Thursday, 31 March 2011

Lego Pirates Wave 1 1989 - 1991

The Pirate Sets of Wave 1
I am an avid Lego pirate fan, over the years I have swung between my love of both pirate and castle, but as of now the stars have aligned under the pirate obsession and I have decided to write about the sets of my youth (before I forget), I bought most of the sets from Lego pirates, though I was only 4 at the time (back in 1991), older Lego set were always on sale so I had most of the range.
This is an article over viewing all the available sets released in what I call the first wave of pirate, (check out my pirate history blog for more info).
The years reviewed are between 1989 and 1991, sadly no actual sets were released during 1990 (at least from my research) so this year will not be included. I have divided the sets between what I call impulse (very small sets), small (little bases or rafts with a few figs), medium (small ships, and small bases with one base plate) and large (large ships and bases with 2 base plates)
Sets from 1989
The first thing to note about all these sets is that they included a large number of new LEGO pieces, for example the pirate faces, the weaponry, the boats and the coins (which up until now had been yellow studs). So due to these facts the first year was a very exciting time.
Set Name = Buried Treasure 6235
Piece Count = 20
The first impulse set I will review from 1989 (and the first set I remember getting for my pirate collection) looks simple but is actually a fantastic set, it includes a pirate with his flag and weapons, but most exciting of all is the monkey and coins, I remember being very excited about these elements, they also give you a spade to bury the treasure, a beautiful little piece of extra detail.

Set Name = Harbour Sentry 6245
Piece Count = 25
The second Impulse set released was called the harbour sentry; this set came with an actual boat and cannon as well as a swell blue minifig and a full complement of weaponry (well a sword and pistol), also not to be overlooked the beautiful flag (not quite visible in the photo sadly). The hat that comes with it is also quite rare (released only in this set I believe) so overall the set is very nice. My only criticism of the set would be ironically the hat, no other blue minifig was released with this hat so that made it difficult to buy more than one of these set because otherwise the overall look of your blue army might be slightly damaged, but that is a very minor flaw.

Set Name = Pirate Mini Figures 6251
Piece Count = 33
The basic battle pack set, comes with a Wench (someone you want around on a long sea voyage), a Captain, a pirate and two Bluecoats. It also includes a reasonable number of weaponry, a parrot and a treasure chest. The only weak spot in this set is surprisingly the pirate captain, I feel that in general they included him in far too many sets and an extra pirate or blue coat (with backpack and shako) would have been better received.

Set Name = Castaway’s Raft 6257
Piece Count = 54
My favourite raft available from the Lego Company, what makes this set so nice is the fact that the raft is so well built it feels solid, like it could carry the pirates for weeks(how they would survive would be another question), the flags (which represent sails) have a nice tattered look, and the barrels on the bottom of the raft add a nice colour variation. I remember also being impressed with the map and the shark which was only available in larger sets at the time (that changed eventually).

Set Name = Shipwreck Island 6260
Piece Count = 71
I have a confession with this set, I never actually owned it, but that does not mean I cannot appreciate it from afar. This set was less exciting than the previous ones available (though still great), I feel that the problem with this set is due to the fact that the land is so small, the set includes a great deal including a palm tree and an awesome half barrel but it all feels a little squashed. However if anyone would to offer me one, I would be ecstatic so maybe I am being a little unfair. 

Set Name = Sabre Island 6265
Piece Count = 96
This set achieves what I feel the Shipwreck Island misses; the small base plate is less of an issue here the tower gives more room as does the boat, this set was a little bit more expensive than the Shipwreck Island but much better. Also it includes blue soldiers (which are great) and two flags (one of which is big). My personal opinion is that this is the best small set available for Lego pirates over the entire range.

