A survey of Communist 'LEGO' 2018

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If you have a fascination for Chinese clone brands you will enjoy the latest edition of Anthony Tomkins' annual survey of communist 'LEGO' which can be downloaded as a PDF.

This year he has reviewed around 30 sets from dozens of manufacturers, some of which are the stuff of nightmares, including this minidoll from the ironically named Beauty Salon set made by Block Tech.

You can also download previous editions (2017, 2016 and 2015) which cover more atrocities.

 

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39 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

That is the stuff of nightmares!

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm lucky enough to be blessed with the gift of sight, so I'd rather not.
Respect to Tomnkins however for digging through and giving an analyse of the horrid stuff- although perhaps releasing these on halloween would be more suitable ;).

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By in United Kingdom,

Still find the inaccurate title and bad jokes off-putting. The whole thing is badly in need of editing, you should put more effort in than a clone brand when trying to make fun of them for lazy mistakes.

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By in Belgium,

No LEPIN set in a review that is almost 70 pages???
Lepin is the biggest and best lego copier on the market. At a third/half te price (via AliExpress) of the original.. Quality is very good but buying experience is far less. But for old/retired sets its a good option...

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By in France,

@tomenadi... thank goodness there is no Lepin set in the review. In Aug 2018, a Chinese court ruled that Lepin was in infraction of IP related issues concerning TLG (photographs, artwork etc...) rather than related to patent infringements. From what I can make out, this most affected the Lego Star Wars range.

The result of this is that Lepin has no right of appeal to the judgement, will pay penalties to Lego and has to desist from their anti-IP practices. How this will work out in the future remains to be seen.

It's easier for a copier to poach Lego IP and produce goods that are a lot cheaper... but if you buy Lepin because of the price of the product, then you aren't contributing to the development of the product... and that leads only one way... downhill.

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By in United States,

While we're all talking about the horrors here, I feel like a far more important point is being lost: that a LOT more companies are catching up to Lego in quality, design, and non-clone set originality. There's more 90+s in this collection than, I think, any other year he's done this. Despite jokes about their lost packages (which are not inaccurate), Enlighten has made huge strides in the original design department and is putting out original, good quality sets comparable to Lego but at half the price. The minifig making companies are also doing amazing business right now and have definitely found a market, even with the copyright issues - I have one of those Alien minifigs and it's frankly incredible on design, and I have another minifig on the way of Megaman Trigger from Megaman Legends, a character I'd never have expected to find in Lego-esque form.

We can make all the jokes we want about poor competition in some departments, but let's not have too much of a high-and-mighty attitude and ignore too much the real meat and potatoes of this report: the fact that some of these companies, without cloning and even without copyright theft, are starting to challenge and even in some cases come dangerously close to beating Lego at it's own game.

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By in United Kingdom,

Love the writing style - genuinely made me laugh out loud.

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By in United States,

No review of Xingbao? Calling other brands "evil"? I get the feeling this "reviewer" isn't entirely unbiased.

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By in United States,

I always enjoy this report every year, it's good information.

Also glad to see that there are some here who are willing to look at other brands with an open mind instead of just heaping vitriolic scorn on anything that's not LEGO. That sort of loyalty to a corporate brand is always a little disturbing.

There's no harm in exploring building bricks that are produced other places other than Denmark. If you want to be right and proper about it, just make sure you don't buy anything that should obviously be licensed, is a direct copy of a LEGO set, or has LEGO-style Minifigs. Everything else is fair game.

One thing the clone brands continue to do well is produce military-themed sets that LEGO would never touch. Even a brand like Sluban, who shamelessly rips off Oxford designs, has come out with their series of warship models that are pretty outstanding.

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By in United States,

These are always highly entertaining. Maybe one day the cloners will get some good product lines like MEGA has.

Still don’t really care for MEGA over LEGO (my son has a few of their Pokémon sets), but the quality is much improved from even five years ago.

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By in United States,

@xanadu "but if you buy Lepin because of the price of the product, then you aren't contributing to the development of the product"

I'll offer up a counterpoint to this though. I don't see a problem with buying LEPIN versions of LEGO sets that have been retired, if those sets were out during someone's "dark ages." If a set has been retired that means the only way you can get a LEGO version is on the second-hand market, which LEGO sees $0 of.

