By CoinWeek …..
A Proof 65 Franklin half dollar is not typically considered a valuable coin, and your typical 1962 Proof Set will likely yield one. Recent auctions yield prices of $20 and under. However, on Sunday, February 14, bidding on GreatCollections.com for this PCGS Proof 65 1962 Franklin half dollar yielded an astonishing result of $3,612.38 USD after spirited bidding.
Before we explain why the coin brought such an unprecedented sum, let’s talk briefly about the Franklin half dollar design.
The Franklin Half: An Underappreciated Modern Classic
The 15-year run of Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock’s Franklin half dollar was bookended by events that unfortunately led to the public’s neglect of the unassuming modern coin. When it came out in 1948, the Franklin half had the misfortune of following the classic Walking Liberty half dollar (1916-47), a design beloved of coin collectors and bullion investors alike. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, meant that the country longed for a way to commemorate the popular young politician, and Congress and the United States Mint worked rapidly to do so, leading to the Kennedy half dollar replacing the Franklin type in 1964. It was the last half dollar type to be struck entirely in 90% silver.
The first Proof Franklins were struck in 1950, two years after the series’ debut, and continued to be produced each year for the remainder of the series’ run. 51,386 were struck that first year, a low number by modern standards, and mintages increased almost exponentially from there, as enthusiasm for coin collecting exploded with the hobby took root as a popular pastime amongst members of the general public. In 1962, the 13th year of production, Philadelphia minted 3,218,019 pieces – the highest mintage of the Proof issues.
Like its business strike counterpart, the Proof Franklin half dollar features clean fields and an overall attractive appearance in higher grades. Unlike modern issues, where Deep Cameo frosting is the norm, U.S. Mint Proof issues of the period exhibited frosted devices only on pieces struck very early in the life of a Proof die. This frosting would quickly fade away until the entire surface of the coin exhibited a fully brilliant appearance.
The Franklin half dollar is has proven over time to be a classic example of mid-century modern coin design.
The portrait of Franklin, created by Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock, is modeled after a bust by 18th-century sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The clean and bold design was not without controversy, however. The Fine Arts Commission objected to the small reverse eagle (added because an eagle was required by law on all federal coinage), as well as to the obvious presentation of the crack in the Liberty Bell. As it turned out, the public was instead more interested in Sinnock’s “JRS” initials, which, whipped up by the paranoia of the Cold War, were weirdly thought by some to be a reference to “Joseph Stalin“. Another rumor was that the small “O” in oF, part of UNITED STATES oF AMERICA, was a mistake and would soon be corrected, making the original issues more valuable; but the text remained the same for the entire series.
Franklin’s right-facing portrait occupies much of the obverse. LIBERTY forms an arc inside the top rim and IN GOD WE TRUST a second arc inside the bottom rim. The date is placed to the right of the portrait, below the chin, extending nearly to the T in TRUST.
The reverse Liberty Bell was adapted from John Frederick Lewis’ original sketch for the 1926 Sesquicentennial half dollar.
The Liberty Bell dominates the center of the reverse, with UNITED STATES oF AMERICA encircling around the top and HALF DOLLAR, in slightly larger text, around the bottom. The phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM, in three lines and with a dot on both sides of E, is to the left of the bell, and a small eagle is to right. The eagle rests on a perch, with wings partially outstretched. San Francisco (S) and Denver (D) mintmarks are located above the wood beam holding the bell.
The GreatCollections Example
The GreatCollections example that sold for $3,612.38 stands out not because of its grade (PCGS PR65), or for the thickness of its cameo contrast (the GC piece is fully brilliant), but rather because of the rarity of its first-generation PCGS coin holder. A White Label Rattler with a 1080- cert number, this OG holder is among the first 350 coins ever graded by the service. The coin’s full cert number 1080333 alludes to the possibility that this was the 333rd coin ever graded by PCGS. Given that the service has graded over 40 million coins since its founding, this is a significant point and the reason why this run-of-the-mill Franklin half dollar of a common issue garnered 31 bids en route to its record-smashing final bid.
Collecting coins by holder has developed in recent years into a viable and interesting hobby for many enthusiasts of certified coins. PCGS and NGC, far and away the leaders in the third-party certification industry, have shaped the numismatic landscape for more than 30 years. Along the way, they have created their own niche of numismatic collecting through the myriad styles of holders and inserts that they have introduced into the market. For PCGS, rattlers, doily holders, and regency holders stand out as the most collectible. For NGC, early generation holders like the OG black holder used when the company was first established in 1987, often bring major premiums at auction.
Before either company established itself as a critically important partner in the sale of any major collection, the firms had to get their product into the market. The 1962 Franklin Proof, neither a rare coin nor an especially premium example, was one of the first to carry out that mission.
And now that it has sold at a GreatCollections auction, it finds itself in a great collection, one that appreciates the importance of appreciating and preserving this aspect of our numismatic history.