The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 8, February 24, 2008, Article 21


Katie Jaeger writes: "The last two E-Sylums reminded me of
my conversations with two Franklin Mint executives while
researching my upcoming 'Guide Book of U.S. Tokens and Medals.'
I have my transcripts of that conversation, which I did not
get to put in the book, and thought I'd share them here with
readers of The E-Sylum.]

Franklin Mint founder and CEO Joe Segel and his successor,
Charles Andes, agreed to meet me for interviews in September
2005.  They took me to a very nice lunch, and after that
we went to Segel's home to finish the conversation (he and
Andes lived a few blocks from each other in a very nice
Philadelphia suburb).

Before our meeting, I'd requested a transcript of the 1978
60 Minutes show from Burelles.  I had asked the men if they'd
like copies and Segel, who is amassing an archive of articles
about his former company, said yes, and was excited to have
it, but Andes said, "No, I remember it quite well, thank you."
That is because he was the one interviewed on camera for
the segment.

I found both of these men to be gracious, frank and open
about their mint and its history, and I asked them some
fairly searching questions.  One of them was directed at Andes:

Were you part of the decision to stop minting your own medals?
If so, can you recall the reasons for it?

 No, it was after my time. (He left the firm in 1985.) Andes
 and Segel both felt it was a mistake to quit making ANY
 numismatic products.  They agreed that public interest in
 medal series had begun to decline after 1976, the bicentennial
 year.  Andes said, “it was such a huge year for historical
 commemoratives, for Franklin Mint medals and across the
 board, and it was difficult to follow that with more of
 the same thing.  1977 was the first year the company ever
 showed a down quarter, and it prompted us to branch out into
 other lines of collectibles, which brought a rapid recovery.”
 Segel and Andes felt it was not necessary to give up the
 medal business altogether – the best few series should have
 been retained, along with the minting of coins of the realm
 for various countries.

Tell me about the fallout from, and your reaction to,
that fateful 60 Minutes news segment (1978).

 First let me tell you about the show, then I’ll tell you
 about the fallout.  You know, they write a book – a script
 of how each segment will go, before they even do their first
 interview.  Content is decided beforehand, and scenes are
 orchestrated to fit.   We knew this, and we knew 60 Minutes
 wanted an interview with us, so we kept refusing. No one
 has ever had a successful 60 Minutes interview! But they
 started coming to the coin shows, setting up their cameras
 in front of our booth at the ANA convention and so forth,
 quizzing our collectors as they walked by and generally
 hassling our staff.

 This went on for quite some time and I knew I had to do
 something, so we collected all the data assembled by
 Numismatic News for their valuation guide [the annual
 Guidebook of Franklin Mint Issues by Chet Krause and
 Virginia Culver, the final issue of which was published
 in 1981], dealers’ reports of asking prices, etc. for the
 past few years, and furnished this to 60 Minutes.  These
 data were not manipulated by us in any way, they just
 represented established industry research.  They showed
 that about 1/3 of dealers were selling FM medals below
 original subscriber cost, 1/3 selling at cost, and 1/3
 selling above cost.  60 Minutes excerpted the part that
 showed dealers selling below cost.

 They based their entire story on the gripes of a New York
 City dealer who detested us (and there were others who did
 too, but not that many).  By the way, 60 Minutes tapes all
 their interviews first, with just one camera aimed at the
 interviewee - then they shoot the interviewer posing
 questions and reacting to the answers, in the studio at
 home afterwards.  This way they can script better reactions
 from the commentator, as to facial movements, expressions
 of surprise, etc.

 Of course the show did have an impact on orders, but as I
 said, we had already had a down quarter in 1977 and this
 show wasn’t until November 1978.

It has been said that most Franklin Mint coin medal
collectors began losing interest as the market became
saturated not only with FM issues, but issues of copycat
companies like the Lincoln Mint and the Danbury Mint.
Was there an abrupt ending, or did it taper off?

 Well, let’s say it tapered off abruptly.  What amazes me
 still to this day, is the number of subscriptions to our
 many series that were completed – that 200-medal History
 of the U.S. Series, issued over 100 months, was completed
 by more than 50% of the original subscribers.  That is an
 amazing statistic.  Most of our series shared that success
 or did better.

There was a nice moment when Andes said, “you know, if
you want to write the history of the Franklin Mint, it’s
him” (jerking a thumb toward Segel).  The company Andes
took over from Segel in 1972 and operated for 14 years
was a monstrous huge operation, with fingers in pies all
over the world. It owned mints in Canada, Japan, Britain
and France.  Andes built a book bindery and eventually
kicked off dozens of other lines of handmade, home produced
collectibles like repro period furniture, ceramic plates,
crystal cameos, die-struck pewter spoons, die-cast cars,
you name it. He either bought the companies who made these
things or built the production facilities from the ground
up.  But Andes handed all the credit to Segel, in a quick
sentence.  I thought that was classy.

To Andes: Tell me about your career after leaving the
Franklin Mint.

He handed me two versions of his biography – one in resume
format and one a feature/profile in Business Philadelphia.
He went on to become Pro Bono CEO of the Franklin Institute,
and had a lot to do with its renaissance.  His resume listed
directorships of 17 companies besides the Franklin Mint,
and 21 nonprofit directorships.  Among those, he served as
chairman of PICA (PA Intergovernmental Corporation Authority)
which pulled the City of Philadelphia out of bankruptcy,
and PAFA, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

To Andes: What would you most like to be remembered for?

 “Trying.”  Expanding on that, I mean "really trying.”  If
 it doesn't work the first, second or third time-- try again.
 I don't mean do the same thing over again each time, that's
 just foolish making the same mistake. But change something,
 do something different but keep working at it.  Most things
 in life that WORK are different than they started out, but
 they are the result of persistence. I've found this is true
 in all the big adventures in my life - The Franklin Mint,
 The Franklin Institute, Venture Capital and PICA .

I asked Segel the same question.  He said:

 "Creating thousands of jobs.  Paying people well, encouraging
 them to do their best, getting them to reach beyond themselves."
 (Every company Segel has led, has been characterized by this.
 He went on to found QVC and then an international conference
 center in Switzerland, and several others.  He has come to
 be known as "the King of the Startups.")

I asked both: Have you designated where your papers are
to go?

 Not formally, I’m thinking about it.

Neither Segel nor Andes could believe there would be any
interest in their papers.  I told them to reconsider, and at
least designate what should happen to them.

Charles Andes passed away in August of 2006, and I feel so
lucky to have met and talked with both of those men.  It
was a memorable day!


 To view Katie's photo of Charles Andes and Joseph Segel, see:
 Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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