Franklin Half Dollars: Rock Steady

1959 Franklin
 (Photo: Leon Worden/The Signal)

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
The Signal
Saturday, September 3, 2005

f the 20th-century coinage issues, the Franklin half dollar is one of the shortest issues — 1948-1963. The Standing Liberty quarter was a bit shorter, 1916-1930, along with the Peace dollar, 1921-1935 (not counting the unauthorized 1964 dollar that never was released).
    The new Franklin half dollar appeared at local banks early in 1948. The design by John R. Sinnock featured the same Liberty Bell that he had featured on the 1926 Sesquicentennial half dollar, commemorating the nation's 150th anniversary of independence. The required eagle motif on the Franklin half dollar was represented by a tiny eagle on the reverse ("tails" side), to the right of the bell.
    The Franklin issue was cut short by the impetus to honor the late John F. Kennedy on a regular coinage issue in 1964, less than a year after Kennedy's death.
    The Franklin half dollar series is a stable series with no rarities, and prices remain consistently at or just above bullion value (except in 1978-81, when silver prices soared to record levels).
    The lowest-mintage coin is the 1955 which, at just over 2 million, left many "brilliant uncirculated" rolls in the hands of dealers and speculators. In mint condition, the coin catalogs at $10, while circulated copies catalog for $6.50 — a strong indicator that the coin saw very little circulation.
    The 1956, with a mintage of more than 4 million, was also extensively hoarded and, in the hands of dealers and speculators, saw very limited commercial use.
    Mint specimens catalog for $10 while circulated coins catalog for $3.50. The highest catalog value of $75 is for the uncirculated 1949-S, which had a mintage of more than 3.7 million.
    The one very scarce variety in the series is the proof 1961 with doubled-die reverse, which has a catalog value of $1,200. The estimated number of this variety is unknown but believed to be a few hundred at the most.
    Several dealers regularly advertise Franklin sets intact in custom albums, both in circulated as well as mint condition. Prices are more often affected by silver bullion prices than numismatic values, since in circulated condition, the majority of coins in the series are considered "junk" silver.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.