A Scion Society of The Baker Street Irregulars
“I don’t think I could rest until I know more of this fantastic business.”
– The Sign of The Four (SIGN)
It’s amazing to realize that The Franklin Mint has been around for over 50 years, having been founded in 1965. Your editor remembers watching Morley Safer of 60 Minutes doing an expose on the Franklin Mint, that was partially filmed at the 1978 American Numismatic Association convention in Houston, Texas. That 60 Minutes report was the beginning of the end of the Franklin Mint being a force in the numismatic world and began to focus on other collectible items. Your editor still has a soft spot in his heart for the Civil War chess set that the Franklin Mint marketed.
We started to write up a post of the history of the Franklin Mint. However, in late December, David T. Alexander published an excellent article, The Rise and Fall of the Franklin Mint, on the CoinWeek website. It’s a fascinating read and we encourage you to check it out.
The Franklin Mint was famous for producing series with large number of medals – the 200 medal History of the United States, multiple 50 medal series for state flags, capitals and famous residents, to name a few. I’m surprised that they did not issue a 60 medal set of the Sherlock Holmes stories (Perhaps this was the inspiration to the 1987 Newcastle Mint Holmes centennial medal series?).
Perhaps collectors of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia got lucky. As Alexander mentions in his article, Franklin Mint products generally lost value on the secondary market, never recouping their original costs. I am only aware of three Sherlock Holmes related items produced by the Franklin Mint.
First is the Great Cases of Sherlock Holmes, part of the Franklin Library Mystery Series. Produced in 1987, the volume contains 19 stories and a “Sherlock Holmes Atlas” of maps produced earlier by Julian Wolff, the Commissionaire of the Baker Street Irregulars at the time. Just under 500 pages and octavo (8vo) sized, the cover is dark green leatherette boards with triple-ribbed spine that features a gilt-stamped diamond pattern with a Sherlock silhouette on the front and back. All edges are gilt, with orange endpapers with a pattern and inset maps in black. The text has about a half dozen full-page sepia-tone illustrations prepared for this edition by Mitchell Hooks. The Franklin Library did a nice job in producing this volume.
The second Sherlock Holmes item from the Franklin Mint is a 6 inch tall pewter tankard, that was also produced in 1987 to capitalize on the centennial of the first story.
Weighing over 3 pounds, the tankard’s handle resembles the curved pipe that we have come to associate with Holmes over the years. There are three panels on the tankard – an scene inside the sitting room at 221B Baker Street, Baskerville Hall and a hansom cab.
The third item is from Franklin Porcelain and was announced in November 1982 – the English Heritage Miniature Toby Jug Collection. This 25 piece set of 2 inch high jugs, has one jug of Sherlock Holmes, cost $10.75 each postpaid at the time of announcement and came with a free display rack.
With the Franklin Mint producing tens of thousands of items over its 50 years, it is very possible they produced other pieces of Sherlock Holmes related memorabilia. If you know of any others, please share with us in the comments section.
Thanks to Frank Mentzel for sharing photographs of the tankard from his collection.
Thanks to Peter Blau for alerting us about the Toby Jug item.