Those Crazy Don Manning Animals

I was inspired to explore some non-horsey collectibles lately.  These guys have a mystery pedigree, but they do figure into the family tree back in the roots.  Don Manning was a designer of plastic tchotchkes back in the 1940s.  His animal figures were produced in plastic by a firm called NOSCO.

Don Manning deer unicorn

Here we see some of his larger figures.  The silver doe is the same mold that was bought by Breyer and became the Modernistic Doe.  She is unmarked, although many other colors of this mold that I have seen have mold marks.  The clear version is marked “Designed by Don Manning”.  They have been found in clear, silver and bright gold.  The other two, a deer and a unicorn, are marked USA, and the multicolored unicorn is marked Don Manning.

Don Manning USA

You can just make out the mold mark on this piece.  The nice part is that the mold mark is on the outside of the leg which makes it very easy to find.  Most of the pieces I own have the USA mark.

Don Manning

Here we see the name Don Manning on the outside of the unicorn leg.  Of the animals I have on display, this is the only piece marked with his name.  I have seen other animals with his name, but it is usually the larger animals and only a few of those.  There is a horse that is essentially this unicorn mold without the horn which has the name molded on.

Don Manning horse giraffe camel elephant

Next up is a menagerie of animals.  All but the giraffe are marked USA.  That fact and that there is a similar giraffe on thermometer in package found that was produced by Raymond Industries makes me question if that piece was made by another company and designer.

Don Manning dog deer stork

Finally a few more animals.  The dog is marked USA and I have also seen him as a pin.  The stork is unmarked and the outside of the legs are textured.  That fact and the difference in styling imply that this piece as well may be by a different designer.

So there you have it, some fun art-deco era plastic animals.  These are forerunners of today’s molded plastic animals and in my opinion have just as much charm and artistry as newer, more realistic sculptures.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Those Crazy Don Manning Animals

  1. Jo Kulwicki

    Fascinating article! Thanks for writing about it.

  2. Kira

    Oooh – I’ve never heard of these before! Of course, now I’m going to have to see if I can’t find a few to add to my pony collection.
    Can you tell me – do they tend to be pricey?

    • The larger pieces do tend to be more rare and expensive. I have seen pieces go for quite a bit on ebay – likely due to good auction titles, descriptions, and attributions. In the wild they can be hard to find, but generally cheaper. The party favors are the easiest to find and least expensive. I tend to buy the medium and larger sizes (1-4″) for $5-10 each in stores depending on detail and ‘cuteness’ factor. They resell very quickly, and I have many customers looking for them.

      • Kira

        Fantastic!!! Thank you so much for your reply…I suppose I’ll be one of those people out on the hunt. [I love your ‘in the wild’ description btw!]

        So far, I’m going to focus my ‘hunt’ on the unicorn from the first pic, the yellow horse with the Mohawk mane, the teal camel.

        Thanks again for this post – I’d never seen them before, and I really like them – can’t wait to add some to my collection! 🙂

        PS – If you happen to know of any of those three being for sale, I’d love a heads up! 🙂

      • N. Hurtienne

        I did buy several of these little animals from the same seller on Ebay last year & paid approx. $8-10 each. But, I found one at an Antique Show many years ago & paid a higher price.

        I was so excited to find the Ebay animals, mainly because I hadn’t been able to add more to my collection for a very long time. They probably cost 25 cents back in the 1940’s!!! So glad to find this Google site to explain their existence.

        Which ones were “Party Favors”?

  3. Denise Hauck-Doyle

    I LOVE these! I actually have all you pictured (except in other colors)
    except for the unicorn! They are a fun thing to collect and aren’t easy
    to find-atleast in the NW! I want to find more Don Manning Modernistic
    Buck and Does in other colors though! Thanks for sharing!

  4. N. Hurtienne

    I also love these little early plastic animals & have seven of them: two dogs, two elephants, one giraffe, three horses. My grandmother gave me two of them in the 1940’s, but at a recent purchase at an Estate Sale I acquired my clear yellow horse that has Don Manning & USA on it’s legs. So, until now, using Google, I was finally able to find the above information. THANK YOU GOOGLE. This makes me so happy.

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