The History of Alternative Building Block Manufacturers

When we think of building blocks, Lego often comes to mind first. However, many alternative manufacturers have emerged over the decades, each carving out their own niche and introducing innovations to the market. This article explores the history of some of these alternative manufacturers and their development compared to Lego.

1. Early Years and the Emergence of Competitors

Lego has dominated the building block market since its founding in the 1950s. The iconic colorful bricks quickly became a global phenomenon. However, this success did not go unnoticed, and other companies began developing similar products.

Tyco Toys:

  • Founded: Tyco, an American toy company, began producing Lego-compatible building blocks in the 1980s.
  • Market Strategy: Tyco aimed to offer cost-effective alternatives to Lego sets, appealing particularly to price-conscious parents.

Mega Bloks:

  • Founded: Mega Bloks was established in 1967 in Canada and started producing building blocks in the 1990s.
  • Differentiation: Mega Bloks focused on larger blocks and licensed sets (e.g., Barbie, Halo) to differentiate from Lego and appeal to a different audience.

2. Expansion and Diversification

In the 2000s, the building block market continued to grow, with numerous new manufacturers specializing in specific niches or introducing new technologies and designs.


  • Founded: COBI was established in 1987 in Poland, specializing in historical and military sets.
  • Unique Selling Point: COBI is known for its detailed models of military vehicles and historical scenes, which are not typically found in Lego’s lineup.


  • Founded: Oxford, a South Korean company, was founded in 1961 and began producing building blocks in the 1990s.
  • Market Strategy: Oxford offered high-quality and affordable alternatives to Lego, particularly popular in Asia.


  • Founded: Kre-O was introduced by Hasbro in 2011, aiming to combine Lego’s popularity with their successful toy lines like Transformers and G.I. Joe.
  • Licensed Sets: Kre-O heavily relied on licensed themes to attract a different audience and leverage existing brands.

3. Modern Developments and Technological Innovations

In recent years, many alternative building block manufacturers have evolved, bringing innovative products to the market that go beyond traditional brick models.


  • Founded: Panlos is known for its innovative and creative designs, often based on mechanical and technical models.
  • Unique Selling Point: Panlos offers a variety of sets characterized by their mobility and functionality.


  • Founded: Xingbao is a Chinese brand known for collaborating with well-known MOC (My Own Creation) designers.
  • Unique Selling Point: Xingbao focuses on original designs and high-quality sets developed in collaboration with the AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego) community.


  • Founded: BlueBrixx is a German company that specializes in themes like architecture and military vehicles.
  • Unique Selling Point: BlueBrixx offers a wide range of sets known for their attention to detail and innovative building techniques.


  • Founded: Reobrix is renowned for its detailed and complex architectural models.
  • Unique Selling Point: Reobrix focuses on intricate building techniques and high levels of detail, appealing particularly to adult builders.


  • Founded: Cada is another Chinese manufacturer specializing in Technic sets.
  • Unique Selling Point: Cada offers a range of remote-controlled and motorized models known for their technical sophistication.

Mould King:

  • Founded: Mould King is known for its high-quality and often very large models.
  • Unique Selling Point: Mould King’s sets are recognized for their precision and the large number of pieces, often resulting in spectacular models.

Quan Guan:

  • Founded: Quan Guan specializes in military and historical models.
  • Unique Selling Point: The sets are often highly detailed and historically accurate, making them popular among collectors and history enthusiasts.


  • Founded: Sembo is known for its creative and often playful models.
  • Unique Selling Point: Sembo offers a wide range of themes, from city life to fantasy worlds, emphasizing play value and originality.


  • Founded: TGL is an emerging manufacturer known for its innovative approach to classic themes.
  • Unique Selling Point: TGL combines traditional bricks with modern design elements and high build quality.


  • Founded: JieStar is a Chinese manufacturer known for its affordable yet high-quality sets.
  • Unique Selling Point: JieStar offers a variety of sets, ranging from city and building models to vehicles and spaceships.

4. Comparison with Lego

While Lego remains the dominant player in the building block market, alternative manufacturers have carved out their own niches, offering unique products that cater to specific audiences. These manufacturers often provide more affordable alternatives, specialized themes, and innovative designs that Lego does not cover.

Strengths of Alternative Manufacturers:

  • Price Points: Many alternative manufacturers offer cheaper sets that appeal to price-conscious consumers.
  • Niche Products: Manufacturers like COBI and Nanoblock specialize in specific niches not covered by Lego.
  • Licensed Products: Some manufacturers use licenses for popular brands and themes to differentiate their products from Lego.


The history of alternative building block manufacturers shows that, beyond Lego, there are many innovative and creative companies enriching the market. These manufacturers offer a wide range of products that cater to different interests and needs, contributing to the diversity and dynamism of the building block market. Whether historical models, affordable alternatives, or highly detailed miniatures, the world of building blocks is more diverse than ever.

This post is also available in Deutsch.

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