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The Franklin Half Dollars with the Highest Value

Front view of an old Franklin silver half dollar coin on a red background.
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In general, the half dollar coin value has recently been gradually trending upward due to the rising price of silver.

Any half dollar coin that was minted before 1965 will be composed of 90% silver, so that is always a good basis to use when you are assessing the melt value of any of your coins, including Franklin Half Dollars.


Authentic 1957 Benjamin Franklin U.S. Half Dollar Silver Coin

An authentic 1957 Franklin U.S. Half Dollar silver coin.

The Franklin Half Dollar 

The Franklin Half Dollar was issued between 1948 and 1963. The U.S. Mint has been around since shortly after the founding of the country, and ever since then, the U.S. Mint as an institution has managed to produce coinage not only for the United States but for other countries as well.

The mint was originally founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but later began to branch out to Denver and San Francisco as it grew larger and more influential. With each new facility producing coinage for the U.S. Mint, a new mintmark was added to each type of coin to identify the place where they were minted.

Since the U.S. Mint first began this system of operations, it has minted a wide range of different types of coins. The mint has produced not only coins for circulation but also many commemorative and symbolic coins that are now proud pieces of many coin dealers’ collections. 

It is common knowledge that the Founding Fathers played a vital role in shaping the United States, and the Franklin Half Dollar is a way of paying tribute to one of the most famous of those Founding Fathers: the industrious and resourceful man known as Benjamin Franklin.

His titles are many: inventor, writer, diplomat, political theorist, printer, and even more. The Franklin Half Dollar is still a very popular silver coin among collectors and it carries a face value of $.50. These coins remain in high demand due to their significant historical symbolism. The following sections will discuss in detail the history, design, and popularity of these coins and why they are still so revered. 

Franklin Half Dollar History 

The Franklin Half Dollar came about because then-mint director Nellie Tayloe Ross greatly admired Ben Franklin and wanted his likeness depicted on a coin. In 1947, she instructed the mint’s chief engraver, John R. Sinnock, to work on designs for such a coin.

Unfortunately, Sinnock died before the completion of his designs, but his successor, Gilroy Roberts, was placed in charge of completing the coin’s final design. The coins were controversially first released in 1948. Sinnock’s initials, JRS, appeared on the coin at the cutoff of Franklin’s shoulder.

It was believed that these initials were actually a tribute to former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The mint explained, however, that these initials were simply Sinnock’s initials, and the mint was not prepared to make any changes to the coin’s design. Franklin Half Dollars were then regularly minted until 1963. In 1964, the coin was replaced by the Kennedy Half Dollar. 

Franklin Half Dollar Design 

The design of the Franklin half Dollar was the work of John Sinnock. The design pays tribute to one of the most highly recognized Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin. The coin’s obverse features the portrait profile of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s profile appears with flowing hair and is cut off at the shoulder.

The obverse, with a detailed profile of Franklin, has few additional details. The top of the coin shows the word “Liberty” while the bottom features the phrase “In God We Trust.” The year of minting is also listed. The reverse of the Franklin Half Dollar contains the Liberty Bell, along with a picture of a small eagle.

The Liberty Bell displays the crack in the bell. In addition to the detailed bell and eagle, the reverse also features several phrases including “E Pluribus Unum, United States of America and Half Dollar.” The Liberty Bell is detailed with an intricate design, and the design makes this coin one of the most symbolic ones ever minted. 

Popularity Among Collectors 

For coin collectors, the Franklin Half Dollar remains popular for several reasons. This coin series features a design of historical significance and features the profile of one of the most famous Americans in history. The Franklin Half Dollar is also a fifty-cent piece, which is different from many other coins with face values of $1, $5, or more. In addition to the coin’s face value, these coins are also revered for their melt value. 

Another reason that collectors may like these coins is their advancing age. The Franklin Half Dollar was minted over a half century ago and now there is increasing demand for these historical fifty cent pieces. Franklin half dollar values result from the fact that they were produced in limited mintages in the early years, and collectors may want some of the original editions. 

What Exactly is a Half Dollar?

In the system of U.S. coinage, the actual term “half dollar” can be used to refer to half a unit of the full dollar amount. Since one dollar can be divided into 100 cents, a half dollar is the equivalent of 50 cents. Coins of that amount can be denominated as such at a value of 50 cents. 

Although not widely used in current circulation, the half dollar can still in fact be used as legal tender and it can sometimes also be a lot more valuable than the face value you see on the coin. For example, the Kennedy half dollar has been considered a very valuable form of this coin.

There was a 1964 Kennedy half dollar worth a world-record price of $108,000, making it the most expensive coin of its type. This amount was raised during a public auction of rare U.S. coins held during April, 2019, by Heritage Auctions.

The Surprising Extra Value of Some Half Dollars

With the incredible way that the silver price keeps increasing these days, some of the small change you have, including half dollar coins, might actually be more valuable than you think. Many of the half dollar coins you’ll find in circulation today have some type of silver content, especially the rare coins that were produced by the United States Mint in the years before 1965.

Silver Franklin half dollars are often in great demand because of their popularity with coin collectors. If you want to take up the hobby of coin collecting, you can use a simple step-by-step method to easily identify the most important varieties, dates, and condition of your coins.

