The Franklin Mint was started by Joseph Segel in 1964. Joseph Segel also started the QVC
home shopping channel in 1986 so you might have an idea where this node is going. Segel started the General Numismatic
s Corporation. The US mint's Kennedy memorial half dollar proved to be so hugely popular that Segel, an advertising executive, realized there could be money in minting private collector coins and medallions. To generate interest among collectors as well as gain start-up capital, he initially offered stock
in the company to members of coin collecting societies at a significant discount. To give his mint street cred, he bagged the biggest fish around. He hired away the US mint's chief engraver
(creator of the Kennedy half dollar), Gilroy Roberts. Before Kennedy, Benjamin Franklin
was on the fifty cent piece. To make the subtle connection between Segel's business and having the US mint's former chief engraver on the payroll, Segel renamed his company the Franklin Mint
For a time the Franklin Mint made a lot of money making dollar-sized tokens for Nevada
casinos. The silver dollar had grown in very short supply in the mid-60s when the coin's silver content (i.e., its melt down
value) was worth more than the coin's face value.
To help promote and sell private commemorative coin and medallion collecting, the Franklin Mint established the Franklin Collectors Society. At its peak of popularity in the '70s, the Franklin Collectors Society had more members than the American Numismatic Association
Seeking to expand business, the Franklin Mint began creating collector plates. Warner Communications also realized plate collecting, a growing hobby, offered a source of revenue for its massive library of TV, movie, and cartoon characters. In 1981 it purchased the Franklin Mint. The purchase was ill timed
The 1981 recession hit and the music, movie, and video game
industry tanked. (Warner owned Atari.) If no one had a dime to drop in the jukebox
, baby, no one had money to "invest" in Gone with the Wind
collector plates. The Franklin Mint, under Warner, began turning out even cheaper shit than what it makes today. If you can believe that. In the '70s the Franklin Mint had a reasonably good reputation in the coin collector world, but under Warner, it became known as a cultural vampire
, taking America's icons in literature, history, and entertainment, sucking any artistic value they had, and then selling it in trashy publications like the National Enquirer
division kept generating more massive and ruinous losses so Warner was forced to raise money by selling off some of its divisions. In 1985, it sold the Franklin Mint to the Resnick family, owners of a large California
The Resnicks expanded the Franklin Mint into all manner of faux collectables: chess sets, porcelain
swords, and die-cast cars. The Resnicks improved the quality of their faux collectibles but also began pillaging American culture with wilder abandon. Their ads became more lurid
and deceptive, describing products as "limited edition" and even "museum quality". A number of museum curators and preservationist
s cringed at that one. The Franklin Mint always carefully avoids any suggestion that its products have any value on secondary or after markets. They don't. The terms "Franklin Mint" and "Crap" are regularly coupled on news groups like rec.collecting
In 2000, a model car collector sued the Franklin Mint for misleading claims over labeling many of its products "Limited Edition
". Turns out the limit is as long as the item remains profitable to sell. A judge tossed out the case. If the die-cast car is simply identified as "limited edition" and no actual numbers are given ("only 45 firing days!" or "Limited to 20,000 copies!"), then limited edition can refer to the life of the casting mold itself. Molds have a finite
lifespan before they wear out.
The Franklin Mint faced two higher profile lawsuits. It was sued in 1998 by the Diana Princess of Wales
Memorial Fund and Princess Diana
's Estate over a series of memorial collector plate
s and other items bearing the late lady's image. The Franklin Mint successfully defended itself, arguing fair use. A judge agreed.
However, the Franklin Mint was not so lucky with a lawsuit launched by golf royalty Tiger Woods
. The Franklin Mint released a series of medallions commemorating the 1996 Masters
golf championship, which Tiger Woods happened to win. Ho ho! Naturally, Woods' image was all over the Franklin Mint "Tiger Woods Eyewitness Commemorative Medal''. Papers filed by Woods' lawyer indicated the Franklin Mint crap was "low-end merchandise of the type which Tiger Woods does not wish to associate himself." Yeah! The Franklin Mint defended itself claiming it had a right to report on events and Woods happened to win... A judge rejected the notion that a commercial medallion
could enjoy freedom of the press
protections. Woods was awarded a substantial sum.