21038 Las Vegas Skyline: the set that doesn't exist. Or does it?

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You may recall that the release of last year's Architecture skyline set of Las Vegas was delayed for a time while it was redesigned to omit the Mandalay Bay Hotel, the scene of a tragic event the year before.

So, officially, 21038 Las Vegas never saw the light of day, and was replaced by 21047 Las Vegas which included the Bellagio resort instead. For a time, LEGO was very sensitive about this and asked us, and other sites, to remove images of the original set.

However, as it turns out, a few did escape from the company and Tom over at Brick Architect has managed to get his hands on one from a shop in Johannesburg, and has just posted an excellent review that compares it with the released version.

It's not known why the set was available where it was, or whether other shops in the region also sold it. Whatever the reason, it must surely be one of the rarest sets ever and a real collectors' item.

38 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

Hmm... Lego's moral integrity over this awful affair was, I thought, commendable, so why did this manage to get through?

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By in United States,

There is a really potentially disappointing aspect of this situation. If sets were released by mistake, that is not terrible, as long as the recipients just cherish them as rare sets. If they end up for sale on secondary markets as rare sets commanding exorbitant prices, only because the rarity is a result of horrific human tragedy and LEGO’s responsible and commendable reaction, and if people attempt to capitalize upon that, then the situation becomes repulsive. I have no qualms with anyone making a profit reselling sets to a willing market in almost any other situation, but this is definitely one exception to that position.

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By in United States,

This guy is my hero. I’d been trying to figure out how to build a Mandalay Bay for my Vegas set.

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By in United States,

I have one!!!!!!!

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By in United States,

@saneps
You can’t. There are two exclusive parts in pearl gold that are visible on the finished model

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By in United Kingdom,

I wished LEGO released this version of this set as I really like the citys skyline series. The tragic events of that night in 2017 were awful and heartbreaking but that building shouldn't be remembered for just that it should be remembered for its greatness. I think releasing this version would have shown resilience, and LEGO could have even given a percentage of sales to the victims and family but that's my opinion.

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By in United States,

@Mr. Thrawn
I saw, but I can be creative. I’ve seen some builds using existing pieces.

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By in Belgium,

Yep, someone on the "AFOLs on Facebook" group on FB had one last year already...

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By in United States,

So are LEGO not so sensitive about posting the images anymore? They are okay now with having pictures of the set up?

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By in Belgium,

@Minifig290 I share your take on this. Replacing the set did nothing for the victims and their family members. Sadly it also didn’t undo the tragedy of that horrific night. Selling the Mandalay Bay version and donating every penny of profit to the victim’s families would have shown real empathy and care from the Lego company. It would have put Lego in a positive perspective as a company that cares. The replacement came across as a big company trying to protect their sales.

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By in United Kingdom,

What percentage of Lego sets have weapons in ? Asking for a friend.

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By in United States,

No, no, no! So much for being a completionist of the architecture sets. Was disappointed when they changed it in the first place, but how on earth did these see the light of day?!? Maybe they are buried in a mineshaft near Johannesburg and the local retailer dug them up to sell (like the old atari 2600 ET games buried in New Mexico).

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By in United States,

^ Or they were hidden in a secret vault in the Lego House, and someone snuck in to get them thus replaying Misson: Impossible.

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By in United States,

But I do support @legorides and @minifig290, that releasing the original set and donating the proceeds would have been a way better option.

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By in United States,

It would have been an insensitive option, no matter how you try to justify it by suggesting they donate the profits. Unless Lego widely, continuously advertises that they would be donating all money made off the set until it ends production, it would be a very bad look for them, not to mention needlessly expensive, just so a few collectors could have a slightly different version of an existing toy.

In short, this take is tasteless at best.

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By in Latvia,

Why would LEGO even bother to produce the boxes (or ship them). I'm sure the whole process happened after the tragedy, so they would have time to not do all these things.

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By in South Africa,

I managed to get my hands on one of these, but sold it to one of the bigger Lego blogging sites. I suppose I am a little sad that I don't have it anymore....

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By in United States,

Oh wow. What surprising news!

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By in United Kingdom,

Thankyou, I must confess I built Just the Mandalay (with Tan rather than Pearl gold pieces) as soon as the Change was announced with a view to making a super Vegas with both Mandalay and Bellagio, but the real Vegas set hasn't come down in price enough yet. I tried to guess from photos so this should be very useful.

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By in Belgium,

@chickensuitgal you are welcome to your opinion, but I fail to see how Lego helping victims of a tragedy can be “tasteless at best”. When Lego was ready to launch the set, they had no way of knowing what would happen in Las Vegas. You think pulling this set, changing the design and then rereleasing it didn’t cost them money?

Since you are so concerned about sensitivity in this matter, you could also argue why Lego didn’t cancel the set altogether. At the end of the day they released a set that was gonna remind everybody of the location of the tragedy. Lego saying we have an unfortunate and unintend release of a set that depicts the location of this tragedy but here’s how we want to help by donating profits would have been a surprising and humane thing.

