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The history of 5-digit set numbers

LEGO has always numbered its sets, but the way it has done so has never been particularly logical or consistent.

Numbers didn't start at 1 and work upwards, but instead have been issued somewhat haphazardly. Most sets released prior to about 1980 had 3-digit numbers, then 4-digits were used for the majority of sets released before 2013.

LEGO started out with good intentions when allocating 4-digit numbers and for a while they followed a pattern. However, at the turn of the century, when they started to run out, the system went to pot and any unallocated numbers were given to whatever needed numbering.

5-digit numbers were first used in 2001* but it wasn't until 2013 that every normal set was given one.

LEGO's 'set number issuing department' thus had 90,000 new numbers to play with and an excellent opportunity to define a logical methodology for their allocation which would be good for the next 100 years or more. It started out well but, unfortunately, they've already blown it...

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