Franklin Mint Review
As with all of the modern companies which style themselves “mints”, the Franklin Mint is not actually an official mint of any kind. It is a private company currently owned by two Long Island businessmen which manufactures and sells a wide range of collectibles, such as plates, dolls, die cast car models, and the like. It also sells a number of different official bullion coins, some from the United States and some from as far afield as Poland, Belarus, and the Holy See. The presence of exotic, seldom-seen, but high quality coins from the world’s more obscure mints is one of the Franklin Mint’s best features.
The company was started in 1964 in the bizarrely-named town of Wawa in Pennsylvania, which was originally named Grubb’s Bridge. Since then, it has changed hands numerous times, both between individual entrepreneurs and corporations both American and international.
The Franklin Mint stands to the more professional minting and coin selling companies (such as Sunshine Minting or APMEX) as a hotdog stand at the side of the road does to a gourmet restaurant. This is not to say that it does not offer genuine bullion products as well as potentially interesting collectibles, only that its operations are on a smaller scale and it tends more towards offering bric-a-brac with serious investment coinage being a secondary part of its business.
Though the Franklin Mint mostly avoids the subscription model of coin selling that the London Mint Office and other firms use as their staple selling tactic, the company does show remarkably high premiums. However, it should be noted that the premiums it charges on coins are very high, sometimes doubling the price of the coins over what other sources sell them for. The “colored” coins that the Mint offers in the guise something extraordinary, valuable, and high-priced are an even more interesting topic which is also described below.
What the Franklin Mint Offers
The Franklin Mint’s site offers a moderate selection of gold and silver bullion coins from the United States and other countries, a generally eclectic grouping that apparently consists of whatever they bought at recent coin shows. These coins are grouped into categories by precious metal (gold or silver), and then farther subdivided into pages that focus on especially common or desirable types – for example, there are special pages for Silver Eagles, Silver Morgan dollars, and so on.
The Franklin Mint is also a source for everything from die cast cars to sentimental sculptures, plates, and all other manner of decorative items. The site’s bullion selection is relatively limited, though its remarkable selection of beautiful silver coins from obscure mints around the world helps to compensate considerably.
Buying from the Franklin Mint
The Franklin Mint is an American corporation, located in New York City, New York , though there is another office of the firm in Franklin Center, Pennsylvania. One wonders if the second location was chosen because of the name “Franklin” in it. Be that as it may, the Mint has a toll free telephone number available from Monday through Friday and a website at www.franklinmint.com .
The Franklin Mint sells to all locations within the United States of America, naturally, as well as a selected list of nations outside the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”. These countries are scattered around the world – interestingly, most of Europe is off limits to shipments from the Mint. The European countries that the Franklin Mint will ship to include France, Russia, Germany, and Great Britain. In Oceania and Asia, the Mint will ship only to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Japan. Shipments are also made to Canada and South Africa.
Such shipments are, of course, potentially subject to customs charges, over which the Franklin Mint has no control. The Franklin Mint ships by FedEx, UPS, or USPS, depending on the location and speed of delivery desired.
Non-Bullion Coins on the Franklin Mint Site
Being a firm that deals generally in collectibles and not purely in silver and gold bullion, the Franklin Mint offers a wide range of other coins as well, such as the non precious metal presidential series dollar coins, made of of a cupronickel alloy (nickel and copper). These coins are in the process of being issued even now, and depict each of the United States’ presidents.
The spot value of the metal these coins are made up of is negligible, but they are still an interesting collectible which will give young people (and you) a glimpse into the history of America. These coins may eventually even acquire a bit of numismatic value. However, they can be bought for several dollars each on eBay and similar sites, and there is no real need to acquire a set of 4 from the Franklin Mint for $149 when such a grouping is likely to cost you no more than $10 on an auction site. Even more extraordinary are the “Godless” coins which omit the edge lettering selling for $400, or the “Color-Enhanced” presidential coins sold at $260 for eight coins.
The Color-Enhanced Collection deserves special attention as an example of the Franklin Mint’s business style because many people might be moved to buy these coins, believing them to be special and valuable. The coloring was added by the Franklin Mint itself, and both the U.S. government and serious coin collectors view this action as a defacement of the coin which renders it worthless as legal tender and destroys most of its collectible value as well.
Far from being special, valuable coins, these are essentially ruined pieces of currency which are only valuable if you want a colorized set for your own enjoyment and don’t mind paying many times the worth of the coins for it. Twenty dollars on eBay will get you the coins, the brushes, and the enamel paints to make your own “Color-Enhanced” coin set, or better yet, will get your children or grandchildren interested in coins by allowing them to have fun painting some coins of little value.
Exotic Bullion Coins – the Franklin Mint’s Best Feature
The finest portion of the Franklin Mint’s bullion coin offerings is the “mixed bag” page entitled “International Coins”. These pages feature a large number of coins from around the world, which are generally priced professionally, in line with the current market prices that are appropriate for them. The overpriced collections noted below are thankfully mostly absent here.
What makes the Franklin Mint stand out in this regard is that the coins featured are often from very obscure, limited coin series that you may not be able to acquire easily outside their country of origin. For example, a magnificent image of St. George slaying the dragon, in full plate with an elegantly barded steed, produced by the Mint of Poland is available on the site. Coins showing the Popes, UNESCO silver Euro coins depicting monuments of the world, Israeli Dead Sea silver proof coins, sailing ship silver coins from Belarus, and the like are all to be found in this interesting numismatic trove.
It should be noted, however, that some of these coins are of rather dubious provenance. The site offers Andorran Dinar silver coins, beautifully struck with an image by Albrecht Durer. Alas, the currencies used in Andorra are the Franc, the Pesata, and the Euro, so whether this dinar silver coin is genuine or not is an open question. If it is not, then the question of what its silver content really is also arises.
Prices on the Franklin Mint – Very High Premiums
Buying from the Franklin Mint is straightforward and easy, but the prices offered on the website exhibit very high premiums – far above what most other reputable sources for silver and gold bullion will charge for precisely the same items. For example, the company’s “collection” of five silver Morgan dollars, portrayed as being nearly impossible to collect on your own, actually consists of very commonly available coins which can be purchased for $30 to $40 apiece. The collection of five coins – actually worth somewhere between $150 and $200 – is sold by the Franklin Mint for a startling $549.
Many other examples of this type of pricing policy exist as well. A collection of the first five years of American Silver Eagle releases, from 1986 to 1990, is sold at $425. These coins can be bought at several dollars above spot in many different places, which means they are currently $46 each, or $230 for the group if you make this “collection” on your own rather than through the Franklin Mint.
Rare coins such as the $3 “Indian Princess” gold coin from the 19th century also appear on the site, costing around $3,000. A glance at eBay shows these rare but lightweight coins selling for $600 to $800, some of them in far better condition than the battered specimen shown on the Franklin Mint site.
The international silver coins, such as those for Pitcairn Island (Fletcher Christian, for instance) or from the mints of Poland or Belarus, are actually priced close to or at the market standard prices. This reinforces the idea that the Franklin Mint is best used as a source for exotic silver bullion coins, while more usual bullion coins should be obtained from other sources.
The reader may draw their own conclusions about the Franklin Mint’s pricing policies and suitability as a source for bullion coins and other coinage products from the foregoing information.