Franklin Mint Precision Models

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Franklin Mint Precision Models were made by the Franklin Mint, originally a private mint founded by Joseph Segel in 1964 in Wawa, Pennsylvania. The company is now owned by a private equity firm headquartered in Midtown Manhattan New York City and Exton, Pennsylvania. Besides diecast automobiles, the Franklin Mint manufactured and marketed coins, jewelry, dolls, sculpture and other collectibles.

History[edit]

In 1983, after Warner Communications had purchased the Franklin Mint, the company entered the die-cast vehicle market introducing a 1935 Mercedes Benz 500K Roadster. In the following years, Franklin Mint produced more than 600 different issues of motorcycles, trucks and tractors besides automobiles (Johnson 1998:78-79; JSS Diecast 2012). Marketing of all vehicles was almost exclusively through mail order catalogs.

Vehicles - often called 'Franklin Mint Precision Models' - usually cost between $75 and $150 and were meant as adult collectibles. (Johnson 1998:78-79). Over time, models were often made available in several different paint schemes (Doty 2007a, 87-88). Models were made in China, usually in batches of between 1,000 and 5,000 pieces (Doty 2003a, 88). The normal scale produced was 1:24, but models were also issued in 1:43, 1:18 and even a very large 1:8 for the 1885 Daimnler Single Track Reitwagen and the 1886 Mercedes Motorwagen (Johnson 1998:78:79; Flickr Reitwagen. 2012).

Model Details[edit]

Collectible authors such as Randall Olson (2007:7,85) and Dana Johnson (1998) recognized Franklin Mint as one of the first commercial companies to sell diecast vehicles aimed at collectors. Models ranged from post-war selections such as the 1948 Tucker or the 1961 Ford Country Squire wagon with realistic rendering of vinyl wood siding (Doty 2007b, 86-87), to newer model choices such as a complete and detailed 1975 Corvette (Doty 2002, 87-88).

Franklin's execution, however, was not always the best. In the 1980s and 1990s, car and trucks were well proportioned and had interesting features, but models were a bit too heavy on details that could have been rendered more delicately or accurately. Chrome spears along the sides of 1950s cars, for example, were sometimes too thick and unrealistically embedded in grooves in the die-cast body. At times, door panels did not line up well or seemed slightly bloated as seen in the Checker taxi (Doty 2000, p. 88). The body shape is not bad, but appears slightly 'inflated'.

One website reviews Franklin Mint vehicles and points out that though the lines of the 1:24 scale 1948 Tucker were "clean and precise" the model suffered from unrealistically thick hinges, window plastic 'glass' correctly detailed in some places but not in others, and a misplaced steering wheel and other problems with interior rendering (JSS Software 2012). Hemmings Motor News reported that the Franklin rendition of the Mercedes 300SL had accurate interior upholstery and nicely fitting gulling doors, but color details that were wrong, parts badly placed, and a misshapen windshield. (LaChance 2007).

At the time Franklin Mint manufactured and sold their die-cast vehicle models (primarily the 1980s and 1990s), other companies including Anson, Bburago, Mira and Maisto offered detailed models at lower prices (Johnson 1998, 78-79). One published collector even wrote that he would recommend Minichamps or Schuco before Franklin Mint (Nonnenkamp 2011,364).

The Nash Metropolitan[edit]

One good Franklin Mint example was the Nash Metropolitan. In particular, the model's proportions were precise and the engine was painted an authentic green and nicely detailed like the real Metropolitan English Austin engine which was made in England. Still, one Nash enthusiast noted that though satisfied with the overall presentation, the model wasn't the proper color, lacked proper grille detail, and other paint details were inaccurate (Current, no date). To Franklin Mint's credit, however, buyers were later offered a corrected model (see Current, no date). Johnson reports on other followers who kept Franklin Mint informed on inaccuracies throughout their offerings - and it was honorable that the mint would try to make corrections (Johnson 1998:78).

Other examples of interest were the detailed Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail motorcycle in 1:10 scale which included accurate looking texture on the saddlebags, moving gearshift and brake pedals (which were diecast metal), and realistic labeling on the bike's crankcase. One odd offering was Richard Petty's 1977 number 43 NASCAR Oldsmobile Cutlass stock car, which featured half the body in clear plastic so as to view inner details. Hopefully, the clear plastic will hold up over time and not become discolored. A vehicle of a different stripe was the 1868 Wells Fargo stagecoach with authentic removable roof trunks and other equipment, that was available in commemorative John Wayne decor.

Around 2000, Franklin Mint curtailed much of its diecast line with most models going out of production (Doty 2003b, 88). Very few new vehicles were developed through 2009. Currently, Franklin Mint sells models assembled by several firms notable for their quality and precision, like CMC, GMP or Exoto.

References[edit]

Current, Jenny. No date. Met Collectibles / Toys. Hoosier Met Website dedicated to Nash Metropolitans. [1]

Doty, Dennis. 2000. Cabs Forward, Collectible Automobile, Vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 88–90. Collectible Scale Automobile Section.

Doty, Dennis. 2002. On the Lookout for Corvettes, Collectible Automobile, Vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 87–90. Collectible Scale Automobile Section.

Doty, Dennis. 2003a. Looking Back on Little Cadillacs, Collectible Automobile, Vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 87–89. Collectible Scale Automobile Section.

Doty, Dennis. 2003b. Hot Dodges and Cool Buicks, Collectible Automobile, Vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 87–89. Collectible Scale Automobile Section.

Doty, Dennis. 2007a. Watching for a Returning Comet, Collectible Automobile, Vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 87–90.

Doty, Dennis. 2007b. A Ton of '61s, Collectible Automobile, Vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 86–89.

Flickr Reitwagen. 2012. Franklin Mint's Daimler Reitwagen. Flickr photo gallery.[2]

Johnson, Dana. 1998. Collector's Guide to Diecast Toys and Scale Models, Second Edition. Padukah, Kentucky: Collector Books, A Division of Schroeder Publishing. ISBN 1-57432-041-6.

JSS Software. 2012. The Franklin Mint Diecast Model Library. Independent diecast database website dedicated to reviews of diecast models. [3]

LaChance David. 2007. 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car on-line. [4]

Nonnenkamp, Marc E. 2011. Scale Model Collectible Cars. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1460915028

Olson, Randall. 2007. GM in Miniature. Dorcester, England: Veloce Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84584-156-0.