Friday, January 31, 2014

Going For The Gold With A "Could Have Been" Steiff Olympic Mascot

Like many people all over the world, Steiffgal's got the Sochi Olympics on her mind! After all, what's not to enjoy about watching world-class sport competition, the pageantry of it all, and hearing the life stories behind some of the athletes? It's also very interesting to take a look at the Olympic mascots that have been the face of goodwill behind the games over the years. The 2014 Sochi games are represented by the happy trio of a polar bear, snow leopard, and a big white bunny - and are the first mascots decided by popular vote. But you know that the idea of a "logo" to represent the summer and winter games is a relatively new concept, starting only in 1968?

Despite its tradition for creating special edition pieces for important events and occasions, Steiff has made surprisingly few licenced Olympic related souvenir items over the years. The best-known one is Olympic Waldi, who was the mascot for the 1972 summer games in Munich. He was made in a plush and wooden version, and both are highly collectible today. These collectibles are pictured here on the left. But there was another Olympic Steiff close call just a few years later, in 1980. Here's that story! 

The world "crossed the pond" for the 1980 Winter Olympics, which were held in Lake Placid, New York. The mascot for these games was Roni the Raccoon. Roni was designed by artist Donald Moss, and inspired by the appearance of the hats and goggles used by many athletes participating in the winter games. Roni was named after the Adirondack mountain range, which were the mountains on which the competitions took place. 
Based on their previous success with Olympic Waldi just a few years prior, Steiff did give it their best in an attempt to get a license to create Roni mascots. According to Steiff records and Dee Hockenberry's Steiff Bears and Other Playthings Past and Present...

"In 1978 and 1979, Steiff, through their US representative, made presentations to the American Olympic Committee in order to obtain a license to make 1980 Olympic souvenirs. The prototypes were made incorporating the Lake Placid mascot and Olympic logo. Although the samples were attractive, an official license was never granted."

Steiff proposed an 11 inch standing plush version of Roni, as well as zipper top handbags featuring the soon to be famous raccoon. You can see these items here on the left; the images are from Dee Hockenberry. Neither were created, and it is assumed that the only a handful of samples of these items are tucked away in the company's archives. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of these "could have been..." Steiff Lake Placid Roni Olympic souvenirs 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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