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By in Germany,

I recently bought a Xingbao set of one of their Asian buildings, from what I researched one of their own original designs. It was fun to build, with excellent brick quality and packaging design on a level far above anything LEGO has ever brought to market, even considering the Technic sets of old which had sorting trays integrated into the boxes, fold-open flaps and generally boxes that need not be destroyed upon opening.

Overall, I was very taken by the Xingbao set and will quite likely buy more in future. I have an open mind and if there is a legal alternative to LEGO with high quality bricks, manuals and packaging at decent prices, I will go for it.
No need to treat LEGO as if it was a holy cow and the only thing on the market to consider if you are interested in building with bricks.
Same goes for Cobi tank sets by the way. Legal, great quality, plus a source material LEGO completely ignores.

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By in Canada,

The 2017 report was my personal favorite both from a style and content perspective. I have kept that one and have re-read it on numerous occasions since. Very entertaining! I hold out hope for more...

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By in United States,

I think it's also worth noting that many of the figs that were given good ratings were actually designed by dedicated customizers whose work was stolen by these companies. This does not mesh well with the reviewer's supposed distaste for copying the work of others.

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By in Russian Federation,

Do you know the meaning of a word "communist"?

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By in Russian Federation,

Alien fig is a marvelous piece of work.

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By in United States,

Have any of you tried acquiring the clone brand's non-LEGO designed instructions and built the sets with LEGO bricks? If these company's selection of parts is a duplication of LEGO bricks, I can see that as a satisfactory way for those wanting to be able to build something TLG won't design yet stay true to the LEGO brand.

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By in United States,

That doll will make an excellent cursed image to send my friends.

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By in Singapore,

Hello All:

I live in Singapore where there is IP protection. That said, there are many fake LEGO products that find their way here, for sale online and at local street markets. They are sold 50-80% less than the cost of official LEGO sets. These clones are somewhat popular, because LEGO has unnecessarily priced themself out of the market.

While many say that LEGO is expensive in the West. In China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, etc... LEGO is 25-35% more than America, Australia and Europe. Shanghai has several official stores where your VIP card is valid... yet, across the rest of Asia, are LEGO Certified Stores that do not. Imagine being doubly robbed by a brand your should trust?

Before the Certified Stores, there were mom and pop shops who bought directly from LEGO or developed sources in the West...imported and sold, here. These AFOL, often started their stores because of their own love for the product. A chance to import for themselves and then sell sets to others at a small mark-up. These shops, who carried LEGO’s water, for decades, have been shut out. Why? They cut into the Certified Store’s profit margin...aka LEGO’s! These local shops were cut off from UCS sets, poly bags and most other promotions. Last year, they were informed that within 3-5 years they will be shut out from buying wholesale. Imagine if you exclusively re-sold LEGO for 3 decades, built a business, in some cases had 5=7 stores that introduced the LEGO brand to a Country, now told, no more... Some of these shops have started to sell legal, cloned brands.

IP infringement is illegal and should not be condoned or supported... end of story. What LEPIN has done is wrong. Other Asian ‘brick’ brands, some from Europe even, are making in-roads with their own IP & themes. My point, LEGO’s greed to increase their overall corporate profits, on the back of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is creating an environment where a whole class of price conclusions consumers, now sees the knock-offs as the only choice if they want their children to play with building bricks. Not all Asians are wealthy. Daily, I see many, living paycheck to paycheck without a single luxury, but family, in their life. If there is a choice between rice, roof or school supplies vs. branded LEGO...

LEGO should re-think their discrimatory, Asia strategy and overall, increasing prices in the West, as it may cost them far more, in the long run.

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By in United States,

@ronvining: I'm definitely sorry to hear about what's been happening with mom-and-pop shops in Asia. I also understand that as an American LEGO pricing almost always skews in my favor compared to other parts of the world in general, besides Canada (though in some cases it's offset a bit by most parts of the US charging sales tax on top of a consumer product's marked price, with some places charging nearly 10% sales tax).

