Minting Memories: Franklin Mint collectibles find value on secondary market

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Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles 2013 Price Guide‘Franklin Mint’ is just one of the many new categories included in the “Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles 2013 Price Guide” (F+W Media, 2012). The new, 29th edition of the most popular guide to antiques and collectibles is now available for pre-orders and is scheduled for delivery in September.

The ads were a Sunday supplement staple: limited-edition collectibles of every type, from dolls to die-cast cars, coins to Civil War commemoratives, “available only through this advance invitation.” The supplier was The Franklin Mint, which began stoking and satisfying the collecting urge in 1964.

sterling ingots from franklin mint

Ingots, sterling silver, 1973 and 1974 Franklin Mint Silver Bank Ingots, sterling silver 1000 grains, 50 ingots in each presentation case, total of 100 ingots, each set 104 oz, total weight 208 oz, $5,000

Founded by Joseph Segal and originally headquartered in Pennsylvania, The Franklin Mint first specialized in exactly what its name implied: the private minting of commemorative medallions and coins of gold, silver and other precious metals. Usually, subscribers agreed to purchase an entire set; shipments (and invoices) were then sent monthly. Themes focused on topics that could conveniently be shoehorned into an ongoing series: famous personages, important historical events and other iconic images from popular culture.

Among the many and varied collectibles released by The Franklin Mint over the years were plates, plaques, figurines, decorative knives and even games. These ranged from one-of-a-kind Monopoly sets to a re-creation of the three-dimensional chess set popularized on television’s “Star Trek.”

The limited-edition guarantee was achieved in one of several ways: Sometimes only a pre-specified number of the collectibles were minted (the original molds then “destroyed forever”). An edition could also be time-limited, with a strictly enforced closing date for purchase reservations. Still other editions were subscriber-limited: Reservations ended when a fixed number of pre-orders had been placed. The goal, however, always remained the same: exclusivity. While the quality of the item was emphasized, even more heavily stressed was the fact that production would soon cease, making it unattainable, and therefore more desirable. The aura of exclusivity was carried through in the actual products received, with individualized stampings indicating a specific issue number in the series.

Releases by The Franklin Mint were geared to reach the widest audience possible. To achieve that goal, the company directed its promotional efforts toward ads in inexpensive general interest magazines and in direct mailings. A purchase from The Franklin Mint was a virtual guarantee of ongoing future offers.

Indigo iris vase from franklin mint

“Indigo Iris Vase,” 1987, $40

In addition to its array of object collectibles, The Franklin Mint also oversaw such unique projects as the “Franklin Library” and “The 100 Greatest Classical Recordings of All Time.” The Library, in operation from 1973-2000, released innumerable editions of literary classics, all in “fine library bindings.”

The “Greatest Recordings” of the 1970s and 1980s were just that: recorded performances by renowned musical organizations, including the New York Philharmonic and the NBC Symphony, under such acclaimed conductors as Bernstein and Toscanini. Elegance was emphasized: Each two-record release came in a bound case, and the records themselves were red vinyl.

The Franklin Mint enterprise was acquired by Warner Communications in 1980, then sold to API (aka Roll International) in 1985, and later to The Morgan Mint, and a series of private investors. Now Manhattan-based, The Franklin Mint capitalizes on its reputation with the release of new collectibles as well as the re-release of past favorites, revised for today’s generation.

The value of any collectibles issued by The Franklin Mint has never been in their rarity. Even though these were limited editions, the “limited” quantity was invariably quite high. Values on the secondary market are, in most cases, at or well below original purchase price. This, of course, makes them an ideal acquisition for those wishing to quickly (and inexpensively) amass a collection of die-cast luxury autos, for example, or tribute memorabilia, celebrating such personalities as the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

The most important factor for consideration in their purchase is the immediate appeal, whether visual or sentimental. That perceived individual value might be considerable; any value as a possible investment for the future may prove considerably less, however.

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