JMBricklayer Money Tree Building Block Set review – bring the legend home

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REVIEW – According to legend, the money tree signifies abundance, prosperity, and good luck.  If someone can grow and take care of such a tree, they will have good luck.  This is a new belief as far as legends go, having been started in the 1980’s after a truck driver first cultivated a money tree in Taiwan; today, this tree is popular with practitioners of Feng Shui.  The money tree (pachira aquatica) is native to central and South America where it can reach a height of 60 feet in its natural, swampy habitat.  If you want to grow your own money tree indoors, you can purchase a small one from Amazon or a local nursery.  If you find it challenging to keep plants alive, then you can build one using the new Money Tree set from JMBricklayer.

What is it?

The Money Tree (model 20008) is a LEGO-compatible building block set that features a set of intertwined money tree plants in a white pot on a brown stand.  This set contains 1000 pieces mostly in green, brown, and white.  The pieces are all smaller in size, and a few are similar to LEGO Technic pieces.  JMBricklayer’s motto is “Joy Makes Brilliance,” and their mission is to help builders “reap the rewards of their ideas.”

What’s in the box?

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  • 1000 pieces
  • A brick separator
  • A 59-page manual

Design and features

When it comes to the design of LEGO alternatives, there are a handful of questions that always need to be answered:

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Are they compatible with LEGO?  Yes, the Money Tree bricks are 100% compatible with LEGO’s bricks.

Are they of the same build quality?  They are very close to the same quality.  There is very little flex in the larger flat pieces, and the tolerances were close to those of LEGO.  These are good bricks.

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Do they fit tightly, or do they come apart easily?  These bricks fit together well, and I didn’t notice any tendency for them to come apart.

Are they cheaper in cost than LEGO?  Yes, this set is cheaper than similar plant sets from LEGO:

  • The Birds of Paradise (1173 pieces for $99.99) are 8.5 cents/piece.
  • The Orchid (608 pieces for $49.99) is 8.2 cents/piece.
  • The Bonsai Tree (878 pieces for $49.99) is 5.7 cents/piece.

In comparison, the Money Tree is only 4.5 cents/piece, making it anywhere from 22% to 48% cheaper.  It’s a good buy for the price.

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How do the instructions compare?  The Money Tree comes with a solid instruction book.  New pieces are highlighted in red or green, and the old pieces are fully colored.  Each major section is previewed, so that I have some sense of what I will be building next, a feature that I like.  At times the instructions included a top-down view that helped me get interior pieces in the right place.  These instructions were easy to follow, and fans of LEGO won’t have any problems with them.


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The set is built in two major sections, first the stand with the pot and second the tree, and the bags are all labeled with a “1” or “2” accordingly, making it easier to find the pieces needed to build.  This set comes with a brick separator.  This set builds from the bottom up, so the first thing to build is the plant stand, a very symmetrical construct made from dark brown bricks.

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As the top of this little table was being built, it was obvious that this was a design where very few studs would be showing, much like JMBricklayer’s Puppet Show set.

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The designer of this set spent a generous amount of time building out the details of the interior of the pot, even though they are not seen in the final product.  It uses the SNOT technique to provide a smooth surface for the pot exterior and provides a firm basis for attaching the plant.

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Finally, the pot itself was completed.  The only trouble I had was adding the four corner pieces, which are held in place with a pair of studs at the bottom.  It was an absolute pain to get these pieces to hold the white piece at the right angle, and I needed a knife to adjust them properly.  In a couple of places, the designer of this set is too clever, making it hard to build but nice-looking once finished.

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This set is really a Tale of Two Cities.  The bottom half is the best of times, a super-solid build that will never come apart, but the top half is the worst of times, a super-fragile build that is hard to get into place and hard to keep in place.  It’s just the nature of a plant like this, I think.  The core of this plant has a central trunk, which will be used to support the green stalks and leaves, surrounded by four larger trunks and four smaller ones.  After comparing what I’ve built to a real money tree, I see that I need to do a better job intertwining these trunks, an aesthetic that is preferred when this plant is grown indoors.

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All of the foliage is built along one long central pole.  Various pieces are used to jut the stems and leaves out from the center, and the pole sits atop the central trunk.  I had a few difficulties with these leaves.  One, there are lighter-colored green pieces and darker ones, and I cannot tell the difference in the manual, even when the two colors are literally side-by-side.  In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter much—it’s all green—though usually new growth is brighter and thus should be near the top.  JMBricklayer needs to adjust their printing to make it clear which is which.  Two, there are three pieces that slide along this central pole to get into place, and they are so tight while the leaves are so fragile that it’s nearly impossible to do.  Pieces kept falling off everywhere, and I kept putting them back on.  Three, if you look at a picture of a healthy Money Tree plant, the leaves spread out quite a bit.  They are a lot closer for this set, though I suppose I can work on spreading them out some.  Four, I think my set was missing one smaller round piece (step 78), so I substituted one of my own, as it’s a common piece.

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The final step is to add little gold clips with money bricks on them.  JMBricklayer’s site says that the symbolic currency exemplifies “the hope for a fruitful and prosperous future.”  Personally, I think they look a bit tacky, so I took them off and substituted some fairy lights instead.

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Yeah, that’s better, especially since the lights are powered by a USB connector and plugged into a smart outlet; with Apple’s HomeKit, they automatically come on every evening and then turn back off after a couple of hours.

What I like

  • A money tree that I never have to water
  • Polished design
  • Sturdy base and pot

What I’d change

  • Design a stronger central trunk
  • Differentiate green from dark green pieces

Final thoughts

This is a neat set.  The stand and the pot are just about perfect, a very solid build on which you could “grow” almost any plant.  The trunks and leaves are predictably less sturdy, but they do a commendable job looking like the real thing, which is not easy.  Overall, this set from JMBricklayer looks good, and whether you believe the legend about prosperity and good luck or not, it still makes a nice addition to a desk or shelf.

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By the way, I liked this set so much that I purchased a real money tree, albeit one that is a lot larger!

Price:  $49.99
Where to buyJMBricklayer’s online store (Use code: VIPGAD15 to save 15% expires 12/31/2023) and Amazon (Use code: VIPJUGAD15 to save 15% expires 11/9/2023)
Source: The sample for this review was provided by JMBricklayer.

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