But I do think you're generalizing a bit too much about prices. I don't think I'd characterize LEGO pricing as discriminatory against Asian or non-Western countries — particularly considering that in a lot of cases the prices in their home country of Denmark are even higher than they are in Australia or Asia! Just as examples, #70641-1 and #60202-1 are both priced at $39.99 USD, $59.99 AUD (equivalent to $42.32 USD), $69.90 SGD (equivalent to $50.55 USD)… and 349 DKK (equivalent to $53.90 USD or $74.51 SGD)! And in fact there are eight other countries Brickset pulls prices from where both sets are priced higher than its price in Singapore, almost all of them in Europe!

If we look at a more recent set, like #70653 Firstbourne, it costs $69.99 USD, $109.99 AUD (equivalent to $77.60 USD), $129.90 SGD (equivalent to $93.94 USD), and 649 DKK (equivalent to $100.24 USD or $138.56 SGD). In this case the US price is extraordinarily low compared to other countries in general, and the Danish price is in turn higher than any other countries Brickset pulls price information from, but there are still at least seven other countries where the price is above $90 USD/$124.40 SGD.

And what about a big exclusive like #71043? It costs $399.99 USD, $649.99 AUD (equivalent to $458.56 USD), $649.90 SGD (equivalent to $470.19 USD), and 3499 DKK (equivalent to $540.41 USD or $747.06 SGD). Again, the US price is second lowest in the world after Canada, and the Danish price is the highest, at least among countries Brickset pulls prices from. In this case it's one of 13 countries, ALL of them located in Europe, where the price is higher than you would have to pay in Singapore — versus only 10 countries (Canada, United States, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, Ireland, and Italy) where the price is LOWER than in Singapore!

(All my info on Singaporean pricing is sourced from https://www.bricksworld.com/ )

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By in Belgium,

You cant just compare prices that easy. The average income, housing prices, etc are VERY different in each country. Eg in Bulgaria they make 8 times less per hour than in Belgium, but LEGO prices are +- the same. In countries like that real LEGO is a luxury product whilst it is just a toy in Belgium...

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By in United Kingdom,

The more appropriate title would be 'How to pick the worst and take crappy pictures of them while trying to be funny'.
How can you omit Lepin or Xingbao? Afraid that you might be unable to tell the difference?

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By in United Kingdom,

Lepin was covered in the 2017 edition.

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By in Italy,

I can add something about Enlighten: Design-wise, they have improved a lot (and they are also rolling out their own minifigs -- check the Octonauts and Colorful town) , and they are very near to Lego. Quality-wise, they are on 90-95% level. All pieces show the correct colour, most pieces have a clutch that's comparable to Lego's... but I have always stumbled on the odd -- but fundamental! -- piece that kind of spoils the build.

About Gudi, their Police line has already attracted the wrath of Lego. This article is in Italian, use Google Translate: http://www.udinetoday.it/cronaca/finta-lego-personaggi-vendita-supermercati-bennet.html

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By in France,

@joshwright17

"I'll offer up a counterpoint to this though. I don't see a problem with buying LEPIN versions of LEGO sets that have been retired, if those sets were out during someone's "dark ages." If a set has been retired that means the only way you can get a LEGO version is on the second-hand market, which LEGO sees $0 of. "

A retired Lego set doesn't lose its IP... if another manufacturer wishes to take the approach of re-issuing sets then a least a request to Lego is in order... of course Lego may say no, because they have their own development plans.... for example in the City range, Lego issued 2 police stations in a relatively short period of time... 60047 in 2014 & 60141 in 2016.

Lego market pricing can appear to be very strange at times, but this isn't a reason for IP theft.

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By in Singapore,

@Aanchir thank you for the detailed reply.

While I don’t presume to the know the cost of every set, adjusted for exchange rate / taxes (nor would I take the time to research as you have), living, in-market, I can confirm that the price range % I offered, shifts based on a theme’s popularity, so one must take care when cherry picking sets for comparison, ie: USD $29.99 Star Wars set will likely be more than a $29.99 Friends set. Size also matters. Microfighters might be just $2 more, whereas, sets such as Kylo Ren’s shuttle or the Kessel Run Falcon will be $100-125 more.

