For the businessman, builder and father, there is perhaps no better past time, nor passion that can perfectly fit all aspects of his life – like a tower of plastic bricks – than LEGO.

There are some tatler_tatler_stories that require throwing caution to the wind, abandoning all pretences and getting straight to the blunt question – “Why LEGO?”

“Because I like anything that has to do with building – it’s my passion,” says Azuan Arif Ariffin, quite simply, getting to the heart of what drives the people in our collector series.

Whether it’s an engineer who collects model trains, a career collector who hoards cigars or a couple who have made it their life’s goal to collect contemporary art, we’ve come to learn that no matter the eccentricity of said passion, the drive is often insatiable lest it be fulfilled.

As property division project director of Prima Group, Azuan takes his real estate seriously, be it real world skyscrapers, or LEGO world landmarks. Sitting in his office, surrounded by LEGO sets big and small, it’s easy to draw a straight line between his day job and his night one.

“I’ve been in the real estate line for the last 18-years, so building things is what I do,” he explains. “When it comes to LEGO – yes, it takes time to build, and sometimes it’s stressful – but it’s very satisfying when you finish and I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t impressed by LEGO, especially the big ones.”

Azuan isn’t wrong – the large showpieces hold my attention for long periods of time as my eyes comb over every little detail, partially amazed but mostly looking for the seams that remind my brain that I am looking at an assembly of small plastic bricks; the experience is a delight for my inner child, but a doozy for my adult mind.

But amassing the collection didn’t come without its incredibly sobering costs for Azuan. While smaller sets cost in the low hundreds, larger sets, and architectural ones in particular can balloon into the thousands. One that Azuan himself has his eyes on – a discontinued Taj Mahal that is 20 inches wide, and 16 inches tall – may well cost him up to RM15,000 when he gets it.

“LEGO isn’t a cheap past time, but if you enjoy it, then it’s worth it,” he clarifies.

“Some of the smaller ones take me about 1 or 2 hours; the bigger ones around 6 or 7 hours and others more than 10.”

Dollars and cents aside, Azuan has also invests another important and, for the most part, irreplaceable asset – time.

“Some of the smaller ones take me about 1 or 2 hours; the bigger ones around 6 or 7 hours and others more than 10 hours,” he reveals.

While many of the bigger assemblies are built over a period of several days, Azuan admits to having pulled off marathon stretches, completing large pieces within a day. Some builds also come with fewer instructions, requiring a higher degree of expertise and creativity, but ultimately taking up more time.

Many of his weekends are spent on the collection, but Azuan makes the most of his available time by spending some every other night building parts of the sets.

“As a family man, it’s not realistic to spend 12 hours straight on LEGO, so some days, when the kids are asleep, I put together one or two packets for one or two hours; little by little, before completing them on the weekend.”

With his collection constantly growing, Azuan comes to admit that neither finance nor time, restrict his collection as much as space, or rather, the lack of it does.

“I have around 10 boxes that I haven’t opened yet because I have nowhere to put them after they are built. Even right now I have LEGO all over my house,” he jokes, while giving new context to the pieces strewn around his office.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom for the jovial LEGO collector; quite the contrary. Azuan embraces the investments and sacrifice as a big part of the world of LEGO, one that he’s “prepared to go all the way” for, even when hit by the occasional, accidental destruction.

“I have accidentally broken some pieces before, mostly when I’m transporting them,” he admits with a smile. “I had one piece that slipped as I was carrying it; it fell and all came apart. I had to buy a new one, because at that point you can’t rebuild it; you don’t know which piece goes where and how they come together.”

 "[LEGO] keeps me home, to spend time with my family, and it’s something we can do together."

It comes to no surprise that his passion attracts a fair amount of naysayers who consider LEGO a toy and therefore best left to children, but Azuan divulges a sobering fact about the adult side to LEGO collection.

“Technically, you could buy LEGO and leave it in its box for 2 or 3 years, until the line discontinues, because that’s when the value will double.”

The RM15,000 Taj Mahal on Azuan’s shortlist cost only a fifth of the price when first released but has seen an exorbitant increase in value since its retirement. This, somewhat peculiar phenomenon led to a rise in resellers, who took to turning LEGO into a trade commodity.

“You used to be able to book in advance or buy many online. The resellers would then hold on to them for a while and sell them at a higher price for an immediate profit. But many outlets no longer allow advance bookings and only sell one set per person.”

But for someone who buys LEGO to build them, the monetary boon has little, if any, impact on Azuan’s collection. As he moves on from Star Wars and Avengers pieces, to more architectural ones, Azuan has passed the LEGO bug on to another member of his family.

“My youngest daughter has also started building LEGO,” he says with undeniable joy. “So I buy her the smaller pieces, while I build the bigger ones; then we will combine them. That’s one of the other things I enjoy about LEGO – it keeps me home, to spend time with my family, and it’s something we can do together.”

For the businessman, builder and father, there is perhaps no better past time, nor passion that can perfectly fit all aspects of his life – like a tower of plastic bricks – than LEGO.

Cherrie Chin channels her love for jewellery into finding precious gemstones, and designing her own pieces.

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