Help me remember this Lego knock-off brand circa 1980
February 12, 2013 6:30 PM   Subscribe

This thread has just dug up a memory for me and I'm going crazy trying to remember the brand name of the Lego knock-offs I had around 1980.

I'll quote the gist of it from the thread:
When I was a kid I had a birthday party some time around the fifth or sixth grade. I told all my friends I wanted Lego (because fifth graders don't have anything resembling tact) and all but one brought me a Lego set. The one kid who didn't got me these Lego knock-offs that were sort of, but not quite, entirely unlike Lego. They had the guzintas and the pegs but they were upside-down. It was crazy. And no, I wasn't just using them the wrong way, the instructions and pictures all had the pegs on the bottom. This was some time around 1980.
So yes, they were like Lego only the pegs were on the bottom and the holes were on top. The holes were just that, holes for the pegs to go into surrounded by smooth brick. They were't like Lego where the whole thing was hollow.

Some things I remember:
  • I was not using them upside-down. The pictures and instructions showed the pegs on the bottom.
  • The basic brick was maybe 1/2 the height of a Lego brick. Almost like a 1/3 size Lego plate. I could be wrong about this. Other than that, they were roughly the size of Lego bricks in terms of peg size. The pegs might have been a bit taller.
  • They were not Lego compatible.
  • They were made of ABS or some other plastic similar to Lego but, like most clones, of a lesser quality. The corners were not sharp like Lego.
  • It was not a brand listed on the Wikipedia page of Lego Clones. I'm sure of this.
  • This was some time around 1979-1981. Give or take a couple years.
  • I have no idea what country they were from. They were most likely purchased around the suburban Boston area. I don't think my friend's family were world travelers who would have brought them back from Japan or somewhere.
  • I suspect they were bought because they cost much less than Lego.
  • I always had the name Tente in my head but looking them up just now I realize I got the name confused with another Lego clone around that time. Seriously, it wasn't Tente and if you suggest it was Tente I will know you didn't read this and I will curse you to a life of stepping on a Lego brick every morning when you get out of bed. I'm kidding, of course, but it seriously was not Tente.
  • I don't think they were MiniBrix, as suggested in the other thread. That's a good guess but the diagrams posted don't match my memory.
  • I'm pretty sure the product and brand name were different. Like, they were THING by COMPANY. It was not a brand that made anything else I was familiar with.
  • They were small sets. The box was maybe large enough to hold half a human foot. Like the size of a box of Animal Crackers or your basic $15.00 Lego car set. I have no idea if this brand made larger sets.
  • I have never seen them anywhere, before or since. As far as I can tell I had the only two sets ever made.
  • I am not imaging this. I had them. They were real. I bet if I spent a few hours I could dig up an odd brick in my son's collection of Lego. This would be like finding a needle in a haystack and I'm not even sure I'd find one. I don't think they had the brand name on the bricks anyway so even if I found one it wouldn't help me.
  • They totally sucked in every possible way, and not just because they weren't Lego.
This is seriously bugging me. I have Googled various things such as "1970s lego clone pegs on bottom" and other variations but I have turned up nothing.
posted by bondcliff to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Loc Blocs
posted by The World Famous at 6:38 PM on February 12, 2013

We had these in my kindergarten classroom mixed in with a big bin of Lego and Lego-pretending bricks. I know exactly what you're talking about and can confirm that you are not crazy.

I have no idea what brand they were, but to broaden the timeframe a bit, I was in kindergarten in 1989-90, and the blocks were on the worn side...I'd say 3-5 years old maybe.
posted by phunniemee at 7:18 PM on February 12, 2013

It seems to me that the pegs were a bit longer and more tubey than the pegs on Lego.
posted by phunniemee at 7:20 PM on February 12, 2013

Bristle Blocks?
posted by sundrop at 7:31 PM on February 12, 2013

I'll second Loc Blocs. I think the reason I obsessively collect Lego as an adult is because I had Loc Blocs as a child.
posted by Ruki at 7:50 PM on February 12, 2013

It wasn't Loc Blocs. I remember those. They had the studs on the top and one of the main features I do remember of the bricks I had is that the studs were on the bottom. I am 100% sure of that.

Bristle Blocks were something entirely different. It wasn't those.

I found this list of clones and none of them ring a bell. The name of the bricks I had is right at the tip of my tongue so I suspect if I see the brand written down I will know it instantly.

It was definitely between 3rd and 6th grade for me, prime birthday party years, so 1978 - 1982. It's certainly plausible that there would be some old ones in a random brick collection circa 1990.
posted by bondcliff at 8:07 PM on February 12, 2013

I think the time period is wrong, but maybe Minibrix?
posted by devinemissk at 8:43 PM on February 12, 2013

posted by amyms at 9:33 PM on February 12, 2013

I poked around and couldn't find anything that matches what you suggested - but I did find a site with a list of building block toys. Perhaps poking around there will help?
posted by dotgirl at 9:58 PM on February 12, 2013

Philiform, perhaps? It's early for your time frame though, last made in '72 (maybe Doug's mom regifted).
posted by jamaro at 10:01 PM on February 12, 2013

Minibrix? They have the holes on the top.
posted by steinwald at 10:26 AM on February 13, 2013

It was not Minibrix.

I'm seriously starting to doubt my memory here, but my brother also remembers them. Given the fact that there is no trace of them anywhere and going by the kid who gave them to me, I'm wondering if they were something that you got with a free fill up of Unleaded or that came with your Happy Meal.
posted by bondcliff at 10:54 AM on February 13, 2013

FWIW, the big Lego clone of my day, owned by lots of kids and even schools, perhaps more popular in my area than Lego itself, and perhaps more recently than yours, has similarly vanished without a trace - I do know the name of it and even with the brand-name I can't find a single image of it on the internet! (It's not the droid you're looking for, just adding some context.)
posted by anonymisc at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2013

anonymisc, what's your Lego clone? (I'm curious.)
posted by phunniemee at 11:16 AM on February 13, 2013

Still stumped. This is going to bug me for a long time.
posted by bondcliff at 12:13 PM on March 15, 2013

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