When I was a kid eons ago, there were only four Lego themes: Town, Space, Castle, and Technic. Amazingly, these three themes still exist to this day: City, Galaxy Squad, Castle and Technic are today's version of TLC's four evergreen themes. Lego was built on the backs of these themes, and can thank them for its ascent to the multi-billion dollar toy behemoth it has become.
Although they are sometimes shunned by Brickpickers for newer, more complex, or licensed sets that have been designed to bring the sizzle, there are some GREAT looking sets hiding among these "old school" themes. Many times the unique, unusual and/or striking sets become the sought after sets, and eventually investment winners. To highlight some of the best of these, I thought I would borrow from Dave Letterman and assemble a top ten list of the most eye catching sets of the old school Lego themes that hide from us in plain sight every day. To clarify, the only sets eligible for this list are sets from the four evergreen themes that are currently posted on Lego S@H: City, Galaxy Squad, Castle, and Technic. Without further ado, here they are:
10. 60008 - Museum Break-In
We start with 60008 Museum Break-In, the only Police Subtheme set on the list and the most unique model among the current Police lineup. Museum Break-In includes a really cool building model that would make a great addition to any city MOC, two police vehicles (a car and helicopter), and a get-away van to transport some really cool loot: two translucent gems, a gold nugget, a gold plate and a gold katana blade straight from Ninjago. Lots of playability, two vehicles, and six minifigs combine to create an exceptional City set.
9. 4204 - The Mine
Clocking in at #9 is a personal favorite of mine, 4204 The Mine. The Mine resides in that wonderful, profitable rotating City subtheme that includes a number of unique models. Other notable residents of this subtheme include Farm, Construction, and Airport sets, among others. I think the entire Mining subtheme has flown a little under the radar, and its flagship has the best chance at post-EOL success. The Mine model includes an actual mine with a drill site, complete with stone, opening boulders, and a whole host of gold crystals and bars. It's reminiscent of a really old set from 1981, 6383 Public Works Center, complete with a crane and conveyor belt. The Mine also has three sharp vehicles including a great looking earth drill, a dump truck, a hopper that runs on a track, and four miner minifigs that complete the setting of a functioning mine. Uniqueness will carry the day for this set, and I'm fairly certain we will not see another City mine for at ten years.
8. 70708 Hive Crawler
The first of two Galaxy Squad entrants in the top ten, 70708 Hive Crawler just looks awesome. All of the bugs in the new Galaxy Squad theme are so underrated, but to me, the Hive Crawler bug's size and colors bring the set to another level. The set consists of the monstrous beetle-ish bug, two squeamishly cool larvae, and three minifigs: one alien bug, one Galaxy Squad troop, and one robot sidekick. This set rocks because of the alien bug's colors and its size and detail. Some of the pieces that comprise the bug's abdomen also appear to be unique to this set. Also included are two mini-vehicles for the Galaxy Squad figs that add a nice, playable feature to the set. This set is one of the smaller of the top ten, but righfully deserves its place among them.
7. 9397 Logging Truck
I love this set. The truck cab and log holder look great and the articulating arm looks awesome, although admittedly it's balky and not intuitive to operate. I also love the addition of the Technic log to the set. Yet, what really propels this set into the top ten is it's B-build: a mega-sized dump truck that includes a snow plow and a back bucket that tips to dump its contents. It also has Power Functions, a must-have Technic feature that immediately adds appeal to any Technic set. Getting two awesome builds for the price of one is great value, and propels 9397 to number seven on the countdown.
6. 7939 Cargo Train
What 7938 Passenger Train lacks in character, 7939 Cargo Train provides in spades. This model includes not only a great looking R/C engine with a realistic yellow and black exterior, it also includes three great rail cars with realistic cargo, a loading crane to put cargo on the train, and even a semi-truck that brings the cargo to the crane from your Lego City. This set is the result of a phenomenal concept that was really well executed. While this model checks in at number six on this countdown, I wouldn't be surprised if it provided the best return of all sets on this list.
5. 70403 Dragon Mountain
Another smaller set with a $50 USD MSRP, 70403 Dragon Mountain was my favorite set of all the newly released Castle theme sets. First off, I'm a sucker for dragons, and this maxi-fig doesn't disappoint. The dragon is a menacing red and black, and includes flapping wings, a rotating head, articulating limbs, and even a hole near the mouth to plug in some Lego fire. The tail appears to have two rotation points, and the arms appear to be spaced perfectly so that it can clutch a Lego treasure chest. If the dragon doesn't impress, there's also a small base for the Red Dragon army, complete with a prison and wizarding perch, that sits over a cave opening where the dragon can protect his treasure. The model also includes a beefy catapult, one knight and one spearman minifig from the King's Army and the queen minifig. The Red Dragon wizard and a Red Dragon soldier round out this robust little set. I believe this will be the best performer of the latest Castle theme due to the presence of this awesome dragon and the five minifigs.
