Christmas is a time that is intrinsically linked with toys. For many, there is a special, memorable gift that was unwrapped on Christmas morning and probably helped spark a lifetime of toy collecting. For those who enjoy the ever-expanding range of LEGO sets, the chances are that they received a brick spaceship, castle or pirate ship under the tree as a child.
The LEGO Group wisely decided to tap into this link between LEGO sets and Christmas in 2009, releasing the delightful 10199 Winter Toy Shop. While plenty of small promotional sets and advent calendars had been released in the past, it was only the second well designed, appealing festive set, following 10173 Holiday Train in 2006.
While the train is a memorable set, it was 10199 Winter Toy Shop that launched an annual series. The beautiful snow covered toy shop, with just enough of an interior to include a few toys for sale and a workshop, along with an impressive brick built Christmas tree that has not been topped since. The excellent model was finished off with a lovely selection of minifigures, the best of which are two rosy-cheeked carol singers.
Thanks to capturing a Christmas card image inspired by the Victorian ideal of the holiday, it was a popular LEGO product. While it seems like it was intended to be a one-off release, the very next year a second set was launched in the series – 10216 Winter Village Bakery. Every year since a new Winter Village set has been released in the LEGO Creator Expert theme. It means that when decorating their houses, fans can add some genuinely attractive LEGO display pieces into the mix, in a way that their significant other is only likely to approve of.
During that time, the only misstep was 2015’s re-release of the original, taking 10249 Winter Toy Shop and updating it with new elements. Highlights of the nine-year run include a step into the fantastical with 10245 Santa’s Workshop, which is as delightful as it sounds and could be supplemented with two small supporting sets, and 10229 Winter Village Cottage, which fans considered expensive at the time but was packed with detail and is one of the best looking sets in the run so far.
Like so many unique toys that aficionados enjoy, 10199 Winter Toy Shop ended up kicking off a product series that brings collectors back each year for more, right up to this year’s 10263 Winter Village Station. As if toys, LEGO and Christmas were not already linked closely enough, now there is a bona fide building tradition to start the holiday season.
Graham Hancock is a toy collector and deputy editor of Blocks magazine.
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