Set Name = Forbidden Island 6270
Piece Count = 182
This set is the first land base for the pirate faction, it features all three male pirates available at the time and a blue prisoner (though why they let him keep his backpack I don’t know). The base plate is very nice as it is has water, sand and grass printed on it, the design of the base is reasonably solid and the set features every animal available for the pirate series (look out there is a monkey with a gun) it also features just enough palm tree leaves to make the island look quite tropical. My only criticism is actually not about this set(if you ignore the fact that the stairs go straight into water), but you may notice that the mast in the set looks like a ship mast, personally I really like the half barrel on top, it has a great crow’s nest feel to it, why didn’t Lego reuse this idea on any of their ships.

Set Name = Caribbean Clipper 6274
Piece Count =378
This ship is the curse of all pirates in the Lego world, the Caribbean Clipper, a great set and one of only three battle ships which were designed for someone other than the Pirate faction (until 2010). This ship is also the only set which includes the Sailor figure (three of them), the design is very nice, though let down somewhat by its lack of cabin, still if compared to some of the later ships it is fantastic, it even has two cannons (a feature lacking in many of the smaller ships). The ship also features an anchor, a brilliant flag, interesting mast design and it was the cheapest set which also featured the leader of the Imperial Soldiers, Governor Broadside.

Set Name = Eldorado Fortress 6276
Piece Count = 506
This set is arguably the best land base available in the Pirate theme, I was not sure whether to place this in the large or medium list, but due to its love and respect from all pirate fanatics I feel that it is a large set. The nice thing about this is the fact that it is swarming with minifigs. It features one commander, one officer and four (that’s right four) soldiers, this in itself is an instant army builder, problems with later faction released is that there was always too many officers and not enough of the basic soldier, with the blue faction and this set in particular this is not an issue. The set also feature two pirates to fight against the imperials (or attempt to breakout of the jail), overall this set is very strong, I don't even feel I need to point out how good the design of the base is, the two rowboats, the neat little dock out front(just look for yourself).

Set Name = Black Sea Barracuda 6285
Piece Count = 909
Now you are presented with what is seen by many as the greatest Pirate ship available, here we see the wench appear for the second time (the Captain for the fourth time) whilst we also see six other crew members, eight in a crew is a great number (only beaten by nine later on). The ship is immense, it is the only pirate ship not to feature an obvious pirate skull and crossbones’ on the sails,  we have naked (apparently) figurehead at the front, a monkey, an anchor, a ships wheel (one ship later failed to have one), a captain’s cabin and enough cannons to blow most opponents away. The whole set features no flaws, it is seen as the benchmark ship with which others will be judged against. It was so good it was even rereleased in 2002 as a Legends set.  Overall my most favourite of sets.

The Odd one out
Set Name = Pirate Comic 6255
Piece Count = 12
Also released in this initial glorious year for Lego was a comic, called Pirate Comic. It came with two minifigs and a few weapons and map, I have no strong feelings towards this release either way but feel it would be churlish not to include it.

 Overview of the year
The year of 1989 saw many new features not just for Pirates but for Lego as well, this year for the pirates saw two opposing factions, both had a nice large and small base, both had a great ship, both had a great impulse set, and this year also featured a quality battle pack. If you never owned a single set from any other year you would still own three of the most sought after sets from the pirate them and arguably two of the best.
This year is the benchmark other years shall be compared against.
Overview of year score 10/10
Sets from 1991
After a year’s hiatus with no new sets to stock the selves, Lego realised four new sets for 1991 (and one extra set as part of a value pack). This year’s releases still featured the Bluecoats against the Pirates, this year was to sadly be the last for the Bluecoat faction, but at least they received one of the nicest smaller bases available.

Set Name = Pirate Desert Island 1481 (US and Canada Only)
Piece Count = 21
Sadly again I never owned this set, it was only released in the USA and came as part of a value pack featuring 4 other small sets (picture also shown below). From what I see the set is again quite interesting, I believe that this is the first time a pot was included in a pirate set and we also get a shark and parrot. In old pirate tales when a pirate is marooned (on a desert Island) they are given one pistol with a single shot in it, as you can see in the picture our dear pirate friend has only got a pistol (no sword), this attention to detail is really nice, it is just a shame it was never released outside the USA.

