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LEGO Historian

LEGO Bayer Test Strikes....

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OK, just did some LEGO theme translations from German to English for a German LEGO collector, and as I'm sooooo nosy... I dug up some new dirt about LEGO....

It seems that all those old LEGO Bayer test strikes that show up in Germany are pretty much from one specific point in time. When TLG switched from Cellulose Acetate circa 1963, TLG had the Bayer chemical corporation do all the test work to find the new plastic... which ended up being ABS. Well this testing went on for quite some time until TLG was satisfied, and the result of all this testing was quite a large assortment of LEGO test bricks, in a wide array of colors, and a wide assortment of different "clutch power" of the bricks. Bricks that had "A", "B", "C", "D", "E" and "F" on the studs... and these identified the different types of tested clutch power, as well as a few other durability factors.

By the time the final test was over in 1964, Bayer had quite a lot of test bricks at their Leverkusen HQ, near Cologne in NW Germany. Well, like TLG, Bayer never threw anything away... so at Christmas 1965 Bayer gave bagfuls of these beautiful test bricks to their employees at the Leverkusen HQ.

So now decades after the 1965 giveaway, these Bayer test bricks still find their way to Flea Markets all around Cologne. And this is how the large colorful collections of Bayer test strikes found their way into European LEGO collections! :classic:

Here are images from my Unofficial LEGO Sets Parts Collectors Guide - Chapter 49 - LEGO Bricks....

These bags of mixed Bayer bricks (not original bags) from my friend Maxx3001 in the Netherlands...

10104363864_100bdab420_b_d.jpg

Here are some of the Bayer test bricks from Maxx3001's collection....

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And here are some Bayer test bricks from my German collector friend Olaf....

10995758825_344a64f7eb_b_d.jpg

Edited by LEGO Historian

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Yes... the "C" bricks were the ones chosen. It had the right amount of "clutch" power that TLG was looking for among LEGO bricks.

One amazing thing about this almost endless supply of colors is that in the 1962-65 era there were only 6 colors of LEGO bricks available... red, white, blue, yellow, clear and (starting in 1962) black. Gray and green were only available as baseplates and small plates (green small plates were only sold in USA/Canada).

But when the switch to ABS plastic happened, there was an additional item that later became a problem. The red and yellow ABS bricks from the 1963-73 era were a darker color than the ABS LEGO bricks that came later. Apparently red and yellow were difficult colors to produce, and Bayer needed a heavy metal additive to produce steadfast color in those 2 colors. However, the heavy metal used was Cadmium... a toxic metal to humans.

However the Cadmium in red and yellow ABS bricks would not leech out of the plastic, and was therefore considered safe for children at that time. But by the early 1970s TLG realized that LEGO bricks that made it to landfills (an appalling idea huh?) could at some point contaminate them. So in 1973 Bayer started producing a "Cadmium-free" red and yellow ABS plastic that was not quite as dark as the earlier bricks. So that ended that problem...

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Yes... the "C" bricks were the ones chosen. It had the right amount of "clutch" power that TLG was looking for among LEGO bricks.

Are the C bricks any more scarce or desirable to collectors for that reason?

One amazing thing about this almost endless supply of colors is that in the 1962-65 era there were only 6 colors of LEGO bricks available... red, white, blue, yellow, clear and (starting in 1962) black. Gray and green were only available as baseplates and small plates (green small plates were only sold in USA/Canada).

But when the switch to ABS plastic happened, there was an additional item that later became a problem. The red and yellow ABS bricks from the 1963-73 era were a darker color than the ABS LEGO bricks that came later. Apparently red and yellow were difficult colors to produce, and Bayer needed a heavy metal additive to produce steadfast color in those 2 colors. However, the heavy metal used was Cadmium... a toxic metal to humans.

However the Cadmium in red and yellow ABS bricks would not leech out of the plastic, and was therefore considered safe for children at that time. But by the early 1970s TLG realized that LEGO bricks that made it to landfills (an appalling idea huh?) could at some point contaminate them. So in 1973 Bayer started producing a "Cadmium-free" red and yellow ABS plastic that was not quite as dark as the earlier bricks. So that ended that problem...

Did any of these "heavy metal" bricks make it into North American sets to your knowledge?

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Are the C bricks any more scarce or desirable to collectors for that reason?

Did any of these "heavy metal" bricks make it into North American sets to your knowledge?

No, the C brick are just a valuable as any other ones. I just got an EMAIL from my Dutch friend Maxx3001... who stated that although the clutch power of C was used (A thru D tested clutch power).... the final brick used was known as 8F... which means the F brick with 8 "Fs" on the studs. I have to do some more research to find out what a 7 versus 8 stud brick difference is, as well as the use of F bricks (note there are no E bricks).

With so much about LEGO sets/parts/accessories to study... I always left my European friends Maxx3001, Sven, Olaf and Arnoud to deal with the Bayer bricks.

Also... there were some BASF test LEGO bricks as well. I don't know enough info about why there are BASF (B├Ądische Analin und Soda Fabrik) bricks. Their HQ is located in Ludwigshaven on the river Rhine not far from Heidelberg (I have visited their HQ in 1983). They are another chemical giant, as we all know...

Oh... and there were some of these Cadmium laced bricks sold in USA/Canada... but only in the late 60s and early 70s. When the switch happened from CA to ABS in circa 1963, there was a LOT of red and yellow CA in the Samsonite inventory... so much so, that some late 1960s sets still have CA parts in red and yellow.

