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The LEGO minifig turns 40! From astronauts to knights, look back at one of the most iconic toys in history

Contributed by
Aug 28, 2018

Do they make birthday cakes and candles out of LEGOs? 

Today, LEGO's minifigures (sometimes referred to as "minifigs" or simply "figs") turn 40 years old, and to celebrate such a milestone, the company has released a number of archival images and sketches that document the history of one of the most iconic toys ever made.

What you'll find most intriguing are several photos of the original patent documents for the minifigures in the United States, China, Germany, Australia, and Denmark. The one below is for America...

USA_minifigurepatent_1978_1

Credit: LEGO

The minifigure odyssey began in 1974 with the first LEGO figures that were basically big bricks, with legs that didn't move. A year later, the figures were still evolving, but didn't have moveable arms or legs as well as no printed faces. 

Minifigure prototypes from min. 1975-1978 (2)

Credit: LEGO

"Not that we had to wait too long for them to arrive, with 1978 ushering in a new era of LEGO minifigures equipped with moveable limbs and simple facial expressions comprising two solid black eye dots and black painted smile," the company said in a release. "Fast forward to 2018 and there are now more than 650 unique faces in the collection, meaning children can have fun roleplaying different characters and personalities — anytime, anywhere."

The first-ever LEGO minifigures consisted of a police officer, doctor, firefighter, knight, and astronaut. Check out the following video that documents the look of "figs" since their introduction in 1978:

Remember, without such a recognizable look, we'd never have gotten The LEGO Movie!

Some of the first LEGO minifigures launched in 1978

Credit: LEGO

Minifigure-sketches_AlexandreBoudon

Credit: LEGO

Minifigure-sketches_ChrisBonven

Credit: LEGO

According to LEGO, each minifigure (without hair or headpieces) "are exactly the same height as four LEGO bricks fitted together. This means they fit perfectly into the LEGO System in Play. Oh, and if you stacked them head to toe, you would need 20,750 to reach the height of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa." 

Early prototypes, first and more recent space minifigures

Credit: LEGO

Explore the gallery below and discover more patents, original minifig sets, minifig molds, and what the LEGO factory looks like when it's in full production mode!