Franklin Half Dollars (1948-1963)
Silver Franklin Half Dollars were released by the United States Mint beginning in 1948 and running until 1963. The coins feature an obverse image of American statesman, inventor, author and a founding father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin. The reverse of the coins depict the Liberty Bell.
Franklin Half Dollars were struck from 90% silver with 0.3617 ounces of the precious metal (for a current melt value of the coin, see the calculator in the right column). The 12.5 gram coins have a diameter of 30.6 mm and were struck at the U.S. Mint’s facilities in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver.
Prior to the release of the Franklin Half Dollars, the U.S. Mint had been producing the popular Walking Liberty Half Dollars which were designed by artist Adolph A. Weinman. Those Walking Liberty coins could have been replaced without the need for Congressional intervention in the early 1940’s, but that move was put on hold likely owing to World War II.
Historical Franklin Half Dollar Silver Coin Melt Values
However, a new half dollar was in mind by U.S. Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross in 1947. She had long been an admirer of Benjamin Franklin and instructed the U.S. Mint’s chief engraver John R. Sinnock to come up with potential designs that would feature the founding father.
Sinnock complied and based his designs on some of his earlier work, although he passed away before he could complete them. His assistant, Gilroy Roberts stepped in to finish the work.
Upon its introduction, the Franklin Half Dollar completed the process of replacing figures of Liberty on smaller U.S. Coins with actual persons as started on the Lincoln cent in 1909. That cent was followed by Jefferson Nickels, Roosevelt Dimes and Washington Quarters.
Shown on the obverse of Franklin Half Dollars is a right facing portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Surrounding his image are the inscriptions of “LIBERTY,” “IN GOD WE TRUST” and the year of minting.
The reverse showcases an image of a cracked Liberty Bell. To the right of the bell is a small eagle. The reverse also includes the inscriptions of “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “HALF DOLLAR.”
The run of the Franklin coins was cut short following the death of President John F. Kennedy. Members of Congress sought to immortalize Kennedy on a coin and chose the half dollar to carry his likeness. The new Kennedy Half Dollar appeared in 1964.
With relatively high mintages, a complete collection of the Franklin Half Dollars is attainable at reasonable prices. As with all other coins, higher grades demand higher prices.
Those Franklin Half Dollars in such poor shape as to warrant little or no numismatic interest are still valuable owing to their intrinsic silver coin melt value.