It was Germany’s fastest-selling Playmobil toy ever, scooping the miniature farm animals, pirates, veterinary clinics and more. The hot seller? A perky Martin Luther action figure, wielding a Bible in one hand and quill pen in the other.
More than 34,000 Luther figures were sold in 72 hours in February, marking a record for the German toy manufacturer.
The mini Martins hit the market as part of the 500th anniversary celebration of the Protestant Reformation in 2017, according to a news release by the Nuremberg Convention and Tourist Office, which partnered with Playmobil to market the figure.
Little Luther “can be an ambassador of the Reformation throughout the world,” said Tourism Director Yvonne Coulin in the release. The release said the German National Tourist Board also supported the toy’s development and “will use the figure worldwide.”
It’s pretty heady stuff for a barely 3-inch figure.
Luther was a former German monk and theologian who was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for his criticism of Rome and its practice of selling of “indulgences” for the forgiveness of sins, among other things.
He allegedly posted 95 “theses” outlining his critique of Catholic practices to a chapel door in Wittenberg, a move considered a catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
Although the 95 theses aren’t included in the tiny packaging box with Martin, there is a mini biography of Luther and a map of Germany showing all 36 places he preached.
While the historic Luther was not exactly known as a barrel of fun, the Playmobil Luther wears a sweet smile and cherubic face. The tiny Bible he carries is written in German, pointing to one of Luther’s then-radical contributions to Christianity — the translation of the Bible into a language more accessible to ordinary people than Latin.
The next batch of Martin Luther toys won’t be available until at least the end of April, Playmobil has said. Even then, most will be sold at tourist gift shops in Germany, where the others were grabbed off the shelves.
But if the sheer anticipation of waiting for a handheld Martin Luther is too much, fans can vicariously participate in the thrill of opening this action figure, thanks to a YouTube video recently posted by a young woman showing herself unwrapping one of the precious toys and its accessories.
For the truly desperate, one mini Martin figure is currently up for bidding on eBay. Bidding reached $48 by Monday.
All the excitement has been an unexpected boom for Nuremberg’s tourist industry.
Writes the Nuremberg mayor: “I hope that the Martin Luther figure will support worldwide interest in Nuremberg’s exciting exhibits this year.”