28 January 1958: the Lego brick is patented

Cafe Corner © Lego
Lego Cafe Corner: outperforming stocks and gold

When you consider how phenomenally successful the simple eight-stud Lego brick has been since it first went on sale in Denmark in 1949, it’s amazing to think it took Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, whose father founded Lego, nine years to patent it. But it was only at lunchtime on 28 January 1958, at two minutes to two, that the Dane filed his patent.

The clever bit behind the “automatic binding brick” were the tiny tubes inside. They gave each eight-stud brick, known as a 2×4, better grip when placed on top of each other. That not only made structures stronger, but it also made it easy for a child to pull them apart again. They have been made to the same measurements ever since.

According to Lego (the name comes from the Danish leg godt, meaning “play well”), you would need 40 billion bricks to reach the moon. So it’s just as well that in 2012, Lego made 45.7 billion bricks at a rate of 5.2 million per hour. But if just stacking them sounds a bit boring, six eight-stud Lego bricks can be combined in 915,103,765 different ways.

Lego entered a rough patch from 1998 when the company posted its first ever loss. But since then, it has proved to be the king of turnarounds, thanks to film tie-ins with Star Wars, for example, and computer games. In the first half of 2015, Lego enjoyed sales growth of 18%. Forbes rates the brand as being worth $6.2bn.

Somewhat bizarrely, Lego has even proved extremely popular with investors, with Lego outperforming the FTSE 100 and gold over the last 15 years. If you bought the Lego Cafe Corner set for £89.99 in 2007, it is now worth £2,096. That represents growth of 2,230% – time to start looking around in the attic.

Also on this day

28 January 1896: The world’s first speeding ticket

119 years ago today, motorist Walter Arnold was caught tearing through Paddock Wood in Kent at a hair-raising 8mph, and so became the first driver in the world to get a speeding ticket. Read more here.