Stickers are non-brick items that are included a large number of sets. They are normally packed in the box/bag by themselves, like the instructions, unless the instructions are packaged in a special cardboard-backed sleeve. Then, the stickers are included in the sleeve to keep them in the best condition.
Stickers, as their name suggests, are thin paper or plastic shapes, upon which a design is pressed or printed. The reverse side of the sticker is covered with a glue substance which allows them to stick to ABS plastic, the kind that LEGO bricks are made of. Stickers, when packaged in a set, are affixed to a wax paper backing which allows them to be taken off without tearing or losing their stick, while keeping the glue dry and free of dust and other substances.
Stickers come in all shapes and sizes. They can be printed with nearly any design imaginable, and have been a set staple for as long as they have been in use. Some are printed with glow-in-the-dark designs, and the theme UFO even had special designs that were invisible until heat was applied.
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Stickers have been used on sets for decades, providing more detailed and accurate designs than LEGO bricks could ever hope to accomplish. Some themes, such as Exo-Force, were known for their extreme quantities of stickers on nearly every surface able to take them.
When stickers were first released, they used a different backing than they do today. This backing, after being exposed to sun for long periods of time or from mere age, would peel and crack, and become nearly impossible to remove. This was a serious quality defect on the part of LEGO, and they came out with a new substance that was slightly thicker, less resistant to peeling and cracking, and help designs better. This improved quality to a large degree.
Some LEGO fans are extremely antagonistic towards sticker usage, due to their tendency to peel, crack, and show bubbles when applied. This has led some to completely boycott stickers, and refuse to apply them to their sets, preferring to leave the bricks as they are. Many people prefer that instead of stickers, printed bricks are a better, and non-corruptible, alternative to stickers. Others, however, disagree, saying that stickers allow one to choose whether or not to apply it.
See List of LEGO Abbreviations for complete description
STAMP, or Stickers Across Multiple Parts, was another controversy right at the beginning of the appearance of stickers. In sets, some stickers would call to be applied across one or more pieces, locking them together until the sticker was removed. In later years, sets have come with less instances of STAMP as originally, although it still happens on occasion.
- Few themes, among them Architecture, contain no stickers whatsoever in any of their sets.