Franklin Half Dollar (1948-1963)
The Franklin Half Dollar is of enormous historical significance to American currency. Issued only a few years after WWII and at the beginning stages of the Cold War, this half dollar completed the transition of coin designs away from symbolic figures and artwork to actual historical figures. It was, in effect, the end of an era that has often been called the Golden Age of American coinage.
The coin originated and was ultimately made due to the decision of Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross. Ross had, for quite some time, wanted to make a coin in honor of Benjamin Franklin and decided 1948 would be a good year to do so. It’s not difficult to see why Ross chose Franklin. A world-renowned Renaissance man, skilled in printing, publishing, writing, inventing, science, and diplomacy, he also played a pivotal role in leading the American colonies to independence. He was, in every sense of the phrase, a true American hero.
Ross directed John R. Sinnock to sculpt and engrave the portrait of Franklin for the half dollar. Sinnock got to work immediately and performed some truly exceptional work on the coin. Bold, clear, and powerful, the portrait was based off an 18th century bust of Franklin. The phrases ‘LIBERTY’ and ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ are inscribed on the coin. On the reverse side, there is the Liberty Bell, a clear choice due to both the bell and Franklin having an association with the start of America and both coming from the city of Philadelphia. On this side of the coin there are three inscriptions: ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’, ‘HALF DOLLAR’, and ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’.
The Franklin Half Dollar was minted quite generously and as such there are no ‘rare’ dates for the coin. There were almost 498 million mintings of the coin over its entire lifespan. Due to the high quantity of circulated Franklin Half Dollars, they seldom reach prices higher than their stated value in circulation condition. That said, there are a few dates that can be particularly lucrative for higher quality Mint States. Among these are the years 1949, 1950, 1960, 1961, and 1962. If you are able to find high quality mintages from these dates, you might be looking at a handsome sum of money.
A full set includes 14 different proofs and 35 different business strikes. Due to its compact and highly affordable nature, this is one of the more frequently completed collections of coins. As such, if you have yet to complete your first set collection, the Franklin Half Dollar would make a very effective choice. Alternatively, if you are a highly experienced coin collector with more than a little expendable income, you might want to consider the following challenge: Complete a full set of Franklin Half Dollars in MS-65 and above. This challenge is bound to keep you occupied for quite some time and it can be a very rewarding payoff to know that you have one of the higher quality Franklin Half Dollar sets.