Information from Wikipedia:
Elastolin is a trademark used by the German company O&M Hausser (O&M Haußer) for the toy soldiers and other types of figures it manufactured from composite material and later from plastic.
Elastolin composition figures are made from sawdust, a glue such as casein, and clay (kaolin) molded on a wire armature and hand painted at the factory. The technique was developed by the brothers Otto and Max Hausser in 1912. Some collectors use the term Elastolin to refer to composite figures made by other companies, such as Lineol, as well as those made by Hausser, but this is akin to using the term "Ford" as a generic term for motor vehicles made by companies other than Ford. Hausser figures almost always have an oval base, and the name "Elastolin" is found on the underside of the base of almost all Elastolin figures (Note that the "personality" figures of General Ludendorff and Adolf Hitler seen in the photo have rectangular bases and are Lineol brand figures).
The Elastolin composition figures that are best-known to contemporary collectors are probably the military figures and a similar line of figures representing the para-miliary organizations of the Nazi party. A series of "personality figures" from the III.Reich era (1933-1945) are also popular with collectors. Many of the latter are also expensive.
The German military figures include extensive sets representing the Army (in German, Heer), the Air Force (Luftwaffe) and Navy (Kriegsmarine). [more information to be added]
The Kriegsmarine is represented by marching officers carrying swords,sailors carrying rifles, marching fanfare trumpeters (fanfarenblaser) and flag-carriers (fahnentrager) and a short set of combat figures. There are two basic sets of marching figures -- one set wearing the blue winter uniform and the other wearing the white summer uniform. There is a third set of marching sailors wearing white shirts and blue trousers. The set of Kriegsmarine combat figures includes standing, kneeling and prone riflemen, and a charging rifleman. [more information to be added]
The para-military units include the SA (Sturm Abteilung), the SS, the LSSAH (Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler = Hitler's elite SS bodyguard unit), the RAD (Reichsarbeitsdienst = German Labor Service), Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend), Jungfolk (pre-teen counterpart of the Hitler Youth), BdM (female counterpart of the Hitler Youth), Marinesturm (Marine-SA; a specialized sub-unit of the SA), and several others [more information to be added].
The "personality figures" include Hitler, von Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Goring, Hess, Goebbels, von Schirach, Grossadmiral Raeder and Generalfeldmarschall von Mackensen. There are also personality figures of Mussolini and Franco. A personality figure of Ernst Roehm was dropped from the line after he was executed during the so-called "Night of the Long Knives" (a purge of the socialist wing of the Nazi party) in 1934. [more information to be added]
The foreign (auslander) armed services were also well represented. These include English, American, Danish, Dutch, Belgian, French, Swiss, Italian, Hungarian, Romanian, (British) Indian, Chinese and Japanese. [more information to be added]
Hausser-Elastolin made most of its auslander figures by adding a head with the correct helmet to a headless conventional body and then painting the figure accordingly. That is why English, American and French soldiers are armed with German-style "potato masher" hand grenades rather than the Allied "pineapple" hand grenade, and why they carry a standard German gas mask cannister. However, there are also some auslander figures that were made from special castings -- those of Belgian and French soldiers wearing long greatcoats being the best example.
Since there are also many auslander figures that are German figures with German heads that have been painted in the color(s) of a foreign uniform it is helpful to have a good reference book such as Andrew Mollo's 'The Armed Forces of World War II' to correctly identify them [more information to be added]
The Hausser-Elastolin line of the 1930s was not limited to the military and para-military units of the time. There was also an extensive line of cowboys and indians (the cowboys sometimes known as "trappers" in Germany), a shorter line of medieval knights and foot soldiers (Ritterfiguren), and a short line of Prussian and Austrian figures from the 18th century wars of Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Grosse) that included personality figures of "der alte Fritz" and two of his generals. It should be noted that the figure of a Prussian drummer with a black (African) face (figure 0/7/47/1M) is correct; there was a African drummer in the Prussian army at that time, however such a figure should be checked carefully with a "black light" to make sure that it is not a post-war repaint. [more information to be added]
There were also an extensive lines of wild animals (menagerie-und-jagdtiere) and farm animals (haustiere), and also a line of more than 30 civilian figures for use with standard gauge electric trains (Eisenbahnfiguren). The latter includes DRB (Deutsches Reichsbahn = German Railway) figures, station workers such as luggage carriers, and passengers; they were produced in 7-cm and 5-cm sizes.
Hausser also produced forts for the cowboys, castles/fortresses for the knights, houses and barns for the farm animals, zoo enclosures for the menagerietiere, and an assortment of trench pieces and bunkers (Schutzengraben aus Holz) for the soldiers [more information to be added]
Production of all figures (and all other toys) ended after the German economy was put on a "total war" footing in 1943.
Limited production of composition figures resumed several years after the end of World War II in 1945 subject to the strict terms of "de-Nazification."
Hausser continued to use the brand name Elastolin after it began production of de-Nazified figures of World War II-era German soldiers and others in a hard polystyrene plastic in place of the older sawdust-based composition material in 1955. It also introduced new lines of Roman soldiers, Huns, Vikings, Normans, 17th century Turks, and "trappers" (cowboys) and American Indians at this time. Hausser-Elastolin also manufactured personality figures of Prince Valient and at least one or two other characters from the popular comic strip and feature film [more information to be added]
Collectors recognize several distinct production series (or types) of these plastic figures. Some were sold fully painted as with the older composition figures, others were sold unpainted. However, plastic figures cannot be correctly ID'd or appraised in terms of value without reference to the color of the plastic. The rarity of some figures is also determined by the color of their clothing; some colors are rarer than others.
Elastolin composition figures were manufatured in 40mm (also known as 4-cm), 65mm (6.5-cm), 70mm (7-cm), and 105mm (10.5 cm) scales. Since 70-mm is approximately 3-inches, a 70-mm figure is approximately 1/24 scale. The Elastolin catalogs of the 1930s describe the 7-cm figures as being "normal size" (normalgrosse) [more information to be added].
The World War II, Medieval, and Wild West lines were popular in both composition and plastic. Hausser had exclusive rights to produce figures for the works of Karl May and so there are plastic figures representing several of May's best-known characters.