Precious Metals

The Franklin Mint founder, Joseph Segel, dies at age 88

Joseph M. Segel, founder of The Franklin Mint in the 1960s and QVC cable television marketing enterprise in the 1980s, died Dec. 21 in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, at age 88.

Mr. Segel founded The Franklin Mint in 1964 for the production and mass-marketing of various collectibles.

The firm’s product line was inaugurated with the output of privately minted gold and silver commemorative rounds and medals. Operations at The Franklin Mint were expanded in the 1970s and 1980s to include legal tender coins.

The numismatic products included bullion and nonbullion Proof and Uncirculated coin sets in both small and large denominations for multiple countries, particularly Panama and various island states.

Mr. Segel founded General Numismatics Corp., of which the private mint was just one department, in 1964. In its founding year, The Franklin Mint became a major producer of rounds for casinos, which were in need of replacements for the traditional silver dollars.

As Gerald Tebben wrote for a blog at the Coin World website, “set after set of beautifully designed commemorative medals ... were sold to the public through ubiquitous newspaper, magazine and direct mail advertising in the 1960s and ’70s. “The advertising fostered the belief that future generations would want the ‘heirloom’ pieces and pay big money for them. Noncollectors bought the company’s medals by the millions, apparently unaware that few people actually collect medals.”

Mr. Segel retired from the mint in 1973, when the firm was at its near peak.

The Franklin Mint’s fortunes, however, soured somewhat after it was the subject of a segment on the CBS News program 60 Minutes in 1978, which focused on the secondary market for the mint’s many medals. Buyers, many of them with little other experience in buying numismatic items, found that coin dealers showed little interest in the medals, and that secondary market prices were well below issue prices. The television expose shone an unfavorable light on the firm.

A year later, when the price of silver peaked at about $50 an ounce, owners of the mint’s silver medals found some relief as they turned in their once prized collections for the melt value. Many of the medals were melted for their metal content.

Gilroy Roberts, the ninth chief engraver of the United States Mint from 1948 to 1964, was hired away from the Mint by Segel to run the design operations at the Franklin Mint.

Other members of the U.S. Mint engraving staff who have contributed work for The Franklin Mint include Donald Everhart II who retired from the U.S. Mint in 2017 as lead sculptor-engraver.

Everhart had joined the Franklin Mint in 1973 and left in 1980 to pursue a freelance career. He joined the U.S. Mint’s engraving staff in 2004.

In 1986, years after relinquishing Franklin Mint ownership, Segel launched the home shopping television network QVC, short for “Quality, Value, Convenience.”  

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