BL) pigtail hairpieces....  :look:

Thanks for that information... it's the exception, rather than the rule for old LEGO parts reintroduced... and I'll let you know what the folks at the LEGO Archives say!
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#14 LEGO Historian

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 02:53 AM

I just put a copy of my LEGO DVD chapter on the earliest Automatic Binding Bricks (LEGO) sets/parts of 1949-54... onto Youblish...

http://www.youblishe...g-Bricks-PRIMA/

I take LEGO back to DAY 1... something that the TLG Archives are still very sparse on information for.

Here is a 1952-53 700/5 basic set.  There is only 1 known of this set so far... this one... in the TLG Collections in Billund.  LEGO Archive image...

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There were 4 types of the earliest LEGO sets...

1) 1949-53 Automatic Binding Bricks - Denmark. - TLG.
2) 1950-51 Automatic Binding Bricks - Sweden - Geas Konstharts licensee.
3) 1953-54 Automatic Binding Bricks - Norway - Svein Stromberg & Co. licensee.
4) 1954-55 PRIMA - Sweden - Svein Stromberg made sets for Sweden, but didn't use the LEGO name.

Starting in 1953 in Denmark, and in 1955 in Norway and Sweden... the "LEGO Mursten" (LEGO Bricks in Scandinavian languages)... were sold with the LEGO name on the box.

This early TLG box is a 700/3 and dates to 1949-50... note it has 2 wooden partitions in the box...

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Some folks may ask the question... why did TLG use the Automatic Binding Bricks name on their bricks for a few years?  Likely answer is that they were worried about the Kiddicraft bricks (UK) that they copied... and that they might be sued... so they didn't use the "LEGO" name on the box for a few years.  This may also explain why the LEGO Archives are so sparse on Early LEGO... can't subpena something that doesn't exist.

Cheers,
Gary Istok
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#15 Hey Joe

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 04:02 AM

So I guess that explains why I get a little confused when people get worked up over so-called 'clone brands'.

Thanks, Joe
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#16 LEGO Historian

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 04:11 AM

Exactly Joe!!

In 1947 Hilary Page of England started making Kiddiecraft Bricks... which TLG created their own verision of.  The same exact bricks (only 2x2 and 2x4) and early doors/windows.  What makes it even more blatant... is that TLG created the same exact spare parts packs using the same box design.  No wonder they didn't use the "LEGO" name on their product or boxes until 1953.... a name by the way... of which they were extremely proud to put onto their other wood and plastic toys..

By 1954 TLG no longer resembled Kiddicraft (with the introduction of additional bricks (1x2, 2x3, 2x8, 2x10)... and a new set of windows.

One thing about having just 2 sizes of bricks (2x2, 2x4)... means that you can produce them in 2 dozen colors (and to think we had to endure decades of mainly red-white-blue-yellow bricks after the early 1950s... :hmpf_bad:

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#17 Hey Joe

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Posted 10 April 2013 - 09:34 AM

Somewhere I read that Lego eventually bought Kiddiecraft (for reasons that are probably pretty clear) but I couldn't find that info on the 'History of Lego' on Wikipedia just now.

Cheers, Joe
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Posted 10 April 2013 - 12:33 PM

Yes TLG did buy the Kiddicraft PATENTS... years after Kiddicraft closed shop.

Kiddicraft was losing money, and founder Hilary Page commited suicide in 1957.  Many decades later during the Megabloks patent infringement trial, Hilary Page's widow said that Hilary died in 1957 not knowing that TLG had used their designs.
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#19 Hey Joe

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 03:14 AM

Three of Mr. Christiansen's decendant's are now billionaires, is that correct?

That's business and life I guess.

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#20 LEGO Historian

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 05:05 AM

Joe,

Ole Kirk Christiansen's 4 sons took over after he died in 1958.  His younger son Godtfred became the Senior Director in his place, while the other 3 sons continued running different parts of the business.  On Feb. 4,  1960, a momentous occurrence happened.  The wooden toy factory/warehouse burned down.  Godtfred's decision to concentrate on plastic toys and not rebuild the wooden toys factory did not sit well with Karl George, Gerhard, and Johannes. So by 1963 Godtfred Kirk had bought them all out, and became sole owner of TLG.  Two of the other brothers went off to start a Bilotoy and Bilofix wooden toy company.  However... after a few years this folded.  And today only the Godtfred Kirk descendents are Billionaires.

Here is a picture of Godtfred Kirk's family, from a 1962 German magazine article....

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Godtfred Kirk's wife and 3 children... Gunhild (the older sister of KKK), Kjeld, and Hanne (the younger sister of KKK).  In 1969 Hanne died in a tragic automobile accident near Billund, where Kjeld was severely injured as well.  Godtfred Kirk nearly sold the company within a year of this tragedy, but then kept on.

Godtfred Kirk died in 1995 at age 74.  His widon Edith is still alive (she must be near 90 by now), as are his elder daughter Gunhild Kirk Johansen, and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen... who together own Kirkbi A/G, the holding company that owns the LEGO patents and TLG.

Kjeld has transfered some of his holdings to his 3 children.

Together the family owns over $3 billion in assets.  Among Kjelds holdings include a 50,000 acre horse farm in Scotland, and vast oil and natural gas leases in Russia.

Gary Istok

Edited by LEGO Historian, 11 April 2013 - 05:06 AM.

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