Matthew Miner

Lego Almost Went Bust: Another Sign That I Don’t Understand Capitalism

Recently I watched the Lego episode of The Toys That Made Us. I had no idea that the company was once on the verge of bankruptcy. They’re in the black now, but it was a dicey few years before they turned a profit again.

It was right when Lego started losing millions that it was my favourite toy. Nothing else came close. I spent endless hours building spaceships and cars (and almost exclusively spaceships and cars; I stuck to my niche). Visiting friends was exciting because they had different pieces.1 Technic was the bee’s knees. I lusted for the Mindstorms robotics kit. Lego was the pinnacle of toy.

If you had asked nine-year-old me how well The Lego Group was doing, I would have guessed they were raking it in. Lego was too good not to make its makers rich. I would have been unsurprised if Meccano was on the rocks — it’s a hobby for mechanical engineers, not a toy for children — but Lego? Inconceivable. I still find it hard to believe. I’m glad I held off investing in the stock market in my preteen years.2

Anyway, here’s the Lego Saturn V rocket I built.

Lego Saturn V rocket

  1. Also a trampoline. 

  2. Though now that Lego is crushing it again, maybe I would have been successful as a nine-year-old stock picker after all. My portfolio would have comprised Lego, Nintendo, and Pogs. Two out of three ain’t bad.