When will the total number of LEGO minifigs produced outnumber the human population?
Short answer: in a couple of years.
While working on a side project, I began digging into the numbers behind just how big the LEGO mini figure population is. There’s a graphic from a few years ago made by XKCD showing minifigs overtaking humans in 2019. However that was over two years ago and since then the LEGO Group has released a couple of big numbers regarding the minifig population, including the rate of growth.
In 2014 the population increase in 2013 was reported to be ‘approximately 500 million’. The following year in early 2015 the LEGO Group reported ‘over 500,000,000’ minifigs were made in the previous year alone. With another Star Wars movie as well as many other hot products this past year, it’s very likely that even more minifigs were produced last year.
The total number of minifigs made has been less precise over the years. At the same time that LEGO announced their 2014 results, the total was ‘over 5 billion’. However as far back as 2009 one press release stated there were ‘over 4 billion’. Taking into account 2013 & 2014 when nearly 1 billion minifigs were made, this jump raises the question about just how many were made in 2010, 2011 and 2011.
In 2009 the annual rate of growth was 122 million. Having that rate stayed level during those years seems unlikely. But if that rate grew in those years so the gradient in 2014 wasn’t so sharp, then there could now be more minifigs than we first thought. It is unlikely however that there were over 6 billion when LEGO reported last year (otherwise I think LEGO would have stated this). No, I suspect it was close but not quite tight enough for some rounding up. We’re likely to see that the total number surpassed 6 billion sometime in 2015. Add another half billion in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and we should see a total over 7.5 billion (again assuming the growth rate doesn’t increase further). Even being conservative with the original total being closer to 5.5 billion, there’s still plenty of room to overtake humans in time.
Now, based on some rough maths and no background in statistics, I have a theory that the total number of minifigs manufactured since its’ introduction in 1978 will likely outnumber the world-wide human population by 2018. I’m putting aside any counter-arguments — such as that some of the minifigs made in that time might have expired (eg. been eaten by the family dog or sucked up into vacuum cleaners).
What would be really quite nice is if the minifig population overtakes humans in 2018 in time for the 40th anniversary.
UPDATE: 1 March 2016 The LEGO Group released their 2015 annual results today. As I predicted, the mini figures annual rate of growth did in fact increase, rising to over 725 million. The company did not report on the total number of minifigs ever produced.
By my estimation it should be well over 6 billion at this point, and even if it was still below (assuming last year’s total of ‘over 5 billion’ was far closer to 5 than 6 billion) than two more years at the new rate of growth would put the total at nearly 7.5 billion by early 2018. However if the number is now well over 6 billion (say at least 6.5 to 6.6 billion) we could very easily see minifigs overtake humans in early 2017. The previous projection was based on a later date when the world population would be higher. The current estimate for the world population is just over 7.404 billion this year and 7.48 in 2017.