4. 8110 Unimog U400
This set earns every bit of praise it receives. As one of the most expensive Technic sets ever made, Unimog has been designed to include a number of functions that demostrate the genius of Lego Technic. It's also huge, and a very challenging build. To round out the appeal of the set, it's licensed by none other than Mercedes Benz, an automobile icon worldwide. The cherry on the Unimog sundae is the pneumatic articulating arm that can load the utility truck. The pneumatic arm is phenomenal, although it has one wart: when loaded, the arm sometimes doesn't clear the side of the truck bed. A little reengineering wipes these problems away quickly. This Unimog will never be duplicated by TLG, so grab one if you can.
3. 70709 Galactic Titan
Everything that makes Galaxy Squad, and space themes in general, great is rolled into one phenomenal, brawny space tracker called the Galactic Titan. The vehicle itself is a space "plane" that interlocks with a wide buggy that allows the Titan to track around an alien planet. The design of this set is breathtaking: the complementary blue accent colors contrast beautifully against the snow white vehicle, the Titan itself projects the proper amount of sleek, brawn and power with its size and shaping, and it just looks cool. To add even more appeal to an already awesome set, the Galactic Titan is paired with a creepy-crawly looking centipede, and the only alien bug "base" of the theme (be aware it's not large), complete with two pods for capturing the Galaxy squad troops. The minifigs are great too, with two GS troops, a robot sidekick, and two alien bugs: a mosquitoid and the exclusive mantizoid. The set also includes one of those wriggly larvae, a nice finish to an otherwise kick-ass set. I actually think Galactic Titan could have some moderate secondary success, although I wouldn't count on a blow out for this model.
2. 60014 Coast Guard Patrol
I'm sure by now you've noticed a common thread linking these sets: high ranks go to sets with additional vehicles or vignettes that add depth to the set, i.e. the alien base of the Galactic Titan, or the three vehicles of The Mine. Coast Guard Patrol really brings this "value add" to a new level: in addition to the striking orange, blue and white ship, the Coast Guard Patrol includes a submarine, a sizable inflatable boat, a helicopter, a small lighthouse, three sharks, six minifigs, a dog, and even a crab! That's a load of playability and some serious depth for any Lego set, and this comes with one of the coolest ships ever introduced by Lego. On the ship itself, there's a level below deck, and a bridge above deck for the minifigs to roam, a helicopter landing pad in the front, and a submarine launch in the back. The submarine itself is an unmanned version reminiscent of Bob Ballard's Titanic expeditions, and is hoisted onto deck by a rack mounted to the back of the boat. All the vehicles, save the distressed boat, are designed in the emblatic blaze orange and royal blue of prior Coast Guard sets, and after all these years the color scheme still looks awesome. This set isn't just a boat, it's an entire Coast Guard fleet preparing to do its critical job of patrolling the seas. Rest assured, you will not find David Hasselhoff in this bay watch set...
1. 60026 Town Square
The #1 spot in our top ten list is occupied by a yet-to-be released set, 60026 Town Square. Town Square is a version of the previously popular 7641 City Corner on steroids. 60026 has two buildings, two mega-vehicles, and oodles of detail oozing out of box. The two buildings are retail shops: "Bike Shop" is a two story motorcyle/bicycle store housed in a corner building with two storefronts; and "City Pizza" is a single story, horizontally-oriented pizza joint with interior and patio seating. The city bus is phenomenal, sporting a newer, sleeker look and color scheme, while the mobile crane is equally impressive with a telescoping boom and stabilizing outriggers.
While these buildings and mega-vehicles provide a firm foundation for the desirabliity of this set, its true magic resides in the depth of its detail. In addition to the previously discussed components, Town Square also comes with a slick little street sweeper, a motorcycle, two bicycles, a billboard, and countless other adds that really make this set appealing. There are also a gaggle of minifgs to round out the set, with eight residents populating Town Square. Finally, the piece-de-resistance of this set is the stone medieval statue: this finishing touch adds a historical context and classic touch to the City, and only needs a pigeon and some white poop stickers to make it more true-to-life.
Town Square deserves the top spot in our rankings. While it's a throwback to yesteryear's Town sets, it doesn't come off as dated or dusty. I think the same holds true for every set in the top ten: it's easy to see the traces of prior sets that we 30-40 somethings grew up building and enjoying. Perhaps that familiarity is why we're drawn back to Lego - after 25 years, we still see and feel the echoes of our childhoods. While these ten sets have hints of models past, hopefully they will delight future generations of Lego enthusiasts and a current generation of Brickpickers!