By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Prior to November 2011, Andrew Roberts worked for County House Research performing in-court background checks. By the end of November, though, he retired to pursue his lifelong passion, building Army tanks with LEGOs.
Roberts” love for LEGOs began at age 5 when he was given a big bucket of the brightly colored building blocks as a gift, and he has been playing with them ever since. About two years ago, Roberts heard about a man who was building World War II tanks out of LEGOs. Intrigued, he decided to build his own LEGO tank which he then put on eBay – and it sold. He made another and it sold as well, snowballing into something bigger than Roberts could have anticipated.
Initially, Roberts used the LEGO digital designer to create programs for the tanks he was building and selling, but was told by LEGO that he could not use the program for commercial purposes. Roberts began using LEGO CAD, a computer based LEGO building kit using LEGO parts to create his own virtual kits instead. The program allows Roberts to create army tanks using an assortment of different type of “bricks” and produces instructions to build the tank out of specific LEGO pieces. Roberts then packages the instructions and LEGO pieces and sells them as kits.
The kits range in size from 500 to 700 pieces. During the holidays, Roberts worked 16-hour days. With the help of his wife, Amanda, and his mother-in-law, 110 pounds of LEGOs were sorted into 120 individual kits. Now that the holiday rush is over, he has turned his home office into a LEGO sorting room.
Roberts sells his tank kits solely on eBay, although he is looking into creating a standalone website. If this happens, he says he will get business cards made for “Battle Brick,” the name he has given the growing company, and send them out with a coupon to potential customers.
“Our customers span the whole gauntlet,” Roberts said, “We have kids from 7 to 12 who love LEGOs and military things and then we have some adult collectors who buy them as display pieces.”
Because LEGO has a core philosophy of not creating toys that promote violence, Roberts feels that there is security in the market. According to Roberts, 50,000 people signed a petition for LEGO to offer WWII paraphernalia, but the company refused, saying that it will only make toys that promote fantasy play not violent play.
In addition, Roberts says that, “toys have been struggling competing with video games, but LEGOs have maintained a sense of popularity.”
He says that many of the orders he ships are sent to APOs (Army Post Office). The most popular item being the “custom LEGO army tank M1a1 Abrams main battle tank complete set.”
For now, Roberts is enjoying the challenge of creating a new realistic looking LEGO set. To see his tanks, visit http://stores.ebay.com/Battle-Brick.