Wednesday, 4 July 2012

New York, New York

I'm not necessarily a believer in fate, but I do have to admit that sometimes it's hard to ignore. I recently needed to take a trip to New York at very short notice, and given that I'd be spending barely 24 hours in the Big Apple, I didn't figure I'd have time to do anything other than work while I was out there. I'd left the job of choosing and booking my hotel to someone else, so you can imagine my amazement when it turned out that my hotel was literally just a couple of blocks from New York's Rockefeller LEGO store, and that I'd be arriving in Manhattan just in time to pay a quick visit before closing time. Destiny, I'd say....

The store is located in New York's famous Rockefeller Center - the rent must be astronomical - and it was absolutely packed with people. Predictably enough, the clientelle consisted mainly of tourists rather than locals.

Given the store's prime location, it's perhaps understandable that in addition to the expected wide selection of 'standard' LEGO fare available elsewhere there are also a few store exclusives on sale there as well.

I picked up the keyring above during my visit; although assumed by me to be exclusive to the Rockefeller store, I guess it's possible that this keyring might also be available in one of the other four LEGO brand stores in New York State as well - does anyone know ? I've not seen store-specific LEGO keyrings before, although that's perhaps just down to the stores I've visited - "Milton Keynes" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as "New York", and I guess there's less demand for souvenirs.... You can see another store-specific item below that I picked up - a magnet set. The figure is glued to the base, unfortunately, in the now-customary fashion.

It's not just exclusive trinkets that are available either; some of you may have read my review (perhaps better described as an assassination...) of Set 40026 Statue of Liberty a couple of months back, and this set is exclusive to the Rockefeller LEGO store. Set 40025 New York Taxi (below) is also a store exclusive, and I just had to grab a couple.... The availability of store-specific sets like these reinforces the Rockefeller store's status as a LEGO flagship as it really can't be very cost-effective to produce sets and only sell them in one place.

While obviously not exclusive to the Rockefeller store, it was still nice to set eyes on the new Lord of the Rings sets while I was there, as at the time of my visit these had yet to appear in the U.K.. Although travelling with hand luggage only, and generally too mean to pay full price for sets, I couldn't resist picking up Set 9469 Gandalf Arrives which is the smallest set in the theme, and I'm pleased to report that it survived the journey back to the U.K. more or less intact.

An image of the Ring to rule them all, sitting snugly on Sauron's finger, forms a prominent part of the Lord of the Rings branding and can be seen on the front of the box (above). A restful scene of Gandalf and Frodo in the Shire lies beneath. For reasons I've never quite grasped, folks in the U.S. get the piece count on the front of the box while us Europeans don't. The back of the box (below) features a number of small vignettes including Frodo playing with fireworks and Gandalf feeding his horse and, um, delivering the mail.

You're supposed to open the box by way of the thumb tab on the rear, but in the interests of neatness I always ignore this, resorting to my usual method of carefully sliding a knife under the flaps of the box on one side and gradually prizing it open. The new horse mould was loose inside the box as were the instructions which were folded in two; the box also contained two sealed bags of parts, inside one of which was a small sealed cardboard sleeve containing Gandalf's cape.

I hate it when the instruction booklet (above) is folded as it's seemingly impossible to ever get it to lie flat thereafter; the front cover is basically the same as the front of the box albeit without all the set information. The 20 building steps are clearly printed over an inobtrusive and elegant watermark consisting of a map of Middle Earth. In addition to the building instructions, the 24 page booklet contains an inventory of parts, an advert for Set 9473 The Mines of Moria, and a useful 2-page spread showing off all the minifigures in the first wave of Lord of the Rings sets (below - click to enlarge).

As usual, I've collected together some of the more interesting parts to be found within the set in the picture below. Pride of place in the rarity stakes this week goes to the dark tan 1 x 2 x 1 panels which are currently unique to this set. This is also the case for the dark tan  2 x 4 wedge plate. The red snake can only be found in one other set, and the reddish brown wagon wheel only appears in two other sets. We'll get to the horse later.

I'm not usually too fussed about minifigures, but as a massive fan of the Lord of the Rings I have to admit I was looking forward to see what LEGO would come up with. This set contains minifig representations of two of the main characters, Frodo and Gandalf.

As befits a Hobbit minifigure, Frodo has short legs, although LEGO unfortunately haven't given him hairy feet to go with them... His simple, back-printed sand green torso and dark brown legs look just perfect, and I love his tousled hair and expressive face.

Frodo's head is back-printed (below), just in case you'd rather he looked nervous rather than cheerful. While I generally prefer to look at a smiling face, I think his pensive look probably better captures his on-screen persona. Overall, I think this minifigure is simple but superb, and I struggle to think how LEGO could have made it any better. Of note, this version of Frodo is unique to the set.

