Franklin Half Dollar

Posted by on January 10, 2012

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Franklin (1948-1963) 12.5 90% silver, 10% copper
BS 1950franklinhalfdollar 300x150 Franklin Half Dollar

1950 Franklin half dollar

The silver Franklin Half Dollar (1948 to 1963) was based on designs by the United States Mint eighth Chef Engraver, John R. Sinnock before he passed away on May 14th, 1947.   Sinnock original Franklin coin designs were at first intended for the dime in 1941, however new designs were postponed due to World War II and the heavy demands for dimes.  After Franklin D. Roosevelt died it was decided that the silver dime would be perfect memorial for FRD considering his roll associated with the ‘March of Dimes’.  Sinnock set aside his Benjamin Franklin design and designed the Roosevelt dime which is still in use today.

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In 1947 the Mint director, Nellie Tayloe Ross, asked Sinnock to adapt his dime designs for the silver half-dollar.  After Sinnock passed away his designs his successor, Gilroy Roberts to finalize the designs and eventually make the engravings and for the Franklin Half Dollar from the late Sinnock’s design.

In 1792 Congress, had signed into law the mandatory appearance of the bald eagle on reverse of all half-dollars an reaffirmed in 1873.  The Coinage Act stipulated that any silver coin of greater denomination that the dime had to have the Bald Eagle on it.  Benjamin Franklin never much liked the Bald Eagle being the national bird.  He had considered it a scavenger and thought the wild turkey would be the best choose.  Sinnock went with the large Liberty Bell, cracked as it was, with its mark of American history and a ‘native’ of Philadelphia as was Benjamin Franklin.  Gilroy Roberts had to insert a small eagle to the right of the Liberty Bell.

Plaster castings were brought before the Commission of Fine Arts.  The Commission of Fine Art had disapproved, objecting to the diminutive size of the eagle and the crack in the bell.   However Ross was not turned from her conviction behind Sinnock’s design.  The Treasury Secretary John W. Snyder agreed with Ross’ conviction and the late Sinnock’s Franklin silver half-dollar went into production in 1948.

The silver Benjamin Franklin Half Dollar is 30.6mm (1.21”) in diameter and weighs 12.50g (0.40ozt).  It is composed of 90% silver and 10% copper making it 0.36169ozt of actual silver.  Its edge is reeded.

The obverse has Benjamin Franklin facing right.  The date is in the lower third on the right of the coin starting below Franklin’s chin and above his chest.  The Moto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, encircles the base.  “LIBERTY” encircles the top.

The reverse displays the Liberty Bell with crack.  A small bold eagle is on the right middle field.  “E PLURIBUS UNIM” is on the left middle field.  “HALF DOLLAR” encircles the base and “UNITED STATES ‘o’F AMERICA” encircles the top.  The Mint Marks; “D” for Denver, and “S” for San Francisco are directly above the center of the Liberty Bell and under “STATES” “E”.  There is no Mint Mark for those struck in Philadelphia.

A total of 481,701,410 coins were produced at the conclusion of this series.  The Franklin  Half Dollar was changed in 1964 to memorialize the assassinated President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963.  Even though the number of the Franklin half dollars is not high as far as contemporary standards go, they are relatively plentiful in circulated condition.  Proof coins were not released in 1948 nor in 1949.  The Proof State and Mint State coin better than MS65 are in demand and sought after.  Because the numismatic value tends to be just above silver prices many of these half dollars have been melted off and those of mintages of higher strike count may actually sell at higher numismatic rates.

The San Francisco Mint was closed temporarily in 1955 and not reopened until 1968.  There was also a drop in need in 1955 and 1956 so none were minted in Denver.  Damage was done to one of the dies resulting in a “Bugs Bunny” because of the created imperfection of Franklin on some of the 1955 strikes.  The master dies wore quickly and there are two Types for 1958 and 1959 from the Philadelphia Mint.  Type I (older) had four tail feathers on the eagle, and Type II had three.  The Master Dies were recut for 1960 strikes.

Since the stronger strikes are important as far as collecting goes close attention should be paid to three hairs to the right of Franklin’s ear and for Full Bell Lines of the seven horizontal parallel lines on the Liberty Bell.

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One comment on “Franklin Half Dollar

  1. Melissa on said:

    I used to collect US mints…this was very interesting to read!

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