Premium Color vs. Firsts and Seconds
Color Changes - When mature trees are harvested, various enzymes may change color; the natural chemicals in the wood "developing" in the heat of the kiln. In the end, the dried lumber shows numerous streaks and dark spots.
Two Classes of Color - Our Hard Maple Blocks are all made the same way, at the same time, in the same sizes, with the same sanding and care. But some of the blocks are prettier than others. We loosely regard them as being composed of two classes of color: (1) Firsts, and (2) Seconds (there is no clear cut dividing line). When we make our Premium Sets we select only Firsts with the most even grain and color; what remain are the Firsts and Seconds composed of both types. We give a discount of about 10% for Firsts and Seconds. Many people who buy them wonder what the difference was as they are very similar. The difference is color only.
Which to Buy - Which should you buy? Here's my best answer: in 6-12 months you may not be able to tell the difference. Blocks get a lot of rough play and they show lots of marks and stains after a time. I think you should buy Firsts and Seconds. Worst case - one block is so ugly you throw it away. This is what wood really looks like and the blocks are exactly the same otherwise. In short order you probably won't notice. But if color is really important to you, don't listen to me - buy premium blocks. The difference in price isn't that great. For about 10% more you get a more creamy, even color.
Here is a Premium Base A Set in all Firsts
Here is the Same Set in Firsts and Seconds