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Steiff’s Sole Foray into Official Olympic Mascots: Waldi the Dachshund

by Rebekah Kaufman (07/30/12).

Steiff’s Olympia Waldi or Olympic Waldi, is Steiff’s interpretation of the 1972 Munich Olympic mascot. The colorful canine is the only official Olympic mascot Steiff produced for the games.

Every enthusiast has extra-special items in their collections—certain items that just take a gold medal for their rarity, design or the story behind them. Here is one of those treasures from my hug of more than 700 vintage Steiff collectibles.

The item:
Most Steiff collectors would jump through hoops—or in this case Olympic rings—for this wacky and wonderful dachshund.

What we have here is Steiff’s Olympia Waldi or Olympic Waldi dachshund. He is Steiff’s interpretation of the 1972 Munich Olympic mascot logo. This colorful canine is 25 cm. tall and 29 cm. long back to front, not including his 15-cm curved tail. He is made from dralon, a synthetic plush material that was very common on Steiff play animals of the time. He is brightly and happily colored with a teal head and tail; cornflower blue ears and rear; lime green chest and carriage; and rings of yellow, green, teal and orange around his belly. His face is detailed with plain, shiny black-plastic eyes and a simple black hand-embroidered nose. He is hard-stuffed with excelsior, which crunches and crackles when it is squeezed.

This dog mascot was made at the time as a toy for children. Given that, it is amazing that he is in very good to excellent condition and retains his full ID and more. Like the vast majority of Steiff products from the mid-1920s onward, he sports a branded button in the ear, numbered ear tag and chest tag. However, Waldi has an additional ID—an official two-sided blue hangtag. The front has the Olympic rings and the overall logo from the 1972 games, a geometric spiral, 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.”

According to Steiff records, this dralon mascot was produced in 25 in 1971 only. From 1971 through 1972, Steiff also made a 3D Olympic Waldi puzzle, which was made from wood and matched Waldi’s bright color scheme.

His History and Design Legacy:
Steiff has been making these types of specialty items for more than 100 years. In the early 1900s, Steiff began partnering with manufacturers and well-known brands to create their logos, characters and trademarks as Steiff products. For example, in 1913, Steiff was asked to create “Bibendum” out of felt in two sizes for a company in France. “Bibendum,” or “Bib”, is the Michelin Tire Man!

Waldi is 25 cm. tall and 29 cm. long back to front, not including his 15-cm curved tail.

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 wayfinding signs for the athletes around Munich’s Olympic village. 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—the inventor of the five-ways jointed Teddy bear still so beloved today.

Steiff has made commemorative bears for several Olympic Games in the not-so-distant past. These would feature the Olympic or mascot logo embroidered on a coat, paw pad or accessory. However, other than Waldi, it appears that Steiff has very limited experience producing actual Olympic mascots on a commercial scale. The company attempted to produce a series of commemorative items for the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Games based on the event’s “Roni Raccoon” logo. However, for business or licensing reasons, these were never put into production and only a handful of very rare prototypes remain of this cancelled project.

The front of the official Olympic tag. The bottom symbol is the official logo of the 1972 Munich Games.

The back of the Olympic tag. It reads “The official mascot of the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.”

Why He’s So Special to Me:
I recently attended the 2012 Steiff Sommer Festival in Giengen, Germany. This event, held annually on the Steiff factory campus, celebrates all things Steiff and attracts collectors and enthusiasts from all over the world. The long weekend featured displays, tours, a community pavilion, music, food, a high-end auction, and of course, a large sales room chocked full of both new and vintage Steiff treasures.

I entered the salesroom with a wish list in hand; a full roster of items I hoped to find for my friends and colleagues who could not attend the event in person. I stopped at the first booth and had a great deal of luck. I was able to check off a half dozen items from my list. I then proceeded to make my way around the rest of the first floor of the sales room display but could not find a treasure for myself… yet!

I then took the stairs to the second floor of the vendor’s area. I wandered through a few more booths but nothing really struck my fancy. As I turned the corner to the second row of displays—there he was! I could not believe my eyes. An all-but-perfect 1972 Steiff Waldi Olympic mascot! And with all IDs, to boot. A most delightful and unanticipated surprise. Although he does not exactly fit into my collecting focus, I knew that, given his rarity, I would probably never have the opportunity to add him to my collection again. I pulled the trigger and purchased Waldi and am so glad I did. He has ended up being the perfect souvenir of a dream trip to a dream place.

A girl plays with Waldis in a Olympics publicity photo from 1972.

The evolution of the Waldi Olympic mascot from the design studio.

His Value:
Steiff items in dralon were usually designed as playthings or less-expensive commercial products and not as collectibles, so examples lick this Waldi in very good or excellent condition with all IDs—including the special Olympic hangtag—are extremely rare. This particular design is of special interest due to its ties to a famous—or in this case infamous—global sporting event.

As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it, and these sorts of Steiff rarities with historical significance will always generate interest and will without a doubt appreciate over time. It is my best guestimate that this Steiff dralon Waldi Olympic mascot in the United States today, in very good to excellent condition with all standard and Olympic IDs, values in the $500 to $750 range.

Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.

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