This Massive AFOL Project Could Be A Minifig Milestone

I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of The LEGO Minifigure Catalog until yesterday, thanks to this Brickset Post about the new “LEGO Collector Book“. (Again, ashamed to admit I’d never heard about the firstLEGO Collector Book“. Boo.) Regardless, I’m glad I’m now in the know, because this soon-to-be-released book and iPhone/iPad app is right up Ka-GO‘s minifig-obsessed alley. This project is completely fan-initiated and run, which I have to get behind on principle, and even better…it looks amazing. The book is essentially a deeply researched, aims-to-be-complete database of officially released minifigs that features pristine new photographs in 1:1 scale. One can’t help but be a little skeptical when reading claims like the following:

On its more than 390 pages , the catalog list 3655 Minifigure® released between 1975 and 2010. It is the most complete listing and therefore an essential guide for collectors and fans. [sic]

“Tom”, a visitor to the authors’ website, takes the book to task on this via a respectfully skeptical comment, asking about the research process. In reply, author “bartneck” offers:

Dear Tom, you are right that this is a daring statement. I thought about phrasing it differently, such as “almost all”, or “most” or even “many”, but it never came close to what I really wanted to express. I am fairly certain that I got them all, but of course it is almost impossible to form some sort of ground truth. Maybe even LEGO does not know it. In the book, I ask the reader to help me improve the book and I would like to extend this invitation to you. Please let me know if I miss information or if I made mistakes. Through your feedback will I have the chance to improve the book.

While I could cynically gloss this off as marketing or smart public relations, my faith in the good folks of AFOLville instead has me appreciating this reply and thinking that it says a lot about the good intentions of the writers’ / researchers’ approach to the project. (“Tom” was convinced as well, btw.) I mean, really, it’s a pretty daunting task to have an exhaustive database of all figs released from 1975 to 2010. Granted, there are some great resources out there like Brickset’s Minifig Browser, Bricklink’s Minifig Catalog, “Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the LEGO Minifigure” book (which was packaged with “The LEGO Book“), and The Ugly Duckling’s Minifigure Guides, but having a thorough book like this to flip through that’s laid out so uniformly like a true reference book is a welcome addition.

The book’s authors have really thought this through. They’ve worked out a new theme taxonomy that clumps related themes into some big picture categories. It breaks down like this:

  • Fiction
    • Adventurers
      • Desert
      • Dino Island
      • Jungle
      • Orient Expedition
    • Agents
    • Alpha Team
      • Mission Deep Freeze
      • Mission Deep Sea
    • Aquazone
      • Aquanauts
      • Aquaraiders
      • Aquasharks
      • Hydronauts
      • Stingrays
    • Atlantis
    • Dino Attack
    • Exo-Force
    • Island Xtreme Stunts
    • Power Miners
    • Rock Raiders
    • Space
      • Blacktron
      • Classic Space
      • Exploriens
      • Factory
      • Futuron
      • Ice Planet 2002
      • Insectoids
      • Launch Command
      • Life on Mars
      • M:Tron
      • Mars Mission
      • RoboForce
      • Space Pilot
      • Space Port
      • Syprius
      • UFO
      • Unitron
    • Time Cruisers
  • Non-fiction
    • Arctic
    • Extreme Team
    • FIRST LEGO League
    • Freestyle
    • Holiday / Christmas
    • Paradisa
    • Race
    • Racers
      • Factory
      • World Racers
    • Res-Q
    • Sports
      • Basketball
      • Gravity Games
      • Hockey
      • Soccer
    • Studios
    • Town
      • Airport
      • Coast Guard
      • Construction
      • Divers
      • Farm
      • Fire
      • Gas Station
      • Harbor
      • Homemaker
      • Hospital
      • Police
      • Post Office
      • Race
    • Train
    • World City
      • Coast Guard
      • Fire
      • Police
  • Historic
    • Castle
      • Black Falcons
      • Classic Castle
      • Crusaders
      • Dark Forest
      • Dragon Knights
      • Fantasy Era
      • Forestmen
      • Fright Knights
      • Kingdoms
      • Knights Kingdoms
      • Royal Knights
      • Wolfpack
    • Ninja
    • Pirates
      • Imperial Armada
      • Imperial Guards
      • Imperial Soldiers
      • Islanders
    • Vikings
    • Western
      • Cowboys
      • Indians
  • Licensed
    • Avatar
    • Batman
    • Discovery
    • Ferrari
    • Harry Potter
      • Chamber of Secrets
      • Goblet of Fire
      • Order of the Phoenix
      • Prisoner of Azkaban
      • Sorceror’s Stone
    • Indiana Jones
      • Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
      • Last Crusade
      • Raiders of the Lost Ark
      • Temple of Doom
    • Prince of Persia
    • Speed Racer
    • Spider-Man
      • Spider-Man 1
      • Spider-Man 2
    • Spongebob Squarepants
    • Star Wars
      • Star Wars Clone Wars
      • Star Wars Episode 1
      • Star Wars Episode 2
      • Star Wars Episode 3
      • Star Wars Episode 4/5/6
      • Star Wars Other
    • Toy Story
    • Williams F1
  • Collectible
    • Series 1 Minifigures
    • Series 2 Minifigures
  • other

Yeah…like I said, they’ve thought it through. It’s not perfect, of course. For example, one has to question why Fantasy Era—complete with Evil Wizard, Skeleton Warriors, Dwarves, and Trolls—is filed under “Historic“. Or on a more practical level, why are there individual categories for the Star Wars Prequels but Episodes 4, 5, and 6 are clumped together? (That’s borderline offensive. Ha. Sorry, nerd humor.) All nitpicking aside though, this is a great starting point and I can understand the need to loosen the standards in order to be comprehensive. Having sorted my minifig collection, I’ve run into the same practical considerations when setting up a category structure, so I fully appreciate this system.

The book also features a “head index”, which has some great possibilities, but once you go there you naturally want torso and lego indices, not to mention photographs of the back sides. Yeah, the minifig-obsessed who are clearly the target of this book will always want more. So I will stop here and simply say that this is a fantastic project that’s headed in the right direction.

With that said, I started wondering about the limitations of having this be done in a printed edition. I mean, new minifigs are produced all the time. For example, this thing doesn’t seem to include the Series 3 and 4 Collectible Minifigs which are out now, for obvious reasons. Thankfully, the folks working on this are bright and truly dedicated to serving the “needs” of the AFOL community rather than just cashing in on a book. They’re actually working on the aforementioned iPhone and iPad app that’ll give us access to a digital database that I assume will be constantly updated. Awwww yeah. (Oh wait…as I type this, I’m wondering if they’ll have an ebook version. I’ll file that under further research, because I have a lunch date.) Obviously having this database digitally accessible opens it up to even greater possibilities beyond up-to-date listings, including such features as keyword searchability. Oh yes, I’m clearly excited.

Look out for the upcoming Brickset review of the book. The following marketing video lists it as being “Available Now”, but that’s not exactly true. In the meantime, visit the site, view sample pages, and tell the folks behind this project that you’re excited about it and interested in supporting. I know how it is to take on a daunting AFOL project and wonder if anyone out there really gives a brick. Just hearing from you will definitely keep their fires stoked.

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