Originally published Feb. 4, 2013.
Within A.F.O.L. (Adult Followers Of LEGOS) circles, Huntington resident Matthew Stephenson is considered a purist.
Stemming from a childhood fascination for building and seeing how things are constructed, Stephenson has spent the last few years amassing quite a collection.
"I've played with LEGOS since I was little," he states. "I got my first set when I was about 6 years old."
Stephenson adds that he played with LEGOS until the "Dark Ages," a period most adult LEGO enthusiasts undergo.
"It's that period when you stopped playing with LEGOS because something else peaked your interest," he notes. "For some people it may be the opposite sex, for others it may be another hobby or sports."
Stephenson says he emerged from his Dark Age almost three years ago.
"I was older and I still love building so I got back into it," he says.
He adds that a common joke that occurs during family car rides is his comment, "Huh, I wonder what they're building over there," whenever they drive past construction. His wife Mandy often tries to beat him to the punch by saying it first, Stephenson says.
With his love for LEGOS rekindled, he says he started buying various sets and mini figures and assembled them on the weekends.
"I don't have as much time as some people do to devote to it," Stephenson states. "An average project for me will take a Saturday afternoon and evening."
As his collection grew, he adds that he developed an extensive filing system for the different pieces.
"I have everything in bins and I can find almost anything I need in here," Stephenson notes. "I also have an online inventory that I update every time I buy a new set. This is the part of my life that's the most organized."
To date, his collection includes over 100,000 pieces and 900 mini figures.
"Roughly, that's about 300 sets," Stephenson says.
"There's also a website that if you enter your inventory, it tells you what other sets you can build using your pieces."
It's not just the actual building the sets that fascinates him, Stephenson says.
"Some of the sets are very detailed," he states. "I like the craftsmanship, attention to detail and the building techniques used to put them together."
Although a fan of the bigger sets, Stephenson states that there is some strategy involved when buying.
"Some of the sets and mini figures can be pricey and hold their value," he says. "That's especially true if it is a discontinued set."
Recently, Stephenson says his wife bought a discontinued set at a very good price as a Christmas gift for him. The current value of the set is close to $600.
"Some of the mini figures can fetch a good price as well," he adds. "I guess if I wanted to, I could look at it as sort of an investment, but that's not really why I do it."
His favorite completed set is the Imperial Flagship, which has since been discontinued, Stephenson adds.
"After I was done putting that together, I was impressed by all the details and craftsmanship," he says. "I really like LEGO ships."
He also owns completed models of the "Queen Ann's Revenge" and "Black Pearl" from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.
Amassing such a collection was not as difficult as some people would think ,Stephenson notes.
"Most of the simple or generic sets can be bought at regular department stores," he says. "For other sets, I usually go to the LEGO store in Indianapolis."
When the store first opened a few years ago, Stephenson says he was the fifth person in a line that wrapped around the entire store. For his diligence, he received a three-pack of mini figures.
"The next year I waited in line again and got the birthday series of the mini figures," he adds.
Both packs remain unopened.
"My favorite piece, or "element," as purists would say, is what they call the cheese wedge," Stephenson states. "It's a simple-looking piece, but it allows you to add detail to a project so it doesn't all look boxy."
Stephenson says he doesn't view his love for LEGOS as something he'll pass down to his daughter Ellie.
"Whenever I'm putting together a set, she'll play with the mini figures," he says. "She's not so much into the building aspect of the hobby, but it does give us something to do together, even if we're not working on the same piece."
As he enjoys he enlightenment period, Stephenson says if need be, he could part with his collection.
"For the bigger kits, I've saved all the boxes and instructions in case I plan to sell them," he states. "True collectors want the original box. Also, I can always sell the collection by the pound or piece it out."
For right now, though, Stephenson says he plans to bask in the rediscovered light of a boyhood hobby.