What is Mint?
I've been doing this for almost 20 years, my mailing list includes returning customers who buy year after year. In the first half of 2012 I'm shipping on the average about 12 models a day, 10 of those Franklin & Danbury Mint pre-owned models. ( with FM out of the diecast biz and DM teetering on the brink, both brands could soon be ALL pre-owned in the marketplace). So in the past 6 months, I have had exactly 2 returns relating to minor collector diecast quality issues. That's 2 returns out of approximately 1,800 models sold? WE KNOW MINT!
While I'm on the subject of statistics, we've had exactly ONE damage claim with UPS in 2012, ( a resin Andretti model). We've double boxed all models since day one in 1993, because what good is a model that's mint if it doesn't arrive to your door safe and secure?
The History of "Mint"
Now let's move on to the title of this page and the history of the term "mint-the-box" as I understand it. The word mint was originally used in reference to vintage coin collecting, such as " a coin just like new from the mint". Carlisle and Hershey Swap Meet vets will remember the word "mint original" used to describe low mileage classic cars like'57 Chevys in the 1970's. Now they're called "survivors", and of course that starts a whole new discussion with the National Corvette Restorers Association because they would debate that term is reserved for Corvettes only. When I restored 55-56-57 Chevys, cars we found in pieces we called "basket cases" are now called "Barn Finds" and Pebble Beach now has a class for them. So as you can see over the years the meanings change to suit the people who are using them.
In the world of collecting anything, but for our discussion the world of toy collecting, mint-in-the-box came up years ago especially with tin toys from Japan. Then the entire toy collecting community started using the term for everything from Tonka Toys to Hot Wheels. It meant that the box and it's contents were exactly as it left the factory. While this may have been the standard in the toy world, PhillyMint has never guaranteed our boxes as mint unless it was specified in the listing. In fact as collectibles become more rare and hard to get, some collectors are happy to get an item without a box at all! But that doesn't mean we don't have almost perfect boxes, because we do. Read more below.
Mint-in-the-box only started to pop up in Franklin & Danbury Mint collecting in the early-mid 1990's when guys like me started to offer models from collections and Franklin Mint Warehouse Sales that had styro boxes only.
Before I get into what I consider a model that's MINT, here is a little of my background so you know more about the person who's making the decision on weather a model is mint or not.
I'm a professional musician by trade, so I'm blessed with a good ear & color perception. I started building AMT and other plastic model kits when I was 10 yrs old. I restored & painted real 55-56-57 Chevrolets in the 1970's. In the 1980's I owned and operated USA-1 Interiors where we manufactured upholstery & other interior components from scratch, supplying Reggie Jackson, Grumpy Jenkins, Bruce Larson and many more. I was responsible for color matching in regards to vinyl colors. If it didn't match the factory swatch, we wouldn't accept it. I cut the vinyl patterns for our 12 sewing machine operators, so that was a precision job. I also was involved in every facet of tool & die making, including prototyping for heat sealed door panels.
Before we offer a model as mint, I inspect every model in the collection that arrives. It's been mentioned to me that I have enough good material here for a TV reality show. I remove the model from the box, make sure all windows are in place, all handles, emblems, hood ornaments; etc. I'll make small repairs if necessary. Then I check the paint & chrome finish for major paint imperfections. With some models approaching the 25 year mark, most collectors accept some minor paint issues. The fact is, many models left the factory with paint issues such as insufficient primer or thin paint. ( does this make them not- ever mint ??). If the model was a former display model , but always covered and well cared for, I'll treat the paint finish to Mothers Gold Paste Wax and other detail tricks I've picked up over the years to make it like new. Paint deterioration, rubber, fading, severe paint rash or other damage from the sun, humidity or improper storage or display, those model go to Vinny Used Cars & are never offered as mint. Before I re-box the model, it's carefully wrapped in tissue paper. All original packaging material like foam blocks and acrylic protectors are put back in place if it's included in the box. In some cases I'll cut new foam to prevent the front seat backs from flopping around during shipment.
Then there's this scenario that guys in the biz like me dream about. The collection where I don't have to do anything. The collector bought them new, the Franklin Mints came from an old Gallery Store or a dealer like myself who double boxed them so the outside box is bright white, no shipping labels. The Danbury Mint boxes are white and shiny, no discoloration. The collector opened the box, looked at the model, never removed it, sealed it back up and stored it in a spare bedroom. Not in the basement, the attic, a humidity filled storage unit or garage. Then there's the chance 10-15 years later, the models should be just the way he bought them. When I come across this type of collection, I pay more & I'll specify it on the Heritage Page sometimes as Super Mint.
The point I'm trying to make is weather it's the example above or the models where that need my TLC, placed side by side in your case, you shouldn't see the difference. Both are MINT.
You'll receive, unless otherwise noted, both inside styrofoam and outside box. We Do Not Guarantee Box Condition but you can ask!
Paperwork, hang tags, titles, how to instructions are included with most models because even if my seller didn't include them, I have a 20 year library full of papers and literature so I try to accompany each model with some type of literature if at all possible.
Then there's the rare-but-not-mint issue. Many models produced in the late 1980s-early 1990s are almost impossible to find without some sort of age patina or paint issues. In these cases if I have a large wish list for this model, my collectors don't care what I call the mint, not mint or whatever. They want them and they're in demand so they're rare but not mint but still expensive.
Finally I was thinking how many models I had on display in my old retail store or at a model show that collectors would complain about the price and condition. "Well, the bumper is kinda dull and the paint isn't that glossy" even though it wasn't a defect, it was just the way the model was produced from the factory. Well, as soon as I lowered the price, it was funny to watch how these guys would now comment, " Hey that's a mint model at a great price". In other words if the price goes down, the model looks better to them. But as I mentioned in the paragraph above, these types of situations are coming to an end as collector demand is increasing and the factories are producing less models in China today.
What you won't get from PhillyMint.....
...........but I've received this year from eBay sellers that were described as mint in the box on ebay and other auction sites. Everyone thinks their models are mint, many are a long way from mint. The last I checked over 2,500 FM-DM models were for sale on ebay. They can't all be Mint. Buyer protection doesn't make up for the disappointment of a poor model that was misrepresented. Here's my top 7 from 2012 ebay buys:
1.Open up a Danbury Mint box and the Edsel Wagon is wrapped in plastic shopping bag and very dusty with broken mirrors. ( "Must have happened in shipping")
2.Numerous, can't count the number of models missing hood ornaments ( "We didn't know it was missing". Of course not, you're a general goods store, not diecast people.
3.Danbury Mint LeBaron Speedster w/ brown, cracked rubber tires. ( "That's the way I got it")
4. Franklin Mint Mercedes missing front bumper ('Didn't know it was missing") Of course not, you're an Advance Auto Parts Dealer, not diecast people.
5. FM LeSabre with major paint rub through on hood. ("Didn't notice it')
6. DM 1955 Crown Vic so smoky I almost had an allergic reaction while unpacking. ( "I never said I didn't smoke")
7. A FM model wrapped in a plastic shopping bag and shipped in a shoe box.
Any of this happen to you? Not if you're a PhillyMint customer!
I'd like to think that my definition of mint is reasonable, fair & my Heritage Collection Approved models will satisfy AT LEAST 98% of precision diecast collectors.
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