Also unique to this set, Gandalf the Grey is very....well, grey as you might expect. He seriously looks the part with his flowing beard and cape. Once again I think that LEGO have done a great job with his facial expression, so it's a shame that Gandalf's craggy, wizened face is largely hidden beneath his huge hat and big bushy beard. Again, his torso is printed front and back, although the simple back-printing is obviously hidden beneath his cape.

The build itself consists of Gandalf's cart, and you can see it below (click to enlarge). It might be small and simple, but it's elegant and looks just perfect to my eye, stocked up wth fireworks, a carrot for the horse and Gandalf's staff.

Gandalf's horse is worthy of special mention; LEGO have treated us to a brand new horse design this year, and in contrast to what's gone before this new version can be posed on its hind legs (below). The face is nicely printed, and all in all it's an excellent new mould which is being put to good use in the Lord of the Rings sets and which will also surely find its way into other themes in due course.

Put it all together and in my opinion you've got a lovely little set - great minifigures (especially Frodo), the excellent new horse, and a nicely realised cart. Overall it's the perfect introduction to the Lord of the Rings theme and has definitely left me wanting more.

The set has an RRP of $12.99 in the U.S.; I haven't seen final confirmation of the U.K. RRP yet although it's currently showing as £11.99 (and out of stock...) on a couple of U.K. retailer websites. Not exactly stellar value for money, then, but when you consider that its a licensed set with a couple of unique and iconic minifigures, the new horse and a sweetly designed cart, it really isn't too badly priced at all, and I can certainly recommend it to any LEGO fans with even a passing interest in Lord of the Rings.

Buyer beware, however - the U.S. RRP might be $12.99, but the Rockefeller LEGO store has the set on sale for $14.49 plus sales tax, a mark-up of more than 10%... Oh well, I suppose they have to cover the rent somehow...


  1. Anonymous4/7/12

    That pick a brick wall looks huge!

    1. Sorry to disappoint you, but while the wall is huge, only the lower third of it actually contains any bricks.... The receptacles above this level contain cardboard cut-outs printed in different colours to look like bricks, presumably because people can't reach up that high. I felt cheated !

  2. I was at the Rochester, NY store about a month ago, and while I didn't make a thorough examination of the keychain offerings (being rather more interested in getting my first LotR set), I certainly didn't notice the I♥NY figs. Mind you, the logo is usually associated with the city, rather than the state, so it could still be found at more stores than just Rockefeller Center--as long as they're in the metro area (since Boston is now getting its third more-or-less local LEGO Store, I simply assume without looking that NYC has more than just the one).

  3. Anonymous5/7/12

    Hope you enjoyed the trip. Yes, there's definitely a markup at the Rockefeller Center store. Sometimes their exclusives will make it over to the other NY stores, I've seen some of them in the Roosevelt Field store, but it's usually months later if at all.

  4. I can't quite make out the giant Lego logo mural in the window, what's the texture on it? I presume its made out of Lego.

    1. I didn't take a close look but I think it's made up of thousands of LEGO elements. I seem to remember seeing a picture of a similar mural in the LEGO offices in Billund

  5. Don't worry, your favorite NYC Paramedic is here stea...borrowing wifi between calls to put an end to the mystery. Firstly, Dr. Dave, wish we'd known you were gonna be around, I'm sure some of the other NYC Bricksetters would have liked to meet up.
    A couple of answers:
    -the Lego logo is made of minifigures standing on huge baseplates sideways (heads facing you) another one is inside.
    -the Rockefeller store has about a 10% markup on everything over the other stores around here (one more in NYC, in Queens, I'm cursed and live 2 whole blocks away, so I'm only there about 6 days a week)
    -so far the I <3 NY keychain and magnet are exclusive to Rockefeller, I've got both too =-D
    -although horribly marked up for the most part the flagship TRU in Times Square nearby and FAO Schwarz up by Central Park both have extensive Lego displays (awesome Indiana Jones and Captain Jack Sparrow models about 6 feet tall at FAO!)
    Glad you got a chance to visit our little town, hope the non-Lego aspects of your time here were as enjoyable. I LUG NY ( ) provides some of the display MOCs and models for the LBR stores around the area, hope you had a chance to enjoy some of them. -bill

  6. Ah! I can't believe you were in NYC and I didn't have a chance to shake you hand! If you are ever in town again and have more free time, it would be nice to meetup at the LEGO Store. Your take is spot on, and they do have some nice sales around the holidays. Overall, a great store, even with a slight markup on the sets. I believe the pick-a-brick cups don't have a markup though.

  7. as for the cost effectiveness of making polybags for just one store, i recently learned that those two polybags were meant for the TRU times square as well, but for some reason have been slow to show up there - and not 100% sure that they ever will.

  8. How much was the I < New York Keychain there?

    Dying to get my hands on 1, any kind souls can help?

    1. The keychain was $5.49 + tax; I'm now more than 3,000 miles away from the store so not much help I'm afraid...