Vintage LEGO and the first sets ever

I’m on holidays at the moment, and I was chatting to my father in law about LEGO. He said he had a bunch of old LEGO I might want to check out. Along with two 1882 buckets from 1991 and a 1613 basic set from 1988, he showed me this:
When I first saw it, my immediate response was “yeah but it’s not official LEGO. It’s made out of wood!” When I was promptly corrected, I had to know more. Inside was a mixture of bricks that we all know and love, especially the classic varieties, but also amazing windows, roof tiles of all different shapes and sizes, transparent bricks, and more. My dad wasn’t sure about what came in the box originally, so I decided to help him out with it.

I knew I had to sort the entire collection, as it was a mixture of both old and “new” LEGO. Now, by old, I’m talking about bricks that used the old stud logo design and old plastic (CA, or cellulose acetate). These were used until 1963. There was also a lot of the new stud logo design and new ABS plastic variety, introduced in 1964.

Not only that, but there was a stack of bricks that had the patent pending marked on the underside. Obviously these bricks were used while the patent on LEGO was still pending, used between 1958 and 1974. For those of you that want to read more, the information on the different eras of bricks, the information I’ve just mentioned was from this BrickLink site.

After I sorted everything out, I found a little more out about the box. After much digging around and reading a lot of Gary Istok’s work (Gary is a legendary LEGO historian), I found out that the box in front of me was most likely what was known as a 700K/24 set. According to Gary’s writings on Eurobricks, these boxes were most likely high end gift sets introduced in Germany and Sweden in 1957. They had a removable 8 partition tray with larger compartments underneath for baseplates and larger items.

After figuring that out, it was on to the parts in the box. Something I haven’t mentioned yet was the 1×6 and 1×8 bricks with text on them.

Known as “named beams”, the parts were both English and Dutch, so they must have come from separate sets. These named beams were actually released as a set in 1958. In the set in front of me there was a pretty good variety, including the VW dealer one. There were also some double ups, in the Esso Service and Hotel bricks, so from that, I decided to see if there was a set they came from. After a while, I came across 1310 Esso Filling Station. The pieces matched with what I had, so I figured that was it, or a different country’s version of it. After looking around further, it appears that these were the original sets from the LEGO System of Play. Essentially, these were the first model sets ever released by LEGO. It turns out not only does Dad have the original one (1310), but enough to create the others as well! The link to the Eurobricks forum post is available, and where I found most of my information.

So that’s my first foray into vintage LEGO. By the time this is published, I’ll have attempted to build the Esso Filling Station, so that will be Monday’s review, all things going well.

Have you had any experience with vintage LEGO sets? Which ones have you got? Leave a comment below.