The Portland Minifig Exchange

Two hands hold Legos out

Take a Lego, leave a Lego. | Photo via @portlandminifigs

After school, it’s not uncommon to see groups of two or three kids crowded around a telephone pole at the corner of Southeast 42nd Avenue + Cora Street. You might also hear exclamations of surprise or more measured negotiations — such is the important business at the Portland Minifig Exchange.

The project, which was inspired by a local lending library, consists of a metal container mounted above the sidewalk, where people can take a mini Lego figurine from inside and leave one of their own.

With its interlocking plastic bricks and tiny yellow people, Lego has long been a power player on the toy scene, appealing to creative children and adults alike. But in the Peterson household, discovering Lego was a bit of an unhappy accident.

“My oldest broke his leg when he was four, so that kept us more sedentary than we typically would be,” explained Rebecca Peterson. To keep him entertained, Rebecca’s husband Ryan bought a few Lego sets to play with. “It’s really taken off and our whole garage is now their Lego design lab.”

Two little boys stand in front of a metal box attached to a telephone pole, filled with Lego figurines

Building community, (Lego) brick by brick. | Photo via @portlandminifigs

Today, her sons Jack, 8, and Theo, 4, live and breathe Lego and take their roles as stewards of the Portland Minifig Exchange very seriously. Rebecca started an Instagram account dedicated to spreading the word after the Petersons put up the box last June, and Ryan continually adds themed displays to keep fans coming back. It has become a hit not only in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, but also in the international Lego community.

“We mostly only saw the neighborhood kids come by several times a day to see what was changing in there,” she said. “Then we started getting people coming from Vancouver and Beaverton, making trips out to see us and exchange mini figs because they thought it was a cool outing to take with their kids. It’s been pretty neat to see it progress and develop and see that people in Portland are really enjoying it.”

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