Step 1: Recognize the Different Half Dollar Series

Beginning with Bust Half Dollars, there are many designs that have represented the half dollar denomination over the years. You’ll first need to identify the different series of coins. The current silver price (or spot price) can form the base value of the Franklin half dollar.

All of these are heavy silver coins that are often worth at least $10 each. They are mostly collected in Mint State condition, and there are few rare dates that you can look for. 

Step 2: Look for Mintmark Variety and Date

Mintmarks (symbols that represent different mints) and dates can each be valued and identified separately. Many original mintages of early half dollar series are low, which creates a condition of rarity. Some coin collectors will pay a lot of attention to the dates of half dollars that are either common, scarce, or rare.

Original mintages usually indicate a scarce date. Early Bust half dollars are a good example of a coin that was produced in few numbers. Each specific date is valued according to the availability of the coin. From 1794 until 1837, all half dollars had the Philadelphia mint, because it was the only mint at the time.

The New Orleans mint began striking half dollars for circulation in 1839. This created a separate collectible variety of uncirculated U.S. coins and added production and increased the numbers per year. By 1855, the San Francisco mint added coinage, followed by the mint in Carson City in 1870, and the mint in Denver in 1906.

Each separate branch had a specific mintmark on its coinage to identify each coin. As part of the design on the reverse side as opposed to the obverse, the letter “S” represents the San Francisco mintmark (sometimes referred to as “s silver”).

The letter “D” is the mintmark that represents Denver and the letters “CC” are for Carson City. Generally, a mint marked half was one of the scarcest coins of the year. The process of collecting by year and mintmark combination is part of building a complete set of half dollars. 

Step 3: Grading Condition

The condition of your Franklin half dollars is one of the key factors when it comes to the level of interest that might be shown by coin collectors. When trying to assess the value of your coin, it is essential to assess the grading condition of your coin by doing a close inspection. 

The condition of your coin is another important factor in terms of half dollar value. Levels of condition have a range depending on the amount of wear. Coins with no wear to the surface appear just as they did when they left the mint.

Heavy wear from the amount of time in circulation places a coin at the low end of the condition scale. Each stage of wear is noted by a “grade”. These grades are specifically used to define stages of wear among dealers and coin collectors.

  • Mint State: If no wear or tear at all can be detected on the surface of a half dollar, a grade of Mint State is awarded. The Mint State designation defines the coin as it remains on the original surfaces of the metal without removing any of the fine texture of luster that appeared at the time of minting.
  • Extremely Fine Grade: The highest points of the designs on these coins are the first places to show signs of wear. Each series is unique when it comes to detecting the amount of wear on the coin. Overall, an Extremely Fine grade coin has light wear on the highest areas and does not create large smooth spots. 
  • Fine Grade: Defining the Fine grade is visible wear covering the entire coin. Loss of fine details plus large flat areas lowers the condition into the Fine grade range. The Barber half dollar still displays major details. For example, the leaves of the wreath and the headband can still easily be seen on the coin. 
  • Good Grade: The flatness of the entire design can be seen in an outline form. Some minor details may be missing and major elements remain visible, but they appear smooth. A half dollar in Good grade displays the figure of Liberty completely, with some of the details along the rim beginning to fade. A strong date and rim is important when grading coins at this level.

Step 4: Identify Special Qualities

With such a large variety of coins, many special qualities are considered when assessing value. Determine your half dollar value by identifying the series. Go about the process of examining your Franklin half dollar coin carefully to see if it has any special qualities that might differ from your regular coins.

Quality refers to the overall condition of the coin. This has always been a very important factor to consider. Within each series, the quality of the precious metals is often prized highly by collectors. The bullion value of Franklin half dollars is tied to the price of silver.

Antique American silver Benjamin Franklin half dollars

The value of a half dollar is heavily influenced by its grading condition.

Collector Grade Franklin Half Dollars 

The set of Franklin Halves is a series where the vast majority of coins, in all grades, will be greatly affected by fluctuations in the silver price. For coin collectors and in the world of numismatics, the separation of a circulated coin from a Mint State coin is the most important distinction when it comes to the Franklin half series.

Not all of these coins are considered rare, however, and they may be fairly easy to find. Silver forms the solid underlying base of all Mint State coins of collectible quality, which often causes movements in their value. As time goes by, the types of coins that are considered bullion quality can quickly change.

Collector quality half dollars have much more stable values, with little to no movement in price, regardless of the value of silver. Sometimes the level of quality shifts within a series between a bullion quality half dollar and one of collectible quality. In "Fine" condition, the coins can be highly collectible.

Using Franklins for Investment Purposes

Usually, when Ben Franklin is referenced in regard to currency, many people think of the $100 note. The Ben Franklin note itself has become an icon of modern pop culture, conspicuous consumption, and the partying lifestyle. However, for many avid coin collectors, “Benjamins” refer more accurately to Franklin Half dollars.

Like many other coins minted before 1964, Franklin half dollars have high intrinsic value since they are struck from 90% pure silver. Silver is one of the best investments on the market. It can be quickly exchanged for other practical goods and it is easy to carry and store.

If you find any Franklin Half dollars in your coin collection, be sure to hang onto them as long as you possibly can. The bullion value might offer you a great hedge against inflation or a rapidly devaluing currency.

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All articles are provided as a third party analysis and do not necessarily reflect the explicit views of GSI Exchange and should not be construed as financial advice.

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