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FRANKLIN CENTER, PA-Franklin Mint, the one-time leader of the collectibles market, closes its museum here and 30 company-owned stores, including its flagship at nearby King of Prussia Mall. Last November, the privately held company trimmed its Delaware Valley, PA staff from about 250 to 50.

Founded in 1964 as the National Commemorative Society by local entrepreneur Joseph Segel, Franklin Mint began as a maker of commemorative coins, which were sold as collectibles and often seen by buyers as an “investment.” Later the company expanded to offer thousands of products in 20 categories, which earned it top billing as the “king of kitsch” in the high-flying collectibles market.

In announcing the closings, Howard Lucker, VP and general counsel, says fewer than 50 employees will be retained by Franklin Mint, and the company will continue selling through its catalog and website. He gave no explanation for the rapid downsizing of operations. Published reports speculate that Franklin Mint’s slide results from diminishing interest in collectibles and rising competition from resellers, particularly on eBay.

The museum included a Star Trek room along with exhibits of the company’s icon and doll collections. Among Franklin Mint’s current products, made primarily under licensing agreements, are a $55 Princess of Wales porcelain rose votive holder, a $69 Stonewall Jackson pocket watch, a $195 “Always Marilyn” doll, and a $1,000 limited edition, 19-inch pewter replica of a Harley-Davidson classic motorcycle. Die-cast cars and porcelain eggs inspired by Faberge are company mainstays.

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