By 1947, the only US coin depicting Liberty on the obverse was the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. The penny had Lincoln. The nickel had Jefferson. The quarter had Washington. As of 1946, the dime had Franklin Roosevelt.
Franklin Half Dollars are a short set with 35 coins between 1948 and 1963. It is relatively easy to build a circulated or uncirculated set.
And now, you asked for it! A brief history of the Franklin Half Dollar.
Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross was a big fan of Benjamin Franklin and wanted to see him on a US coin. With the law dating back from 1890 stating that a coin design change would need Congressional approval if it has been minted under 25 years, the only coins that were out longer than 25 years were the Lincoln Cent and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. Knowing how people were fond of Abraham Lincoln, the only choice was the Half Dollar.
In 1947, chief engraver would start designing Benjamin Franklin on the obverse. He used the medal he made of Franklin as a guide. The reverse would have the Liberty Bell similar to the reverse of the 1926 Sesquicentennial Commemorative Half Dollar.
The half dollar was released to the public on April 30, 1948, but there one thing on the coin people did not approve of, Sinnock’s initials. Right there, below Franklin were the initials JRS. Minus the ‘R’ they are the same initials as Joseph Stalin, premier of the Soviet Union. The complaints would soon disappear and the Franklin Half Dollar would move on.
Though there is not any difficulty getting any of the 35 coins, the 1949-D, 1949-S, 1953-P and 1955-P.
After 15 years and over 465,000,000 Franklin Half Dollars minted, the Half Dollar would be replaced in 1964 as a result of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
What was the Deal with the Tiny Eagle on the Reverse ?
By law, an eagle appeared the reverse of the quarter, half dollar, and dollar coins. It has been said that Benjamin Franklin despised the eagle. He thought they were scavengers. He preferred the wild turkey to be the national bird. Could you imagine a wild turkey on the reverse of this coin. Out of respect for Franklin, the designer made the eagle as small as he could.
Investing in Franklin Half Dollars
I could see two possibilities in collecting Franklins as an investment.
- Full Bell Lines – also known as FBL. There are two lines at the bottom of the Liberty Bell and three more line a little further above. Considered a fully struck half dollar, there are less coins with Full Bell Line making them more valuable.
- Cameo proofs – Regularly proof coins are completely mirror-like. Cameo proof coins are still mirror-like on the flat portion, but the detail and lettering is frosted. Some cameos are more white and are called deep or ultra cameo. Though cameo proof are popular today, they were scarce before 1971.
Would you consider collecting Franklin Half Dollars?
I think Franklin Half Dollars would be popular to the collector and the investor. A small set that is easy to put together. How can you go wrong?
Coin collecting sounds like a great hobby. I’ve never really thought past getting different coins from different countries but it all has to do with the history of the coin doesn’t it. Do the coins have to be in mint condition to be worth anything? I guess it is a bit like stamp collecting. The value depends on how many there were and how rare they are now or if there was an error in it. Does that also apply to coins?
Coin collecting is a great hobby. There is a lot of history in coins. In most cases, a coin’s value is determined by its rarity and condition. There are exceptions. For example, there are more 1914-D cents than 1931-S, but because of the hoarding of the 1931-S, the value of it was less. Good luck!
Very good informative article here. I have an uncle who’s a heavy collector he collects everything. He just recently opened his own shop down town. He wants to start collecting coins and after reading this I think it would be a great idea. I’ll share your website and most of your articles with him so he can gather the information he needs to be successful in that niche. Thanks
That’s great that your uncle opened a shop. Thank you for sharing my posts with him. I hope it helps him in the long run.
I love it! You paint a very clear picture of the beauty of this coin, and I particularly like the history of it. Knowing what it is means almost as much as owning them.
Thanks for bringing a breath of fresh air into the coin collecting world. You’ve got a really good thing going here.
Thanks for the nice comment! I hope to help a lot of people with coin collecting, if possible.
I never thought I would start collecting coins as it seems really difficult, but your article is one that has changed my mind. My 2 sisters collects coins all the time and I think your website would help them a lot so I’m going to refer them to your site. Lastly, what coin would you recommend I start collecting for beginners ? If I can earn a bit of extra money I wouldn’t mind collecting and selling a few coins.
Thanks for referring my site to your sisters. I hope you enjoy it as well. In terms of where to start, if you are looking to make extra money, go for a silver set like Franklin Half Dollars. Like I said, it’s a small set and pretty easy. Good luck!
Sure glad I found your website, loved the history on the franklin half dollar. Never knew he disliked the eagle, great tid bit that I will be sharing. Would be funny to see the turkey on everything. I really like the idea of collecting them and not just for the coin but the silver value, these will not lose value and will only increase over time. Great stuff, I have booked marked your site and will be coming back. Thanks for a great and interesting site.
I didn’t realize he didn’t like the eagle till recently. I’m glad you found my site too. I think the silver makes sets like the Franklin Half Dollar popular. Definitely come back and good luck on your collection.
just read your article, it’s interesting, I was always wondering about coins to collect that might be of any value.
I actually have a Frankling half-dollar coin at home, and now I’m even sure it’s something more worth after reading this.Tho I’m just wondering whether it would be a good idea to sell them now or keep it in hope the price might go up, what do you think?
Hey Kevin! Hold on to it. Silver is on the rise. When I checked on Friday, it was over $20 an ounce for the first time in quite some time and it looks like it is continuing to rise.
I always knew that Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey instead of the bald eagle as the national bird but it’s interesting to learn that the eagle on the half-dollar was purposely made smaller out of respect for him! Just goes to show how much people admired Ben Franklin back then.
You said that the half-dollar was replaced as a result of JFK being assassinated, but what was the reason? What did they replace it with?
When JFK was assassinated, the mint wanted to put him on a coin, but they were originally going to put him on the quarter because Washington had been on the quarter over 25 years and they didn’t need Congressional approval to change it. However, Jackie Kennedy said she didn’t want her husband to replace George Washington, so they decided on the quarter. They had no problem getting the Senate to approve and the Kennedy Half Dollar began being minted in 1964.