For more than four decades, beautiful Franklin Mint collector plates have graced the walls and shelves of countless homes all over the world. Although the collector plate market is unpredictable, many Franklin Mint collector plates are worth money in addition to their sentimental value. It's helpful to understand a bit about the company history and how to identify the plates so you can determine whether you have a treasure.
Understanding the Franklin Mint
Founded in 1964, the Franklin Mint began its business striking:
- Coins for foreign countries
- Casino tokens
- Ingots of precious metals
- Commemorative medallions
The company quickly expanded adding many different types of collectibles to its product line. Many of the collectibles were produced as pieces in a series and introduced to the public on a monthly or yearly basis.
In addition to their collector plates, a partial list of Franklin Mint collectibles includes the following:
- Teddy bears
- Die cast models
- Deluxe games and game pieces
- Music boxes
The First Collector Plate by the Franklin Mint
The Franklin Mint issued its first collector plate in 1970. The plate, called Bringing Home the Tree, is a Norman Rockwell Christmas plate made of sterling silver. The Norman Rockwell etching was made strictly for the Franklin Mint limited edition collector plate. The plate was beautifully issued in a hinged case of white leatherette and lined with blue satin. The Franklin Mint Norman Rockwell Christmas plate series was issued for six years, from 1970 through 1975.
Themes for Franklin Mint Collector Plates
Over the years, the Franklin Mint has issued collector plates covering a wide range of categories, subjects, and themes. The following is a partial list of collector plate themes:
- Wild animals
- Barnyard critters
- Norman Rockwell
- John Wayne
- Native American
- Science fiction
- Thomas Kinkade
- Red Hats
- Cartoon characters
- Patriotic themes
- Religious themes
Within many of the themes and categories of collector plates, the Franklin Mint issued a variety of specific plate series. For example, under the category dogs, there are many different series of collector plates such as:
- Specific breeds
- Working dogs
Franklin Mint Collector Plate Values
If you have a collection of plates or a plate you inherited or found in a thrift store, you may wonder whether it's worth anything. The value of Franklin Mint plates varies significantly with sterling silver plates being worth the most and single collector plates in less desirable designs being worth the least. Most Franklin Mint plates sell for under $10, but a few special ones can be worth hundreds.
Factors Affecting How Much a Franklin Mint Plate Is Worth
Like all antique and collectible items, there are some significant factors that can affect the value of Franklin Mint collectibles in general and plates in particular. If you have a plate, consider the following:
- Material - Plates made of sterling silver will almost always be worth more than china or porcelain plates.
- Rarity - Rare plates, especially those that are associated with a period in history like the US Bicentennial, are often worth much more than plates that are common and easy to find.
- Condition - Franklin Mint plates in good condition will be worth more than those with cracks, scratches, stains, and other damage.
Most Valuable Franklin Mint Plates
In general, sterling silver plates top the list of the most valuable examples. However, porcelain plates can also be worth money if they represent something especially popular or an important moment in history. These are some of the most valuable Franklin Mint plates you can find:
- Sterling silver Audabon bird plates - The Franklin Mint released a series of Audabon bird plates featuring engraved designs of different birds. This series is among the most valuable, often selling for several hundred dollars for a set of four. For example, a set of four sterling silver bird plates sold for about $550 on eBay.
- Sterling silver US Bicentennial plates - In honor of the United States Bicentennial in 1976, the Franklin Mint released a set of engraved and gold-plated sterling silver plates. These are some of the most valuable. A set of four Bicentennial plates sold for $700 on eBay.
- Star Trek porcelain collector plate - Released in 1999, the official Star Trek Franklin Mint collector plate is a hot item with collectors. This is an exception to the rule of sterling silver plates being worth more than porcelain examples. A single Star Trek plate featuring the USS Enterprise sold for about $375 on eBay.
- Sterling silver Richard Nixon inauguration plate - Another sterling silver plate that's especially valuable is the 1973-released Richard Nixon plate. It sells for about $185 on eBay.
Collecting Retired Franklin Mint Plates
Many collectors of Franklin Mint plates know the thrill of finding a retired plate that they need to complete a series. When a piece is retired by the Franklin Mint, it means that the company is no longer manufacturing the item. Once all of the original stock is sold, the only way of acquiring the piece is on the secondary market.
The Bradford Exchange
When J. Roderick MacArthur founded his company in 1973, he standardized the collectible plate market by issuing a list called Current Quotations. Working under the name the Bradford Gallery of Collectors Plates, MacArthur worked on the telephone buying and selling collectible plates from different companies. He modeled his business after the stock market and the buying and selling of stocks and bonds.
By 1983, the Bradford Exchange was running an electronic system to keep track of the current market values of collectibles and completing more than 11,000 transactions each day. Today the Bradford Exchange and the Bradford Exchange Online have grown to be one of the world's leaders in the secondary market of collectibles, including collector plates.
Where to Find Collector Plates
In addition to the Bradford Exchange, there are many online venues that carry Franklin Mint collector plates or provide useful information pertaining to plate values.
- The Franklin Mint offers current collectible plates on their website.
- The Glass Menagerie is a good resource for researching and purchasing collector plates.
- eBay is a good place to look for deals on Franklin Mint collector plates.
- TIAS offers antique items and vintage collector plates.
- Ruby Lane is an online antique mall with some sellers stocking vintage Franklin Mint collector plates.
Beautiful and Sometimes Valuable
Whether you display one special plate or many different series of Franklin Mint collector plates, you know the pleasure of these quality collectibles. Some examples have a great deal of monetary value, and others mainly provide sentimental value and a beautiful piece of art for your wall or china cabinet.