How this is insensitive is beyond me. I guess i like to live in a world where people and companies take their responsibilities and help out wherever they can, no matter how big or small

To be clear though: I’m not blaming Lego anything. We live in odd times. Handling a situation like this is nearly impossible.

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By in Switzerland,

Lego was just avoiding any reputation issues with set replacement. Nothing more, nothing less.

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By in Australia,

Lego quietly replacing the set was the sensible option, I'm sure the vast majority would never have known the Mandalay was ever scheduled to be included, and by the sounds of the request to remove the original images that was the intention.

Obviously it must have been advanced enough in the production run for there to be a warehouse full somewhere and they are slowly getting disposed away from core markets.

Innocently produced with really bad timing I don't think you can blame Lego at all here- unless I've missed something (and I admit I haven't consulted google here) the hotel still exists, isn't fetishised for the tragedy and is still marketed freely then the is no moral issue with it existing in Lego form.

As for the fear of it being resold on the secondary market at exhorbitant prices, that is a whole separate argument as to whether Lego should care about the impact of their release strategies on the secondary market, and I'm guessing they don't.

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By in Netherlands,

Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable about Tom’s review and the prominent place that his review got on Brickset’s home page?

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By in United Kingdom,

Looks like it...

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By in United States,

So is this officially the rarest LEGO set of all time?

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By in United States,

I'm a bit ambivalent about this, mainly because I normally buy LEGO sets only when the set itself appeals to me, but I had intended to collect the complete Skylines series--thinking it would be fun and relatively inexpensive. I liked the original design of the Las Vegas set and had planned to MOC a version of the Mandelay Bay hotel just for my own satisfaction--but now I know that the 21038 set really exists, can I ever consider my Skyline collection complete without it? And at the same time, why should I try and spend an outrageous sum to get one of these hen's teeth, since I understood and agreed with TLG's decision to withdrew the set?

Having said this, I'm very glad to know the full situation, and I appreciate that the Brick Architect and Brickset sites have made it possible for me to duplicate the "authentic" LEGO Mandelay Bay as closely as color issues will allow.

I suppose we will always wonder how this handful of sets reached the market in South Africa--where people surely weren't likely to find it a reminder of traumatic recent history, after all.

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By in United Kingdom,

Not sure this article was needed, I'm with Dutch Lego fan on this...
I certainly don't care about the differences in this set enough to dredge up conversation on that awful occasion.
Sounds like someone's just geeking out over some trivial nonsense and forgot to have some sensitivity

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By in United Kingdom,

I just don't need to see references to mass shootings on my visits to Lego sites.....

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By in Russian Federation,

tbh the Bellagio build looks way prettier than Mandalay Bay, and is a much more recognizable (in my eyes) Vegas landmark. The fountain is pretty cute, too.

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By in Germany,

Does someone sell a set ?

Prefered location Germany

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By in Netherlands,

"237 people own this set" ??
It says on the Brickset sets page.

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By in United Kingdom,

The Wynn is so banal. I have never understood why it features in this set.

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By in United States,

Hoo buddy, how much are these accidentally released sets going to go for, should they come up on the aftermarket? Thousands, surely. Tens of thousands?

An unfortunate situation to be sure. Lego was right to change the original set after the massacre - repeating this word - MASSACRE. Living in the United States is a never-ending nightmare because of gun accessibility and trying to act like "one bad act doesn't ruin the set" is some major willful ignorance and shocking to hear coming from non-US folks who don't have to swallow this recurring trauma on a nigh-weekly basis.

Sounds like someone at Lego messed up majorly and let some test samples get out into the wild. Not a good look for anyone involved.

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By in United Kingdom,

Let's not forget that the building itself did not commit the crime...

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By in United States,

That's going to be a real collector's item, easily north of $1000. I hope they keep it MISB.

Did any of the pearl gold parts end up making it to Bricklink?

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By in United States,

@Huw Surely enough, but sometimes buildings and places can be forever tied to a particular tragedy.

It can be different for certain structures, depending on age and historical relevance. The Mandalay Bay was opened in 1999 for the purposes of gambling in one of the most culturally despondent cities on the planet. So we have a barely 20-year-old structure whose greatest notoriety comes from being the source of an event that killed 58 people.

Just LET IT BE. Lego was smart to pull it in the first place because other than the horrific murders, this building has no other merit.

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By in United States,

I am not sure I agree with the sensitivity here. Just about all of the architectural buildings released thus far has deaths associated with them. (Eiffel Tower is 18 I think)

Mandalay Bay is still a famous hotel in Las Vegas that people still go to. Although in my opinion Bellagio is more famous.

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By in United States,

I finally just read the review. Tom at Brick Architect was trying to do a review/story about this set with a person in S. Africa in September/October of last year. At that time I bought the set from that person and I’ve owned it ever since. I’m rather disappointed that I’m no longer the only person in the U.S. that has one. But at least for a few months I was!

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