Set Name = Renegade’s Raft 6234
Piece Count = 38
The Renegade’s Raft, I remember owning three of these simply for one reason only, the tricorn hat, for me I was always more excited by the blue pirate and his hat than I was by the pirate with the bandana, this was the first small set that let you pick up this guy, at the time that was great. Also this set came with two oars, now that may not sound like much but it was a great way to bulk out your spare parts (if something should go missing) and as the base of the raft is made of yellow circular bricks they always provided an adequate supply of cannon balls whenever you shoot one across the room and then could never find it again. Sadly the raft itself is not very good this impulse set feels a little weaker than the first one, it's a nice idea but a tad dull.

Set Name = Broadsides Brig 6259
Piece Count = 68
The smallest set of the year with Bluecoats included, this set was a great way to build up your Fortress or Lock Up, because it came on a grey baseplate you could simple stick in on some black bricks and place it in an available spot next to the bigger bases. I never liked this set as a standalone, but saw it more of an add on to build up previous sets, but looking back it is very nice and contained, still I prefer Sabre Island, though the brig was just over half the cost so maybe if I campare two brigs for one island the brig starts to look alot better (six minfigs compared to three, but still no cannon, boat or large flag).

Set Name = Lagoon Lock Up 6267
Piece Count = 193
This set is often seen as a legendary set from the initial pirate range, a lot of people like the small building on the left which was seen by many as a tavern. This set also features an almost unique minifig, (he is the pirate in the jail) his name was Will and he was also featured in the pirate comic, he basically consisted of an all red pirate with an old classic smiley face. This set slipped me by when I was young but I picked one up off Bricklink (god bless Bricklink) just over a year ago, since then it has sat on my shelf (where only the best sets or my Moc's stay), it is such a nice set and offers variety from what came before. Also please note that this was the first set to come with a red sail further adding variety to your little jolly boats.

Set Name = Rock Island Refuge 6273
Piece Count = 381
The Largest set released in 1991 is also the largest pirate base available, it featured every single available minfig from the pirate range except one (Governor Broadside), this alone shows how much effort Lego put into creating variety in there early sets. Another example of this is shown with the inclusion of the second smaller base plate, very little is actually attached to this plate but its inclusion make the whole set look a lot more together. Also featured in this set is the first and only small blue sail and a nice pirate raft (though not as good as the Castaway’s Raft 6257 in 1989). The structure to this set is not quite as good if compared to the Eldorado Fortress but if we consider that this place is being manned by rough Pirates and not disciplined Soldiers then the differences make a lot of sense, it is meant to look a little delipadated. Overall though I feel that this set is just missing that little extra detail that made other sets great, the structure is not as exciting as Eldorado Fortress, which in turn make the set less engaging from a construction viewpoint, it just lacked that little something. Still though that is not to say the set is bad in any way it just had the potential to be more.

Overview of the Year
This year saw the addition of one very good set and a couple of nice extra army builders, if looked at on its own then the lack of ships could clearly work against it, but if considered as a bonus pack to 1989 then it is viewed in a my better light. The pirate’s changed their base of operation to a much more secure Island (though not as cool as the Fortress the Bluecoats get) and the Bluecoats received a nice place to drink and lock up any less important pirate. At this point in time both the factions where very evenly matched, the pirates might have had a bigger ship but the Imperials had a better collection of land bases, I believe this is the reason why these years are looked back on with such fondness, Lego didn’t sway your decision over who to route for and who to collect a larger number of, it left that up to you. At this point in time there was still the potential to have a small pirate army working as the underdog against a larger Imperialist faction; sadly this freedom was soon to change.

Overview on Year Score 7/10 (good sets just not enough of them)
Overview on Wave 1 9.5/10 (the best wave yet)
On the links below we have the following waves and a look back at the overview of all waves

 Overview of Waves

Wave 2

Wave 3

Wave 4

Wave 5


  1. How many comics do you posses? Didn't even know they existed...


  2. Lego only released the one comic from this range I believe, but they created alot more over the years including a few now, just check on amazon and you will see a few.

