The Franklin Half Dollar was minted from 1948 to 1963 and carries a face value of .50 USD. This is the coin that preceded the Kennedy Half Dollar, which was minted beginning in 1964 as a result of the assasination of President JFK. The Franklin Half Dollar was created to honor the United States founding father, Benjamin Franklin. In addition to his work in early American politics, Franklin was a writer, scientist, inventor, printer, publisher and philosopher. He also served as a diplomat in France. The coins made in his likeness are still in demand to this day because of their historical significance and symbolism.
The Franklin Half Dollar came to fruition because the Mint’s then-director, Nellie Tayloe Ross was a huge fan of Franklin and wanted to see his likeness on a coin. By 1947, Ross was ready to make Franklin the image on the next half dollar. She told the mint’s chief engraver, John Sinnock, to start developing designs for the half dollar, but, unfortunately, Sinnock died before he could complete the design. It was his successor, Gilroy Roberts, that actually completed the final design of the coin, though Sinnock did have creative input throughout the process and even served up some controversy after his passing.
First released in April of 1948, the coins were initially controversial because the letters “JRS” were inscribed near Franklin’s shoulder. Some believed the initials were in tribute to Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet dictator, however, the reality is, the initials were of “John R. Sinnock’s” Despite the early controversy, these coins were minted regularly until 1963. In 1964, the Franklins were replaced by the Kennedy Half Dollar.
The Franklin Half Dollar’s design was the work of two men: John Sinnock and Gilroy Roberts, both US Mint engravers. The famous and beloved design pays tribute to one of the most highly recognized men in US history and a founding father of our democracy, Benjamin Franklin.
On the obverse of the coin is a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, a familiar face for any American. The image is of his profile, featuring flowing hair that cuts off at the shoulder. The design is both simple and spectacular. It is simply an image of Franklin, but the thoughts it evokes are spectacular. When seeing Franklin one might think of American freedom, liberty and hard work. Other words that may come to mind are imagination, spirit and success. There’s no doubt Franklin had an impact on early America and he continues to have impact to this day. At the top of the coin is the word “Liberty” and at the bottom is the inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Also at the bottom is the year of the particular coin’s minting.
On the reverse of the coin is the Liberty Bell and Eagle, two enduring symbols of Americana. The design on the Liberty Bell caught some controversy in the beginning. The design features a crack in the bell and this was originally seen as an unnecessary flaw. The public also was against the small eagle featured on the reverse. Now these symbols are ingrained in our collective memory as symbols of freedom. The back of the coin also features the words “E PLURIBUS UNUM” plus “United States of America” and “Half Dollar.”
The Franklin Half Dollar is popular with collectors for various reasons. First of all, the coin is of great historical significance, as it features one of the most famous Americans in our history. Some collectors search for these coins just to pay homage to Franklin, as though holding the coin is a way of channeling the great American leader. The coin is also desired by collectors because they came out during a historically significant time in American history. It marks the time just before President JFK was shot and America’s collective innocence was lost.
The coins are also significant because of their silver content. Some collectors want these coins specifically for that reason. Another reason for the popularity is that the coin is a fifty cent piece, which means it is of a different value than $1 or $5 pieces. That means investing in Franklin Half Dollars is a way to diversify the portfolio.
Perhaps the greatest reason for recent interest in these coins is their age. These coins are getting older now and because of that they’re more valuable in the eye of a collector. As coins get older they become more scarce. People lose coins, accidentally discard them or melt them down for their silver value, and, as a result of that, the coins become less prominent over the years, which impacts their value. But, age does not always mean value, such is true with the Franklin Half Dollar.
The value of these coins depends on the particular year of minting as well as the outward appearance of the coin. In other words: is the coin in good shape? Older coins are more desired by collectors. An older coin that looks new is going to command the most interest.
It is very important to note that these coins are considered easier to come by than other, similar coins. They’re not considered particularly rare, even though they have been produced in limited mintages. Some collectors may desire original editions of these coins or may desire a coin from a particular year because it was the year their father or grandfather was born or the year their great grandmother died, or for any other sentimental reason.