Malaysia, based on their currency, is on the lower side, Singapore a bit higher, with China being the highest. I will fly to USA or Australia, to purchase my sets, to save vs. be ripped off in Singapore. I do modeling before buying in the markets I travel to. Also consider VIP points, discounts and promotions. Yes! You are correct, USA should not be the benchmark, but the outlier. Only once, has Australia been less.

While I cannot refute the prices you stated for Europe, AFOLs that live in Singapore, purchase their sets back “home” and bring to Singapore. I doubt they would go through that trouble, trust me., it’s not easy...if what you have stated, is accurate across themes. Imagine me, last year, with the UCS Falcon stuffed in my carry-on roller. ;)

While IP theft is wrong, the point of my post, is that LEGO, has created their own problems by price gouging. The same can be said for Apple vs Xiaomi, however, #iOS can’t be duplicated in the way that LEPIN offers legacy UCS Star Wars sets at a 1/4 of their cost. The LEGO mini-figure is protected by patten... so, beyond IP knock-offs, because LEGO no longer holds the patten to their bricks, brands such as Oxford and China’s Ban Bao, offer compelling & compatible bricks (in a wide range of colors) that over time, may harm LEGO.

Isn’t the the reason we are talking about all of this? I am! I don’t buy anything except for genuine LEGO... yet I fear, there will be a class of consumer, who will only see LEGO in a negative light, because they are not affordable.

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By in Germany,

Interesting read. Now I have a feel for all the clone brands in my "Box-O-Stuff that ain't LEGO"

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By in Germany,

What amazes me most is how Lepin can copy new LEGO sets so quickly.
The Hogwarts Castle clone was available before the official LEGO version, as was the James Bond Aston Martin.
How can they do it? I mean, they must have spies in the development department in Billund to be able to produce and bring to market a set before the official version is out, no?
I mean, it's one thing to produce a clone of say the Green Grocer or Emerald Night, which have been EOL'ed for years, but new releases, especially ones that aren't widely available, copied right down to the stickers and the last letter of the instruction manual, it's mind-boggling to say the least.

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By in Belgium,

Maybe they use promo copys given to websites to copy the designs :-)

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By in Hong Kong,

Nice overview of all the Lego clones out there. I honestly didn’t know there were so many! I bought an Oxford set of a traditional Korean marriage scene; an adorable original design with several original pieces and was pleased with the set as well as satisfied with the quality although not seeing the Lego logo on the studs gives a very strange feeling!

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By in United States,

@ronvining: Perhaps the exchange rates have changed since last year or something… because on bricksworld.com, the UCS Millennium Falcon is listed as $1209.90 SGD, which is equivalent to $873.64 in USD. Based on the prices listed on the "Prices" tab on Brickset (https://brickset.com/sets/75192-1/Millennium-Falcon), that's lower than all but THREE of the countries that LEGO pulls price information from (Canada, the US, and the UK). The prices Brickset has listed for Australia, New Zealand, and all of mainland Europe are anywhere from $12 USD/$17 SGD higher in Hungary to $207 USD/$287 SGD higher in Denmark than BricksWorld's price.

Likewise, the new UCS Y-Wing is priced at $299.90 SGD on BricksWorld, equivalent to $216.52 USD. It's slightly cheaper in the US, Canada, and Australia, but not by a lot, and certainly not by as much as the cost of an international plane ticket. In the other 20 countries Brickset pulls price information from, it's priced anywhere from $6 USD/$9 SGD higher in the UK to $51 USD/$71 SGD higher in Norway.

The new Cloud City is the only high-priced Star Wars set that really seems to be extraordinarily pricier in Singapore than in Australia, New Zealand, and many parts of Europe. BricksWorld lists it at $579.90 SGD, equivalent to $418.61 USD. In that case, the only countries with higher prices listed on Brickset are Switzerland, Poland, Ireland, and the four Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland).

