The Franklin half dollar was struck in relatively small numbers in its first years, as there was limited demand due to a glut of Walking Liberty halves. No half dollars were struck at Denver in 1955 and 1956 due to a lack of demand for additional pieces. The San Francisco Mint closed in 1955; it did not reopen until 1965. In 1957, with improved economic conditions, demand for the pieces began to rise. They were struck in much greater numbers beginning in 1962, which saw the start of the greatly increased demand for coins which would culminate in the great coin shortage of 1964. No Franklin half dollar is rare today, as even low-mintage dates were widely saved. Proof coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint from 1950. “Cameo proofs”, with frosted surfaces and mirror-like fields, were struck in small numbers and carry a premium. Just under 498 million Franklin half dollars, including proofs, were struck.
There are only 35 different dates and mintmarks in the series, making it a relatively inexpensive collecting project. A widely-known variety is the 1955 “Bugs Bunny” half. This variety was caused by a die clash between an obverse die and a reverse die. The impact of the eagle’s wings on the other die caused a marking outside of Franklin’s mouth which according to some resembles buck teeth. The quality of half dollars struck by the Mint decreased in the late 1950s, caused by deterioration of the master die from which working dies were made for coinage.
In an initial attempt to improve the quality of the pieces, the Mint made slight modifications to the designs, though both the old (Type I) and new (Type II) were struck in 1958 and 1959. One obvious difference between the types is the number of long tail feathers on the eagle—Type I half dollars have four tail feathers, Type II only three. Approximately 20% of the 1958 Philadelphia coinage is Type II, struck from dies which were first used to strike the 1958 proofs. About 70% of the 1959 half dollars struck at Philadelphia are Type II; all 1958-D and 1959-D half dollars are Type I. The Mint recut the master die before beginning the 1960 coinage, improving quality.
An especially well-struck Franklin half dollar is said to have full bell lines. To qualify, the seven parallel lines making up the bottom of the bell must be fully visible, and the three wisps of hair to the right of Franklin’s ear on the obverse must also fully show, and not blend together. Many Franklins have been damaged by “roll friction”: the tendency of pieces in a loose coin roll to rub together repeatedly, causing steel-gray abrasions, usually on Franklin’s cheek and on the center of the Liberty Bell.
By mintages, the key dates in this series are the 1948, 1949-S, 1953 and 1955. Franklin half dollars have been extensively melted for their silver, and many dates are rarer than the mintage figures indicate. For example, although more than nine million 1962 halves were struck for circulation, and an additional three million in proof, the coin was more valuable as bullion than in any condition when silver prices reached record levels in 1979–1980. Today, the 1962 half in MS-65 condition sells for about $145, second only to the 1953-S in price in that grade.
Article Source: en.wikipedia.org
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