BERLIN (AP) — Horst Brandstaetter, who launched the popular Playmobil range of plastic toys in the 1970s, has died. He was 81.

Playmobil manufacturer geobra Brandstaetter Stiftung, which Brandstaetter owned, said in a statement Monday that he died on June 3. It gave no further details.

Brandstaetter joined the family firm, then run by two of his uncles, in 1952. He initiated the Playmobil range during the oil crisis of the early 1970s and later said that the success of the figures, the first of which were presented in 1974, saved the company from bankruptcy.

The company says that 2.8 billion of the figures, including knights, cowboys, farm animals and dinosaurs, have been produced since then. It has more than 4,000 employees worldwide.