This is why I hypothesize that (and this is only my own hypothesis, and not been confirmed) perhaps a cargo container of red and yellow CA pellets were shipped from Europe to Samsonite for use in USA/Canada Samsonite LEGO sets. The reason I think this is because for other brick colors, the switch in USA/Canada was very rapid, as it was in Europe. And also because some retired molds were likely shipped to the USA... where waffle bottom plates were produced as late as 1971, ditto for hollow bottom with cross support 1x6 and 1x8 bricks (retired in Europe by 1964).

Notice in this 1972 Samsonite Retailer catalog image... the 1x8 bricks in the barrel organ are all old hollow bottom with cross support bricks...

9343363795_678be0b247_o_d.jpg

Edited by LEGO Historian

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I have quite a few red and yellow CA bricks from the Samsonite era. Hmm...

In the first photo it is hard to tell for sure, but doesn't it look like the light pink brick near the center has the old LEGO logo on the studs?

Edited to add: After zooming in I'm pretty sure the pink brick does have the LEGO script logo on the studs. So does the warped-looking white brick in the same bag (near the top of the picture)

Edited by 62Bricks

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Yes... not all the test bricks had only lettering on the studs. There were also normal LEGO logoed bricks, and they as common as the lettered bricks. Why these have normal logos is unknown to me.

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This is fascinating stuff.

I have noticed that it's not uncommon with the Samsonite bricks to find the script logo on the studs rotated from the standard alignment (or sometimes missing altogether), which makes me think the molds of this era were designed with an interchangeable portion that allowed for different marks on the tops of the studs. This would make sense given what you are showing us - it would seem the outer dimensions of the bricks and the studs stayed the same while the wall thickness and tube size were varied to test the clutch power. That would have been the most efficient way, because only one half of the mold would have to be tooled differently for each test run. Then different plugs could be inserted with different letters molded in them to mark each test run.

I suppose the interchangeable stud tops served some larger purpose? Perhaps to allow LEGO to change its logo or produce pieces with other logos? I wonder if the logo portion wore out more quickly than the rest of the mold and had to be replaced separately?

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I think that Samsonite took their worn down LEGO molds, and had them retooled, where just some of the studs were retooled. There are many bricks that not only have some stud logos rotated, but also have 2 different logos on the same brick.

Of these LEGO logos... the upper right and lower left can often be found on the same Samsonite LEGO bricks... sometimes one will be rotated...

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Note: the present LEGO font comes in at least 1/2 dozen different minor variations.

Edited by LEGO Historian

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I have a few of the test bricks including A to D and A variant is really crappy. Megablock seemed better than A variant of LEGO. Sad, and thankfully LEGO settled on better clutch power.

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I think that Samsonite took their worn down LEGO molds, and had them retooled, where just some of the studs were retooled. There are many bricks that not only have some stud logos rotated, but also have 2 different logos on the same brick.

That seems likely - but are rotated logos common on pre-1962 European bricks? I haven't seen enough of them to know.

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That seems likely - but are rotated logos common on pre-1962 European bricks? I haven't seen enough of them to know.

Yes and no..... :wink:

I am only aware of Samsonite "retooling" their molds. I am not aware of TLG doing so. They just basically retired molds. However, TLG has this propensity of surprising us with what they've done in the past. Finding strange bricks is not unusual.

When TLG switched from slotted bricks to hollow bottom bricks in 1956 (with the coming online of German to LEGO sales)... there were some hybrid bricks produced... that had the smooth slotted type underside (with the LEGO logo printed in large letters), and with the LEGO logo on the stud as well (prior to 1956 the logos were underneath... starting in 1955-56 they moved to the studs). So some of these "transition" pieces had logos on both top/bottom of the brick. Another quirky feature that they might have is the logo rotated 45 degrees on top... so that ALL the logos on the brick might be facing one of the long sides of the brick, which goes against the normal way they've done it (facing a short side).

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Modern slopes have the logo facing the long side with the L closest to the slope surface. However I have a few old slopes with the logo facing a different way - hollow 2x1 45-degree slopes, red, with the "modern" logo facing the short, square end.

I also have a 2x2 45-degree slope with the old style logo facing the square end. In this case, the logos are rotated slightly off center. It's from a North American set, but I'm not sure which.

post-14070-0-21821000-1389411032_thumb.jpg

This rotation is what makes me think the logo part of the mold was interchangeable and could possibly become misaligned during production. Or perhaps that part was drilled out and replaced with a round plug that had the logo imprint, and the plug could become misaligned? I'm sure all we can do is speculate at this point, but the quality control that LEGO has exercised over the product since the first days make little imperfections and variations like these fascinating.

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Those Bayer test bricks are very interesting, I wish LEGO would make the same range of colors that were in those batches... :wub_drool:

Concerning the alignment of the logo- that's very odd, I'm not sure how that's even possible. I have seen a few baseplates with tens of misaligned logos all over them. :wacko:

Maybe the Historian will help us out... :wink:

TLH

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Bayer was not the only German chemical giant that was testing new materials for TLG to replace Cellulose Acetate. It seems that BASF Corporation located in Ludwigshafen Germany (on the Rhine south of Mainz).

The BASF bricks are much less plentiful than the Bayer bricks. However here is a selection of bricks that they tested (using the older 1958-62 LEGO logo, and then newer 1963+ logo), some of these bricks are actually made of soft bendable plastic, and all have the LEGO logo on them.

6957002208_abb23f7845_b_d.jpg

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