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The mysterious German 6661 Mobile TV Studio Set...
Not all LEGO mysteries involve old LEGO sets. Some newer sets also are shrouded in mystery and intrigue. One set is the 6661 Mobile TV Studio set of 1989. This set had a worldwide distribution, and it would be just another middling Town System set, were it not for one very intriguing fact... there is a very rare German variation on this set!
Some German LEGO collectors have had the rare good fortune to open their regular boxed set (with regular instructions).... and found that the 2 1x4x3 blue truck panels didn't have "TV" printed on the panels... but the letters "WDR". This appears to have happened on some sets in Northwest Germany.... near the city of Cologne.
Well it seems that WDR stands for WEST DEUTSCHE RUNDFUNK... the name of a regional German TV station. How WDR got onto the panels of some of the sealed 6661 sets was a mystery that German collector Jan Katanek first brought to my attention about a year ago.
Here is the box of the 6661 Mobile TV Studio set... and the instructions... (images courtesy of Jan K.)
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I Emailed my contact at the Billund Archives, and she found no records of this "WDR" edition of the 6661 Mobile TV Studio Set. So she contacted the German LEGO Marketing Department, and they checked their records and also could not find any info on this set. So they were questioning whether this was done by TLG?
Well upon inspection of the panels and sealed cellophane bags, I am convinced that this was indeed "an inside job". I don't think that another company would have done such a professional job of this. So that just deepens the mystery.... (more to come)...
I think that someone at WestDeutsche Rundfunk, headquartered in Cologne, must have had a "North Sea Ferry ride" type of encounter with a TLG executive (like was done so often in the 1950s, when the contacts made during those business encounters incubated future LEGO introductions/endeavors)... this person probably picked up the phone and said "Hey Ole... remember me from the business conference? Can I get a special run of a few hundred WDR 6661 sets produced and shipped to Cologne?"
Such an encounter would likely have bypassed both the official TLG Archives knowledge, as well as the local country sales department. Although such types of encounters seem unlikely... since TLG is a privately held company... such under the table encounters were more likely than most at TLG would like to admit.
Again... this is just my hypothesis for the existence of this special set that may only have en existing population of perhaps a few hundred sets... and one that folks would have to open a MISB set to determine! But these type of anomalies is what makes collecting LEGO sets and varieties so fun!!
The panels of that truck go for over $100 each... I can see these "WDR" panels easily selling for such a price... once this rare variation becomes more well known...
I'm adding a new chapter to my collectors guide on "LEGO Anecdotes".... stories like these about LEGO sets and parts of the past (and present)... that go begging to be told. I've got about 50 anecdotes like this one that I'm putting together into a single chapter. So much of LEGO history has been lost with the retirement and passing of LEGO employees. Much of what I have rediscovered I would like to save for present and future collectors.
The TLG data is lacking in many of the licensee LEGO products. This is true for the Norway licensee.... Svein Strømberg & Co. of Oslo (1953-61), the Sweden early licensee Geas Konstharts of Gislaved Sweden (1950-55), The Iceland licensee Reykjalundur of Reykjavik (1955-77), the USA licensee Shwayder Bros. (Samsonite) of Loveland Colorado (1961-72), the Canada licensee Samsonite of Canada of Stratford Ontario (1962-85), and the Britain/Ireland/Australia licensee Courtaulds Corp. (British LEGO Ltd.) of Wrexham Wales (1960-92).
After 1992 the worldwide LEGO license was back in TLG's hands...
WDR (West Deutsch Rundfunk) TV Station in northwest Germany, headquartered in Cologne, was 1/2 of a larger TV station that split in two in 1955.
WDR started broadcasting on Jan. 1, 1956.
So the 6661 Mobile TV Studio Set, which was first released in 1989, was a nice set to make for a 35th Anniversary keepsake for the 1991 Anniversary date.
Here is the box for both versions...
Well WDR executives wanted a quick anniversary souvenir... and one of them saw the 6661 TV version in a toy store. A few calls from WDR executives to some LEGO executives, and a batch of the "TV" panels were redone with "WDR" over the "TV" printing on the 1x4x3 blue panels (you can see the overprint)...
These new panels were sealed into the inner polybag of the set...
And the end result was a 6661 Mobile TV Studio with the German WDR logo on it...
Since this was done as a rush job, neither the instructions, nor the box top were changed, and unfortunately neither the Billund Archive/Collections, nor the German LEGO Advertising Department were notified.
These special WDR sets were likely sent directly from Billund Denmark to Cologne Germany, in time for the January 1, 1991 35th Anniversary of WDR.
Now to add the changes to my collectors guide chapters on LEGO Sets and Promotional Sets.
More LEGO Mayhem!! :)
It was likely done "under the table"... so no records have been found of it by the Billund folks or the folks in the German marketing group. My personal guess is that it could have been maybe just hundreds, or perhaps a thousand.
But that's just speculation on my part. The folks at TLG were skeptical that this was an in-house job But I've had contact with several folks who opened a MISB 6661 box to find the WDR panels inside a sealed polybag in a sealed 6661 LEGO box!
This type of "under the table" production is not new to TLG. It's still a private company, and they've always done things a little bit on the odd side...
However.... the types with the hangers such as this one would likely NOT contain the WDR panels....
And although the 6661 sets that WOULD contain the WDR panels likely look like this (not for hanging).... I'm sure that 99.99% of these were produced without the WDR panels...
However, there is no way that I am familiar with to tell if the WDR panels are inside, other than to open the outer box.
If your set was not purchased originally from a German source, then there's no point in even gambling by opening it.
I believe that WDR (West Deutsche Rundfunk) the Cologne Germany based TV station for NW Germany had these ordered from TLG, and they had the special WDR seal. I also believe that excess inventory of these sets were released as normal sets, but with the WDR (1x4x3 blue) panels inside. So there were likely 2 "WDR" versions of this set, as well as the regular "TV" version of the 6661 set.