Franklin Mint Medals - General Information
Coins / Medals / Ingots / Tokens
You often see Franklin Mint sets described as coins, because to a novice, they look like coins. To a numismatist, a coin is legal tender in some country, and is marked with its monetary value. Although the Franklin Mint did mint Proof Sets of coins for some countries, most Franklin Mint items were created for collectors and have no monetary value. These are medals, if round, or ingots, if rectangular or some other shape. The Franklin Mint also minted tokens, which were marked with a monetary value but were for private use only. For example, the Franklin Mint minted casino tokens for many Las Vegas casinos back in the 1960's.
Most Franklin Mint pieces have several mint marks, usually stamped along the edge, although they can sometimes be hard to read. Common markings are:
- The copyright symbol (C) for the design
- The Franklin Mint symbol - a capital F with a stretched M across the middle, in a small square
- The year minted, in a small square, e.g., 74 for 1974.
- P, in a small square - to indicate a Proof finish
- Sterling, .925, .999, or 24KT - to indicate sterling silver, fine silver, or gold
- On some items, the weight in grains is stamped
- Medals with reeded edges are not normally marked except for the Franklin Mint symbol, but very few sets were made with reeded edges.
Franklin Mint collector issues were made primarily in Bronze and Sterling Silver (.925 silver), some in pure (.999) silver, rarely in gold, and extremely rarely in platinum. A few items were mass-produced in aluminum, which looks superficially like the silver but is very lightweight. Some of the bronze or silver issues were gold-plated. Many sets were created in different sizes (e.g., full size and miniature versions) and different metals (e.g., bronze, silver, and gold-plated silver editions). Some Sterling Silver medals that have the antique finish look like pewter rather than silver; however, they should be marked Sterling or .925 along the edge. A quick guideline: If it looks like silver, it probably is; if it looks like gold it probably isn't (most likely it is gold-plated silver).
Most Franklin Mint collector issues have a Proof or Prooflike finish - a bright and shiny background with frosted designs. Some have an antique finish - a smooth satin finish look. As a general guideline, Proof pieces are the most desired for collectors. Because the difference between the Proof and Prooflike finishes is difficult to discern and virtually irrelevant on the secondary market, the mintage numbers on the Medals and Ingots individual set pages reflect the total number of both Proof and Prooflike sets minted.
One of the things that made Franklin Mint sets appeal to collectors was the very attractive packaging the Mint created for them. Some of the medals came in plastic capsules to protect them. Display types ranged from relatively simple cardboard frames or boxes to bookshelf albums, picture frames, and display cases. Some of the display cases were velvet or vinyl covered, more expensive sets came in high quality wood or leather cases or albums. The display cases/albums, etc. were usually provided free to subscribers of the set; occasionally they were offered separately (e.g., Roberts Birds medals and Christmas Ingots). As a general guideline, the nicer the packaging, the more attractive the set and the higher the price.
Because most Franklin Mint sets available today are between 30 and 45 years old, their condition depends largely on the care (or lack thereof) taken by prior owners. Sets can range all the way from pristine mint sets that were never unpacked from the original Franklin Mint packaging, to sets that were well cared for and rarely handled, to those in average condition that have some scratches and dings, to those in poor condition (for example, heavily scratched, cleaned abrasively, or tossed together in a bag). Like most collectibles, in general the better the condition, the higher the price.
All of the Franklin Mint sets came originally with a Certificate of Authenticity and some type of descriptive literature about each piece. Often, the literature was provided in a separate notebook or box. Some sets that came in albums had the descriptive brochures integrated on separate pages in the album. Although desirable for a collectible, separate paperwork was often lost over the years and so is not always available for Franklin Mint sets on the secondary market.