The Ben Franklin Half Dollar: An Overlooked Statesman in Silver
The Franklin half dollar holds historical significance for several reasons. First, it marked the first circulation coin to depict Benjamin Franklin, honoring his 300th birthday in 1948. Second, the coin reflects a period of renewed interest in the Founding Fathers and American origins after World War II. Additionally, the Liberty Bell reverse represents Franklin's link to American independence and the forging of a new nation. Finally, the Franklin half dollar provided a refreshed coin design to replace the Walking Liberty half, which had been minted for over 30 years. With its dignified Franklin portrait and Liberty Bell reverse, this mid-20th century half dollar is a significant piece capturing American heritage and values.
The Franklin half dollar, minted from 1948 to 1963, is somewhat overlooked today compared to other classic American coin designs. Yet it is rich in history and depicts one of the most revered Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin.
Origin and Design
Authorized in 1948 to honor Franklin on the 300th anniversary of his birth, the half dollar discarded the "Walking Liberty" design used since 1916. In its place was a dignified right-facing portrait of Franklin surrounded by the inscriptions "In God We Trust" and "Liberty." The reverse featured the Liberty Bell, aptly symbolic of Franklin's philanthropy and contributions to American independence.
While plentiful in lower grades, the Franklin half is conditionally scarce in MS-65 or higher, thanks to its short mintage span and imperfect striking details. This ensures availability for collectors while adding challenge to locating gem quality examples. A few better date and mintmark issues stand out, like the 1953-S and 1962-D.
Key Varieties and Errors
The most intriguing Franklin half varieties are the 1955 Double Die Obverse, with strong doubling of Franklin's portrait and IN GOD WE TRUST. Only a few thousand exist. There is also a 1961 overdate where an old '0' shows under the '1' in the date.
Though it has lived in the shadow of more famous series like the Walking Liberty and Kennedy half dollars, the Franklin half dollar is an important mid-20th century release honoring a Founding Father. For Americana collectors, locating a brilliant uncirculated example of Ben Franklin on the half dollar is a rewarding treasure.
Franklin Half Dollar Bolo Ties
PCGS CoinFacts - Franklin Half Dollar
USA Coin Book - Franklin Half Dollars
Littleton Coin Company - Franklin Half Dollar Collection
NGC Coin Explorer - Franklin Half Dollars
The Fun Times Guide - Franklin Half Dollar
Coin Values - Franklin Half Dollars