Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Steiff Dog Puzzle Of Olympic Proportions

In the mood for a little Steiff puzzler?  Than take a look at this mysterious wooden Steiff dog!  Steiffgal just had the pleasure of welcoming him into her Steiff hug, but does admit he is really quite different than most things typically produced by the Steiff company these days.  So let's give this a real Olympic effort and learn about his world-class history and background.

It's easy to color your world with this 17 piece standing Steiff puzzle pup.  What we have here is called "Olympic Waldi," and was made by Steiff in 1971 through 1972.  Waldi came in this size only (officially 15 cm) and was packaged in a white cardboard box with a partially "see through" top. Waldi was manufactured in honor of the 1972 Olympics in Munich; this darling dachshund was the official mascot of these games.  

No need to jump through rings for the details of this colorful canine.  Waldi is 5.5" tall and 15" long back to front, including his long curved tail. He is made from solid wood; his body is joined together by one long green plastic straw; his head and ears are attached via this same simple joining technique. A close up of his construction is pictured to the left. He is brightly and happily colored with a teal head and tail; cornflower blue ears and rear; lime green chest; and rings (a loose interpretation of the Olympic rings) of yellow, green, teal and orange around his belly. His face is detailed with plain, simple black dot eyes.  In terms of ID, Waldi somewhat surprisingly does not have a Steiff button, or any Steiff branding at all, in his ear.  On one side of his chest is a white Steiff bear faced logo with the word "Spielzeug" (translates from the German to "toy") and on the other side the official logo of the 1972 Olympic games, a geometric spiral, and the Olympic rings.

Olympic Waldi was one of two "official" items the company produced for the 1972 Olympic games.  Steiff also made a 9" tall and 17" long version of Olympic Waldi in dralon, a synthetic plush material that was very common on Steiff play animals of the time. Dralon Olympic Waldi is pictured here on the left along with Wooden Olympic Waldi for comparison.  As you can see, both dogs are about the same length, from nose to tail.  However, Dralon Waldi is almost twice as tall as Wooden Waldi.

The two dogs have other obvious, and not so obvious, differences as well. The dralon model has simple black button eyes, a hand embroidered nose and mouth, and is hard stuffed with excelsior.  Dralon Olympic Waldi shares somewhat similar coloration as his cousin Wooden Olympic Waldi.  However, unlike Wooden Olympic Wally, Dralon Olympic Waldi does indeed have "traditional" Steiff branding, including a button, yellow ear flag, and chest tag.  Dralon Olympic Waldi also has an additional ID—an official two-sided blue hangtag. The front has the Olympic rings and the overall logo from the 1972 games, while the back has the words “Das offizielle Maskottchen der olympischen Spiele 1972 in Munchen” and the Steiff logo. The German translates roughly to “The official mascot of the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.”  The blue tag from the dralon version is pictured here on the left.

Why wood - er, would - the company make a wooden Olympic mascot when they are best known for their plush and mohair creations?  Steiff actually also has a lesser known, albeit very long and robust history of creating wooden items and toys. The first wooden items appeared around 1910 and were mostly accessories for the Teddy bears, animals, and dolls in the line.  Then in the late 19-teens and early 1920's, Steiff began producing large numbers of wooden items - in part because mohair and other softer materials were in short supply post World War l.  These treasures included block sets; wooden characters on rocking bases and wooden wheels; building sets; trains; pull wagons; and animal-themed wagons - including designs based on popular characters of the time.  (The photo on the left, from Steiff superfans Jenny and Will Frankhouser, shows great examples of early Steiff wooden toys including a go cart, scooter, and pull wagon.) Post war, wooden toys became much less prominent in the line; animal pull toys were manufactured through the 1970's but their designs were far less detailed and interesting than their pre-war cousins. Wooden Olympic Waldi, produced in the early 1970's, was perhaps the last item of note in this long run of wooden toy production.

The first modern Olympics were held in 1896 in Greece. However, it wasn’t until 1968 that the games had “official mascots” such as Waldi. Waldi was designed by Otto Aicher, a German graphic artist, who also designed the overall branding and wayfinding signs for the athletes around Munich’s Olympic village. You can read all about his great Olympic design work here.  Aicher chose the dachshund, which is quite popular across Germany, as he felt the breed represented the attributes required for athletes—resistance, tenacity and agility. It is an interesting coincidence that dachshunds were also a favorite among early members of the Steiff family, including Richard Steiff.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Olympic Waldi dogs has been worthy of a gold medal for you.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more!   

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