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Published November 30, 2023

Duh! is a weekly column that gives circuitous answers to obvious questions. If you dig it, you can find 100 more of these essays in the Geeks Who Drink book, Duh!.

Some freaky math: From 2020 to 2022, the Lego Corporation made about $24 billion in revenue. Which suggests that they sold 240 billion little bricks. Meanwhile, there are only about 1.3 billion kids between ages 5 and 14 on the whole planet. So in three years, the Danish company pumped out enough plastic to provide every single kid on Earth with an Eve and WALL-E Brickheadz set,1 and still have 39,000,000,000 pieces left over.

Every Lego stat is equally stupefying:

  • Every minute, on average, they sell 420 sets. And if Broadway has taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of minutes in a year. (It works out to about 220 million sets.)
  • A single Lego can hold nearly a half a ton of weight without breaking – so, 375,000 times its own weight. Ants are sad little weaklings by comparison.
  • According to an oft-cited, undated stat – i.e. it’s probably low – there are more than 4 billion minifigures in existence. That means Lego Nation is more populous than the top seven human countries combined… and they didn’t even start making the little people until 1978, nearly 30 years after the bricks.

It’s an awfully big jump up for the company that carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen started in tiny Billund, Denmark, in 1932. Hell, he only started making toys in the first place because the knock-on effects of the Great Depression left his fellow Jutlanders too poor to avail themselves of his house- and furniture-building skills. He was 55 years old when he bought his first plastic injection-molding machine, and… well, 75 years later, they injection-mold enough plastic annually to stretch around the world a couple dozen times.

For all that, though, Lego is not even in the top 10 biggest companies in Denmark, a nation that’s home to about as many people as Wisconsin. What gives? Well, even Lego knows that Maersk is a pretty big deal.2 Founded in 1904, the shipping and logistics firm controls about 18% of the world’s container ship capacity,3 as well as 75 million square feet of warehouse space.

Actually, you know what I would do with 75 million square feet of warehouse space? I’d build 14 million Lego Millennium Falcons. Step one: Save up $12 billion …

  1. a) How ironic, all this forever plastic making WALL-E toys. b) Oh my god it’s so cute. How did this credit card get in my hand???
  2. So does Tom Hanks: The SS Maersk Alabama was the ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009, leading to Hanks’s title role in Captain Phillips. According to one critic, he played it with “the sense of a normal, modest everyman who is in over his head,” so… yeah, Tom Hanks.
  3. In 1999, they even bought the American company Sea-Land, which in the ‘50s was responsible for standardizing the 20- and 40-foot intermodal shipping containers we know to this day. USA! USA!