In an article in a recent edition of the Economist surveying Lego, the world's second largest toymaker, the magazine claims:

By 2017 Lego men are expected to outnumber humans

We've had arguments about Lego on this site before (Does The LEGO Group produce more tires than any other tire manufacturer?).

But is this claim likely to be correct?

  • impossible to answer. Do you count every lego man every produced? Then why not count every human being ever lived? Do you count only those still in existence? If so, how do you determine that number as there's no recording of how many have been destroyed over the years. – jwenting Feb 14 '14 at 7:50
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    @jwenting Not impossible, just hard to incorporate key uncertainties. We have a good idea of the number of humans (barring the apocalypse) and can probably make bounded guesses on the Lego factors. – matt_black Feb 14 '14 at 16:58
  • In the "unfair comparisons" category, are we comparing only male "Lego men" against male and female humans? – Andrew Grimm Feb 15 '14 at 3:20
  • @AndrewGrimm are you saying I should have said Lego Men rather than Lego people? ;-) – matt_black Feb 15 '14 at 14:35
  • @matt_black yes and no. I meant that it can't be answered as asked because it doesn't set criteria for the numbers. – jwenting Feb 17 '14 at 7:52

At the time of this Lego Fun Facts PDF from 2009, there were at least 4 billion minifigs that had been produced.

They sell 3.9 minifigs/second which is 122,990,400 per year. (3.9/second * 60 seconds* 60 mintues * 24 hours * 365 days in a year)

So there were 4 billion in 2009 + 1,229,904,000 (10 years * 122,990,400 figs/year) = 5,229,904,000.

According to a UN prediction, the world population in 2019 would be 7,641,372,898,000 which is considerably higher than the 5,229,904,000 figure for Lego minifigs.

The authors of the PDF were Julie Stern and Karen Lynch.

Julie Stern's Linked In profile shows her as being a Brand Relations Manager for Lego from 2002-2011.
Karen Lynch, now known as Karen Nolan, works for Flashpoint PR which is a PR firm that Lego uses.

So the answer to your question would be that the claim is incorrect. But keep in mind that my figures were calculated using the rate as which Lego sold minifigs in 2009, not produced, as this was the only figure I could find.

Additional calculations to see when the minifigs might overtake the human population.

2029 World - 8,464,764,831,000 Minifig - 6,459,808,000
2039 World - 9,254,752,148,000 MiniFig - 7,689,712,000
2049 World - 10,117,522,812,000 MiniFig - 8,919,616,000
2059 World - 11,132,821,140,000 MiniFig - 10,149,520,000
2069 World - 12,434,173,955,000 MiniFig - 11,379,424,000
2079 World - 14,169,449,904,000 MiniFig - 12,609,328,000

Since I am not able to make assumptions about how the minifig production rate may/may not increase I decided to stop as this point as the rate of the population growth per decade was higher than the calculated minifigs/decade rate.

  • you assume constant growth of the human population as well. This may or may not be true just as the Lego production may or may not remain constant. – jwenting Feb 17 '14 at 7:53
  • Actually the only assumption that I made was that the Lego minifig production would remain constant. The human population growth is not constant. It was from an UN document that I linked to in my posting. – Cruril Feb 17 '14 at 20:23
  • Has this held true to the present date? – 2br-2b Jan 15 at 14:45

According to LEGO, in 2003 they had hit the 4,000,000,000 minifigures-produced mark. They were introduced in 1978, and they've added thousands of variations over the years.

Given that LEGO has produced >560,000,000,000 total items (or about 80 LEGO bricks/objects per human currently living), it seems highly reasonable to believe that they may hit ~8,000,000,000 minifigures by 2017-2019 (the XKCD reference calculates 2019).

Of course, whether they will or not is another story.

Also, counting those minifigures still in existence vs the total population of produced minifigs is more-or-less impossible to verify.

  • @GlenTheUdderboat - as a percentage of total LEGO production, minifigs are only about 1% ... seems reasonable to think that a minor increase in production focus on minifigs as they add new styles etc would lead to a minifig population increase :) – warren Feb 14 '14 at 22:28
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    I'm no Lego expert but I know that bagged Lego figures have been extremely successful, more so than expected, so it seems likely population growth in the Legoite community is accelerating. I'm sure there are figures in company press releases etc, it's a success story they like to boast about – user568458 Dec 13 '15 at 20:14

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