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Interesting story about collectibles....
From timesleader.com
Posted on Tue, Oct. 17, 2006

DEBORAH YAO
Associated Press


PHILADELPHIA - The Franklin Mint, once the world's largest collectibles maker but now engaged in a battle against changing consumer tastes, was sold to a group of private investors.

A group led by executives from Hicksville, N.Y.-based The Morgan Mint bought The Franklin Mint from Roll International Corp., a privately held firm based in Los Angeles. The new ownership group includes Hollywood producer David Salzman, who describes himself as "at times, an out-of-control collector of stuff."

M. Moshe Malamud, chairman of The Morgan Mint, and Steven Sisskind, the coin and stamp marketing company's chief executive, will hold the same positions at the Franklin Mint, which will be moved out of its current headquarters west of Philadelphia.

"The Franklin Mint is the crown jewel of our industry," Malamud said Monday. "It's a great opportunity to take this brand from its current status and build it up to the great name that it once was and even beyond that."

The previous owners, Roll's Stewart Resnick and Lynda Resnick, had been trying to sell the maker of figurines, commemorative plates and jewelry for a while, Malamud said. Malamud's group reached an agreement with them last year. The sale closed Aug. 31 but wasn't being announced until Tuesday. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Founded in 1964 by Joseph Segel, who also started QVC Inc., The Franklin Mint has a well-known brand name whose sales once nearly reached a billion dollars.

The Franklin Mint is known for its detailed figures and models and its numerous products featuring celebrities like Elvis, Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe. Its eclectic collectibles also included a $500 collector's edition of Monopoly and Star Trek chess sets.

Warner Communications Inc., now part of Time Warner Inc. in New York, bought the Franklin Mint in 1981 and a few years later sold it to the Resnicks.

Company officials declined to say how many people work at the Franklin Mint.

In 2003, it laid off 200 workers, leaving it with about 100 employees. The following year, the company closed 30 retail stores and its museum, which featured a Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis faux pearl necklace, jewelry worn by Grace Kelly and pop culture novelties.

It is no longer No. 1 in the industry, but analysts said they could not clearly identify the market leaders because so many collectibles makers are privately held.

Malamud said even as the Mint has gotten smaller, "it's always been profitable."

The new owners are hiring back key personnel and hope to eventually reopen the museum.

They also hope to restore the Mint to the status it had enjoyed during its heyday.

"When Franklin Mint was at its peak, it was making the market. It was defining what the next generation of products would be," Salzman said. "There's been a leadership void we'd like to take back."

Next year, the company will be marketing collectibles related to the 30th anniversary of the passing of Elvis and the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death.

By marketing more aggressively through the Internet and television, the new owners hope to reach younger buyers. The Mint will also bring back "true" limited edition collectibles, Malamud said.

At one time, overproduction of limited-edition products plagued the industry because the items weren't as exclusive as they had been perceived, said Linda Kruger, executive director of Collectors' Information Bureau, an industry trade group based in Grundy Center, Iowa.

The Franklin Mint also has had several legal battles over its use of celebrities.

Two years ago, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund settled with the Mint by agreeing to pay $25 million toward charitable causes. The fund sued the Mint in 1998 for selling unauthorized Princess Diana memorabilia, but lost.

Tiger Woods sued the Mint in 1997 over an unauthorized collectible. He got an undisclosed sum in a settlement.

The Mint still uses celebrity images in their products, but in recent years the focus has shifted to die-cast cars, airplanes and Harley-Davidson collectibles.

The collectibles industry had been struggling. Industry sales hit an estimated $6 billion in 2002, but that's probably been cut in half, said Pam Danziger, author of "Why People Buy Things They Don't Need."

She said the industry suffered when the 1990s Beanie Babies craze imploded. People began to lose money investing in the stuffed animals.

"It turned people off and gave them a bad taste in their mouth," she said.

But Kruger said business has been picking up as manufacturers cater to new trends and customers.
 
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