Struck by the United States Mint from 1948 to 1963, the 90% silver Franklin Half Dollar was designed by chief engraver, John R. Sinnock. The piece signified the change of U.S coinage and was created at the end of the golden age of American coinage art. Featuring one of America’s most famous Founding Fathers, Franklin Half Dollars boast historical significance and are extremely sought after by collectors.
The coin’s obverse depicts Benjamin Franklin, facing right and with flowing hair to his shoulders. While Franklin’s profile is detailed, the overall design of the obverse is fairly simple. He is accompanied by three inscriptions including LIBERTY above and IN GOD WE TRUST below. Sinnock’s initials JRS are below Franklin’s shoulder, with the year of minting bottom right, just below Franklin’s chin.
On the reverse of the Franklin Half Dollar is the Liberty Bell, which features a large crack. A small eagle is located next to the bell on the right and E PLURIBUS UNUM on the left. Other engravings include UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above and HALF DOLLAR below.
United States Mint director, Nellie Tayloe Ross had always admired Benjamin Franklin and chose to depict him on a coin in 1947. Ross became the first female director of the Mint in 1933 and was known for being a fan of the Franklin medal designed by John R. Sinnock, the Mint’s chief engraver.
Having been so impressed with his previous work, Ross instructed Sinnock to prepare designs for the Franklin Half Dollar. Sinnock’s image of Franklin was very similar to the one used on the medal and was modelled after a bust that had been created by Jean-Antoine Houdon. Sadly, Sinnock passed away in 1947 before completing his Half Dollar coin designs. Gilroy Roberts stepped in to add the finishing touches to the artworks, including the small eagle on the coin’s reverse following Sinnock’s death.
The Commission of Fine Arts liked the obverse design, however, disapproved the design for the reverse, commenting that the eagle was too small and the crack in the Liberty Bell should be removed. The Commission also recommended a design competition in order to obtain new designs. Treasury Secretary, John W. Snyder disagreed with the Commission and approved Sinnock’s designs for the Franklin Half Dollar.
First released in 1948, the Franklin Half Dollar received mixed reviews. Some people thought that Sinnock’s initials on the cut-off of Franklin’s bust on the obverse were those of Joseph Stalin. Of course, this wasn’t true, and the Mint explained that JRS stood for John Ray Sinnock and his initials would not be removed from the coin. The same thing happened in 1946 when Sinnock’s Roosevelt Dime was issued, also featuring his initials.
Franklin Half Dollars were struck at the mint facilities of Philadelphia (no mintmark), Denver (D) and San Francisco (S) and there are 35 different mintmarks in the entire series. These coins were produced in limited mintages in the first 5 years and many of the following years. Although there are no real rarities, a number of dates are key, such as the 1948, 1953, 1949-D and 1950-D. Proof Franklin Half Dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint and issued annually from 1950 to 1963. A small number of cameo proofs with mirror-like finishes were also minted and cost considerably more than standard proofs.
While Franklin Half Dollars are not considered especially rare, an increase in demand for these coins has made it harder to acquire certain dates. They’re also affordable coins that can be purchased on just about any budget, making it easy to assemble a complete set if you wish. Produced for 16 years with a reeded edge, Franklin Half Dollars are usually collected by mint and date.
When purchasing Franklin Half Dollars, we recommend you always consider quality and condition. The most desired pieces are those that have remained in excellent condition and look as though they’ve just been struck. You also need to appreciate that all Frank Half Dollar dates will only grow scarcer with time, which means each coin will grow in value as well.
If you want to add Franklin Half Dollars to your collection, feel free to contact Capital Gold Group to place an order. Alternatively, you can get in touch with your questions and for expert advice on these popular historical pieces.