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Franklin Mint, USA

Papua New Guinea, 2 Toea, Obverse

Image: Papua New Guinea, 2 Toea, Obverse

Source: Museum Victoria

The Franklin Mint is the largest direct marketer of personal works of art and collectibles in the world. From its corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, and in over 20 countries around the world, it offers a broad range of products to a proprietary list of eight million collectors.

The company was founded in 1964 by advertising executive Joseph Segel, founder of the General Numismatics Corporation and later the home shopping channel. The US Mint's Kennedy memorial half dollar proved to be so popular that Segel realised he could make money by minting private collector coins and medallions. He initially offered stock in the company to members of coin collecting societies at a significant discount. To give his mint credibility, he poached the US mint's chief engraver (creator of the Kennedy half dollar) Gilroy Roberts. To make the subtle connection between Segel's business and his new staff member, Segel renamed his company the Franklin Mint, recalling the image of Benjamin Franklin that had preceded Kennedy on the 50 cent piece.

Initially Franklin Mint made its principal income from tokens for Nevada casinos. To help promote and sell commemorative coin and medallion collecting, the Mint established the Franklin Collectors' Society. At its peak of popularity in the 1970s, the Franklin Collectors' Society had more members than the American Numismatic Association. The Mint soon developed to become the world's largest private mint with a worldwide reputation as producing commemorative coins, medals and ingots, as well as currency for foreign governments. The company focused on quality, craftsmanship and authenticity, employing artisans, designers and craftspeople, as well as collaborating with a range of significant artists, sponsors and institutions.

In 1969 or the early 1970s Franklin Mint purchased Pinches, a mint that had been established in London in 1840 and had struck a medal to commemorate the opening for the season of the Crystal Palace in London in 1854. (The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection website). According to Mysite website, Pinches became Franklin Mint in 1969; original correspondence from Franklin Mint dated 2 June 1977 refers to itself as 'formerly John Pinches Limited' suggesting a later date for the change.

Seeking to expand business further, Franklin Mint began creating collector plates. Warner Communications also realised plate collecting offered a source of revenue for its massive library of TV, movie and cartoon characters, and in 1981 it purchased the Franklin Mint. The purchase was ill timed: the 1981 recession caused a sharp decline in the music, movie and video game industry, and Warner was exposed through its ownership of Atari. The Franklin Mint began to mass-produce inexpensive collectibles, but Warner continued to struggle, and decided to sell the mint. It was purchased in 1985 by Roll International Corporation, a private company which also owns Teleflora and Paramount Agribusiness. Under the direction of co-owners Stewart and Lynda Rae Resnick the Franklin Mint product line was expanded to include precision-engineered die-cast replicas, fine sculpture in porcelain, pewter, crystal and bronze, heirloom collector dolls, collector plates, fine art weapons, collector pocket knives, heirloom jewellery and other collectible items. It collaborated with the Vatican Museums, the Louvre, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Rolls Royce, and has attempted to regain some of its earlier status through these associations. In recent years it has developed its own museum.

References:
Everything website http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=Franklin%20Mint, accessed 20/10/2003.
The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection web site http://www.harrybassfoundation.org/basscatalogs/BASSSALE1/b1-3-e.htm, accessed 20/10/2003.
http://mysite.freeserve.com/johnpinches/index.jhtml, accessed 20/10/2003
John Pinches Limited picture linked to cached website http://lakdiva.org/coins/fantasy/1936_crown.html, accessed 20/10/2003

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