Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Modernistics, Part 2

(As I am in some considerable pain today because of my back - something I will be going to the doctor for sometime next week, so don't fret - I'll be running the second half of the Modernistic Buck and Doe article today. BreyerFest coverage will continue next week.)

I’m guessing that Saunders Tool & Die either went out of business, or decided to get out of the toy business, and all their related assets went up for sale or auction. Since Aurora is only about an hour’s drive from Chicago, I would also assume that someone from Breyer might have been at that event, and thought purchasing these molds was a good idea.

There is – or I should say, will be – more to this part of the story. A few years ago, I thought I had tracked down some court documents relating to that sale, but due to a lack of time and resources, I haven’t been able to follow up on that lead. So the "how" and "why" part of the Modernistic Deer story, while not completely known, is at least knowable.

As to who Don Manning is, and what his relationship to Nosco Plastics was, I have no idea. Was he a client, a contractor, or a business partner? The fact that he had his name specifically molded into the larger pieces suggests that it was a more complex arrangement than that of a mere contractor or employee. But if that’s the case, then how did the molds end up as part of Nosco – and then, Saunders – inventory?

The only bits of information I have on Don Manning come from plastic toy historian and author Bill Hanlon. According to Hanlon, the "Don Manning Studio" was operating in New York City prior to the start of World War II. That would explain their extreme stylization: the Buck and Doe were products of the late Art Deco era!

Don Manning (or his studio) designed more than just a pair of deer, though the deer seem to be the only pieces that came in that larger size. The Don Manning animals came in several different sizes – all the way down to petite, one and a half inch creatures designed as party and/or drink favors. The most common ones, though, are in the four-inch range (such as my little black horse), and were sold either individually, or in boxed sets.

If my general theory holds up – that Breyer did buy these molds, essentially, secondhand – what that means is that the Modernistic Buck and Doe are technically Breyer’s "oldest" molds, predating the Western Horse by a decade or more!

I think it’s a matter of confirming and rearranging some of the details, now. The Nosco Deer and the Breyer Deer are clearly the same mold, minus the mold marks. Nosco’s assets were sold to a molding company in the Chicago area, and a few years later, near-identical deer – completely unlike anything the Breyer Molding Company produced, before or since – made their debut in a Breyer Dealer Catalog.

The status of the Don Manning figurines is also a matter of debate: do they "qualify" as Breyers? Would they be appropriate in a Collector’s Class?

That’s hard to say. Since I’m interested in them from an historical perspective, so my tendency would be to say yes, but the Creata micro minis – the precursors of the MiniWhinnies – generally are not. Regardless of their status, though, I don’t think any early Breyer collection would be complete without a pair or two of these exotic creatures!


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for delving into this mystery. Mom has loved and collected these animals for years, and I have never been able to turn up much detail about them. She has quite the collection, I will have to have her take pictures and send them to you. I think the non-Breyer models really wouldn't belong in a Breyer collectors class other than as added decorations. Now that may be a fun display - Breyers and the models that inspired them or that were them in this case. You could do the Grand Wood racehorse, Adios trophy, Hartland Western Horse, Don Manning deer and so on. Depending on the judge they may enjoy the history of the display. More likely they would overlook them for more trendy models, but you may pique the interest of other showers in hobby history!

LostInAn80sFog said...

Aha! You have solved the mystery of two mini Art Deco plastic critters who joined my collection eons ago whose identities I doubted I would ever determine. Now I know they are the Don Manning party favor animals. I would love to attend a party where the hostess gave them away as favors. They are super cute, and anonymous no longer.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the Creatas don't fly as "Breyers" at any show I've ever been to. Shame, as I have quite a few.