The Franklin Half Dollar is one of the last silver coins in America whose entire series was produced with 90% silver. This piece replaced the Walking Liberty Half Dollar which had been in circulation since 1916.
Obverse: Benjamin Franklin
Reverse: Liberty Bell with small Eagle
Mints: D, S and P
Designer: John R. Sinnock
In the late 1940s, the U.S. Mint director Nellie Tayloe Ross, who was a lifelong fan of Benjamin Franklin decided she wanted to change the current Half Dollar to depict the great American statesman. John R. Sinnock, the Chief Engraver at the time, designed the coin and this made history as Benjamin Franklin became the first non-president to be portrayed on a regular U.S. coin.
Sinnock had actually designed a medal with Benjamin Franklin on it in the 1930s and used that same portrait of Franklin for this half dollar piece. He intended to make final edits to Franklin’s head and shoulders for the minting of the coin but sadly he passed away before doing so. Therefore, the new Chief Engraver, Gilroy Roberts, wound up making the finishing touches to the design of the coin and its production began in late 1947 in preparation for its release the following year.
Historians point out that initially there was some criticism of the Franklin Half Dollar in America for it being rather plain compared to the Walking Liberty Half Dollar and in addition the Commission of Fine Arts whom was consulted on the design thought that the crack in the Liberty Bell would open the United States up to jokes and derogatory statements about its coinage. However, the Franklin Half Dollar was not changed in anyway and was minted continuously until 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was decided at this time to honor Kennedy by putting him on a new Half Dollar which resulted in the end of the Franklin Half Dollar.
In part because this coin was only minted for 15 years, the Franklin Half Dollar doesn’t have any dates and mint marks that would be considered rare The highest valued regular strikes are the Full Bell Line (FBL) issues with some of the most expensive being the 1963-D (FBL), 1951-S (FBL) and the 1960-D (FBL).
At Tri-State we have access to a wide range of Franklin Half Dollars with a variety of dates and mint marks.