Forgotten Treasures: LEGO Star Wars ZipBins

Whether you accidentally stepped on a LEGO brick, an important piece got sucked up in the vacuum cleaner, it’s road trip time and the back seat is covered in loose bricks, or you’re about to enter Spring cleaning mode, there are moments in every LEGO Star Wars fan’s life when a good storage solution is high on the wants list.

Once upon a time, in those heady days at the start of the second decade of the new Millennium, when LEGO and Star Wars could be successfully combined into any kind of product, a small start-up company based out of a business estate in a far-flung suburb of Chicago fulfilled the need with a neat-oh solution.

It was in a necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention moment when Wayne Rothschild’s desire to keep his son’s LEGO bricks contained – rather than spread out around the living room – caused him to bump on the idea of a storage bin that could be unzipped to create a play area, and then zipped back up to make a storage bin.

ZipBin® storage originated when my inventive 10-year-old son, Max, and I put our heads together for some true “out-of-the-box” problem solving. Like many boys, Max loves plastic building blocks. And he likes to dump them on the floor-CRASHHH!! Of course, I loved to see Max play, but I groaned when I heard that loud mess of blocks spilling everywhere. Neither Max nor I liked cleaning up all those little pieces.

Inspired by our problem, we thought creatively about how to solve it until… what if Max’s toy bin unzipped to a play mat and zipped back up, capturing his toys? That would take the work out of having fun. It would be neat! And that’s the name we chose for the company – Neat-Oh!® – that would introduce ZipBin® storage to the world…

Source: Neat-Oh.com

From this simple concept the ZipBin was born, and Rothchild – along with business partner Dee Farrell – set up Neat-Oh! International, LLC in 2005 and began producing their first ZipBins to help keep household floors clear of farmyard animals, toy cars, soldiers, and dinosaurs.

Their growing success and the obvious popularity of LEGO Star Wars – perhaps with a nudge in the right direction from a now teenage Max – saw Neat-Oh! produce their first licensed LEGO products which they premiered at the International Toy Fair in New York, before releasing the selection of six Star Wars cross-over ZipBins to retail, in 2011.

(Photo credit: dirtyrottenscoundrel.com)

Packaged in the Clone Wars brand-compliant livery that all Star Wars licensees sported at the time, Neat-Oh’s LEGO Star Wars ZipBins had eye-catching graphics that not only enticed the consumer but made it clear that the storage box was more than just a bin for LEGO bricks.

Coming in a range of sizes that could hold a few hundred to a thousand LEGO bricks, each ZipBin had detailed imagery of core Star Wars minifigures and spaceships – particularly the heavily detailed Millennium Falcon – on the outside and printed play environments on the inside to encourage children to contain their enthusiasm within the bonds of the folded out mat, making clean-up quicker (and far less hazardous for the unshoed foot). A few even sported elastic straps to secure LEGO Star Wars minifigures for the jump to lightspeed!

Praised for being good value for money and durable on plenty of parenting blogs, their wipe-down interiors meant that food and drink spillages were easily dealt with and the sturdy zipper made sure that there weren’t any other kinds of disasters.

NOA1433XX ZipBin Toy Box & Playmat

Starting with the simplest form, the ZipBin Toy Box & Playmat was a square mat that unfolded once the lid was removed. Decorated with random characters from the Original Trilogy, its printed interior was an isometric hanger that was very reminiscent of The Hunt For R2-D2 video game, released in 2009. The graphics weren’t all that great and the packaging was more enticing than the product. To return it to a state where it was a storage bin required a level of skill that any motorist who still used paper maps would recall. Lacking any zippers to hold it closed, it was only the presence of the semi-rigid lid that kept the contents in place.

NOA1435XX ZipBin Battle Bridge Storage Toy Case

This time including the zipper that Neat-Oh! had built the ZipBin brand on, this easy-to-roll-out play mat depicted a ship’s deck and hanger. Lacking any frivolous imagery, it presented a great play environment for a child to act out skirmishes between clone troopers and battle droids. Once the battle was over the sides could be folded up and secured with an elastic toggle and the aforementioned zippers. A handle on the top allowed for easy postage.

NOA1436XX ZipBin TIE Fighter Storage Case

Cleverly emulating the form of Darth Vader’s personal TIE Fighter, this ZipBin looked like it was a launch tube! With zips at each end, and velcro holding down the middle, this could be quickly rolled out for play. Depicting a hanger bay and two side chambers, its main feature – and longest section – was the Death Star trench. Being a narrow and long playmat meant that loose pieces had to be carefully piled up at one end, making closure a little tricky for small hands.

NOA1471XX ZipBin Millennium Falcon Minifigure Case

The smallest of the line, this Millennium Falcon-formed storage bin could hold up to 200 bricks and had pockets for a whopping 23 minifigures. Decorated on the outside with the LEGO-ized detailing of Han Solo’s famous spaceship, the interior was printed with a semi-correct floorplan. The zip-around lid made this ZipBin one of the most secure, and the shoulder strap made it comfortable to carry.

NOA1492XX ZipBin Millennium Falcon Messenger Bag

Virtually identical to its little brother, this satchel was a third bigger than the minifigure case. What it lacked in elastic hooks for minifigures, it gained in extra capacity to store loose bricks – up to 500 (and making it the second-largest in the line-up) according to Neat-Oh!. Despite the trade-off, it was the most popular of all the LEGO Star Wars ZipBins, and – like the lesser version – it had a shoulder strap.

NOA1565XX ZipBin Death Star Transforming Toybox

Saving the largest for last, this storage box could hold an incredible 1000 bricks! Shaped like the Death Star, it was the only LEGO Star Wars ZipBin to have its exterior decorated with photos of actual sets, with 10143 Death Star II in the background while 7146 TIE Fighter and 6212 X-wing Fighter around it. The raised enclosure of its sides meant that LEGO bricks stayed in a limited area, and the interior print – which confusingly showed the original Death Star – invited play. Arriving at the end of 2011 and its popularity meant that it had a second production run in 2012, and can be found with tags depicting the Darth Maul graphics used for the release of the 3D version of The Phantom Menace.

Check out all the facts, figures, and details of the full ZipBin line in our database:

Intended to make tidying up easier, inventive parents also used them for lunchboxes or diaper bags with fold-out, easy-to-clean surfaces, caddies for LEGO building instruction booklets, as well as school satchels.

While very popular at the time, this was the only assortment of LEGO Star Wars ZipBins produced, and the demise of Neat-Oh! in 2018 effectively ended this kind of tie-in merchandise.

Distributed widely through North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand, these were stocked in such numbers that they were available long after their retail debut, and nowadays they can be purchased through eBay.com with ease – often for less than their original MSRP.

Entertainment Earth

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