Margaret writes: I have a set of silver commemorative medals, collected by my father, and now belong to me. The set is a complete set of 60 medals, titled “the Genius of Michelangelo” by the Franklin Mint. The medals are in solid sterling silver 600 grains and are mounted in a book. There is some tarnishing on some. The post date on the box from the Franklin Mint is June 1970. I have had great difficulty finding any information on this set. Can you provide me with any information or possible resource?
Medals are usually commissioned by an official organization to commemorate an historical event or the celebration of such. Medals are very expensive to make as they must be commissioned to a medalist or sculptor and then struck at a foundry. They are viewed as works of art. Collectors pursue medals just like collectors of paintings, by the designer and his execution.
The Franklin Mint is to Medal art as works by Brenner or St. Gaudens are to Degas. There is also the fact that the Franklin Mint creates events to which to make their medals and then they promote them through advertising. FM often pays a fee for using the name of an official body, creates the designs with the permission of that body, and then markets the medals as an official issue. That is not to say they don’t do commissions (but you’ll rarely see these).
For example, The Franklin Mint made precious metal proof and regular issue coins, including a large, heavy 20 Balboa under the name of Panama. The only stipulation was that the “coins” have the regular official devices, such in the case of Panama, the Panama Shield or in the case of the British Virgin Islands, the official effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. These coins were marketed to collectors. Although they had a face value, it was often difficult or impossible to redeem them unless the precious metal content exceeded the face value of the coins.
Collectors are aware of this shenanigans and avoid these issues like the plague. That is not to say that someone might not fall in love with your set but the market at large places no premium on these concoctions.
There is no buy/sell market for these other than that of its precious metal. The Franklin Mint, a private company, doesn’t buy them either. That doesn’t mean that these sets can’t be sold but when they do, they often sell for far less than the issue price. Some, not all, are artistic enough to attract collectors of medals.
Remember that the Franklin Mint is a private business, though they have instilled in the vague, cloudy mind of the public that they are somehow doing the “official” work for “some” governmental body.
The chief value of your medals is the silver content. Most of the Franklin Mint pieces will be stamped “.925”. That denotes that the medals are Sterling. Sterling represents .925 silver or an alloy of 92.5% silver. There are 480 grains in a troy ounce. 600 grains x .925=555 grains of pure silver /480 = 1.15625 troy ounces pure silver for each medal x 60 = 69.375 troy ounces of pure silver. This would be your base value.
Another way to determine the base value of sterling pieces is to weigh all the medals (or use the weights in the literature). Some will weigh more than others. You must use a gram scale. Add the total weight in grams and divide by 31.1033. Multiply that number by .925. The result is the total number of actual troy ounces of silver. Multiply that times the world silver price to get a fairly good idea of the intrinsic value. Once you know the melt value, you’ll at least have a starting point for negotiations when someone falls in love with your set and wants to buy it. Alternatively, see your local metals refiner.