By CoinWeek ….
On Sunday, March 31, a 1953-S Franklin Half Dollar–graded MS-65+ FBL by PCGS and approved by CAC–sold for $38,000 USD on GreatCollections.com after nine bids. With Buyer’s Fee included, the coin’s final sale price was $42,750.
This particular 1953-S half is one of two examples graded MS-65+ by PCGS that also feature Full Bell Lines; in fact, it is the image coin given on PCGS.com for the date and grade under the “FL” (Full Lines) designation. NGC reports no coins for the grade, with only one higher at MS-66. Meanwhile, PCGS reports three higher: two at MS-66 and one at MS-67.
The PCGS population report lists no archived auction results for the MS-65+ grade, though it does estimate a value of $22,500 for such a coin. It is perhaps worth noting that PCGS records the highest sale price for a 1953-S Franklin half dollar in general as $69,000, achieved by a PCGS MS-66 at a Bowers & Merena auction in January of 2001.
Other MS-66 auction results, for both PCGS- and NGC-certified coins, are in the low to mid-$30,000 range, which leads one to assume that the winner of yesterday’s auction believes the coin is especially strong for its grade, if not undergraded.
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.
Nevertheless, and much deservedly, the Franklin half has reached its own audience within the numismatic community over time. Consisting of 90% silver, it is a series collected in a number of ways. In higher Mint State grades, the fields are clean and the coin is attractive overall. But what really gets a Franklin collector going is a quality of strike known as “Full Lines” or “Full Bell Lines”.
Full Bell Lines
The reverse of the Franklin half dollar features a large rendition of the iconic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, replete with the crack that, contrary to assumption, didn’t occur until about 80 to 90 years after it was cast. There is also a superfluous looking mini-eagle, placed there by law, but it does not figure into the idea of “Full Bell Lines”.
What the term refers to is the sharpness and clarity of the lines along the rim of the bell. If the lines on the bell are completely struck and apparent–and not interrupted by dings or marks on the coin’s surface–then a Franklin half dollar is eligible for the much-sought-after designation.