That said, you're right that prices in China seem to be a lot higher. But if I had to guess the reason I'd attribute it less to price gouging (because after all, why focus tightly on the wealthiest buyers who can afford to purchase LEGO overseas?) and more to offsetting the costs of the new factory and the numerous new LEGO Certified and LEGO Flagship Stores LEGO has been opening up in China over the past several years. According to a report last month (https://www.retailnews.asia/legos-big-prospects-in-china/), LEGO plans to have 60 stores across 15 Chinese cities by the end of the year. That's no small investment.

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By in United States,

I bought a Poe's x-wing from overseas. It came with two left wings, but the best part was the STAR WART logo on the directions. So now I have a Star Wart X-Wing that flies in circles.

You definitely get what you pay for when it comes to the knock-offs.

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By in United States,

What's "communist" about bottom-tier fake Lego?

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By in Germany,

@ScrapMetaru: nothing, and the author must know that. It makes for nice click-bait though!
Honestly, I don't like that guy's attitude, and reading his "reviews" gets very tedious after a short while, at least for me.
My experiences with clone brands could be summed up as follows:
Ban Bao: Horrible
Best Lock: Gruesome
Decool: Great
Lepin: Older sets of mixed quality, newer ones near perfect
LOZ: great quality, those tiny bricks are ever so cute, my girls are telling me ;-)
Xingbao: Great

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By in United Kingdom,

My review of POGO and Decool figures - excellent quality, often better printing than LEGO's. Printing is in good registration across legs and torsos, without breaks in the printing.

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By in Romania,

Any kind of theft is wrong an should be punished. I never buy anything else than LEGO because I want the best. I respect the amount of work the author put for this review, and I don’t judge his style and opinions simply because it’s his right to write what he wants, this review not being an official point of view from LEGO.

I also hope we will treat LEGO products and prices according to our passion and not turn them into a religion. So, when we will be able to get the most courage we are capable off, maybe we will start a discussion or make a review about the mistakes found in the LEGO products. Meaning the color differences between the same parts in the same set, the shape problems on some bricks when you are building a wall, the instructions mistakes, the missing parts in LEGO sets (you get your missing parts from LEGO after a few weeks but your child is waiting for a dino head or a motor on VOLVO Technic on his birthday).

Making fun of the size of the box vs the content in the “communist” sets is something but, maybe is a thing that also LEGO must pay attention.

Attacking the pieces count is funny when LEGO is making also some “record number of pieces big sets” and you get 1000 black pins or 600 cheese slopes. It’s their right to design the sets how they want, but we should not making fun of others when we are doing almost the same mistakes or we are not perfect on some points. Or at least to make fun of all.

I feel sorry for what our friend from Singapore said about the small stores (you are often building “a market” with your own money just to see after a few years that others are taking advantage from your work). Also for the pricing in the last years I have no words to explain to myself how a collectible minifigure can be more expensive with 50% in 5 stability years, how the smallest City box can rise as price with 75%.

Maybe the communists will be able to replicate the exact measurements of the Statue of Liberty because the capitalist weren’t able to do it in the last Architecture set.

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By in United Kingdom,

> Maybe the communists will be able to replicate the exact measurements of the Statue of Liberty because the capitalist weren’t able to do it in the last Architecture set.

A lot of my problem with the article is the racist standpoint of calling anyone from "over there" as communist, which you have repeated. The (mainly) Chinese companies doing this are not communist at all, they are capitalist. They do not make cheap fake sets to make sure all can share in their use, they do it for financial (that is, capitalist) reasons. Labelling them as communist because of their location or race is plain lazy stereotyping.

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By in Romania,

I see you have nothing else to say about my opinions but just about the using the word communist. You are right, I forgot to use " " in the last line like I did in another line above when I tried to point this thing to the review author.

Racism has nothing to do with "over there", but with the regime imposed to innocent people. Companies exist in all communist countries but if you know a few things about commerce you'll find out this doesn't make a country capitalist.

I will stop here and we can discuss in private, to respect Brickset as not being a politically site, but please don't make a racist somebody who LIVED 55 years under communist regime "out here" in Europe.

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