    This should be one of them


  3. Great post really brings back memories of my childhood.

    I have a weak spot for the pirate’s first wave. I got the bigger sets for birthday and Christmas at the time and bought the smaller sets from my allowance. I can still recall the many times I played with the ships, I had 2 sleeping bags unzipped on the ground as sea, put the two bases on each side and used the fire away at the ships. LOL.

    Even during a big part of my dark ages I kept 6274, 6276, 6285 and 6273 together while the rest of my LEGO was stored away. At some moment I had to take them apart. I've been back into LEGO for quite a few years now but just got really into LEGO pirates again last year with the new wave, which aren’t as good as the classics. I rebuild and MOD 6274+6273. Upon on reading your post I couldn't resist the urge to try and bring back BSB to live. Started looking for the parts.

  4. Im pleased to see you liked the post, my favorite wave is the first too,
    its funny but i left my dark age last year as well, when I saw the new pirate sets.

    go luck finding rebuilding the BSB it deserves to live.

  5. great memories...
    me and a pal had pretty much every set between us and combined the lot a few time.. hours of endless fun..
    we also combined (placing them close to each other on some yellow painted bits of wood) broadside's brig, sabre island and lagoon lock up... it gave a nice feel of a an other blue coat outpost. so good..

  6. Thanks Tunafish

    it was me and my cousin that did exactly the same, I had all the little sets and he had Eldorado Fortress, I was envious of that for ages, but a few years ago I picked one up myself (thanks ebay) and I still love them all.


  7. Just wanted to say I love reading your blog! I don't always agree with your opinions, but even so, I feel you do a great job at thoroughly analyzing the sets and factions. Keep up the great work!

  8. Thanks Petey its great to hear that, I wouldn't want people to agree with me all the time as I like a spirited debate. I will go back to pirates at some point and look at the sets in factions like I am with the castle sets.

    Its just a question of when.


  9. My favorite memory of this era of Legos was going to Rich's Department Store in West Lebanon, New Hampshire (not to be confused with the Georgia based Rich's Department Store, this was the New England chain that went bankrupt in 1997), I can still picture the entire setup of the store two decades later, when you would come to the Lego aisle there was a MASSIVE hanging poster overhead of the initial Pirates wave. I can remember scouring through all of the Legos until I looked at every last one, playing Streets of Rage on the Sega Genesis kiosk, the old hum of the swinging electric doors (instead of sliding), the aisle of running overhead ceiling fans........where have those days gone?

  10. thanks, a list of all the BEST ever Lego sets (in my opinion)

  11. Just dug out all my old Lego from the loft. Turns out I have every pirate/imperial set from 89-91 bar the US only release. Kindled some very happy memories - was a truly golden era of pirate sets. Great blog.

    1. Exact same situation except I'm missing Renegade's Raft. Looks like i have a purchase to make!

    2. Hi Steve I'm trying to recreate the alternative build for Eldorado fortress set 6276. It's shown in the photo on the front page of the building instructions. Do you have any idea whether there ever are/were instructions for this? Many thanks

    3. Great work. I enjoyed reading your blog :) So many good memories...


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  13. I just purchased 2 bags of jumbled pieces from a second hand store. If I sent you a few pics of key pieces could you help me identify which set(s) I may have?

  14. Hey, does anyone know where I can find a picture of the back of the box for set #6273? I want to make one of the alternate builds, but the pcture I have isn't very helpful and I don't have the box.

  15. Thank you for your interesting and informative blog. I have enjoyed reading it and appreciate the work you have put into it. Here is some relevant information for you to review .
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  16. Just found these blogs, and they are wonderful.

    For the Harbor Sentry guy and his odd hat, I always viewed him as second in command to the Governor/Admiral. That way I could split the blue coats into two forces and give each a unique leader, 2/3 officers, and some soldiers.

  17. I am owning Shipwreck Island (6260). Interested? -> box-for-spam(at)

  18. Great work. I enjoyed reading your blog :) So many good memories...