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NGC Coin Grading: What Are Full Bell Lines?

NGC Full Bell Lines Franklin Half Dollar

NGC’s designation gives collectors a more comprehensive assessment of Franklin Half Dollars

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
NGC uses a numeric grade to succinctly describe a problem-free coin’s condition. Certain coins, however, are eligible for a more nuanced description of their condition and appearance. For these coins, NGC graders follow the numeric grade with a range of designations, often called “Strike Characters.”

The Franklin Half Dollar series (1948-1963) is the shortest Half Dollar series after the Civil War. Relatively easy to collect, the series was cut short by the intense response to the assassination of President Kennedy, which resulted in a new Half Dollar series.

The coin features the iconic Liberty Bell on its reverse. To qualify for NGC’s Full Bell Lines (FBL) designation, all the horizontal lines on the bell must be distinct. Often, the strike can leave the lower bell lines incomplete. The rarity of the FBL designation varies across the series, though coins from San Francisco consistently have trouble qualifying.

Franklin Half Dollars do not need to be Mint State to qualify for the FBL designation, but it should be no surprise that most that qualify are Mint State. The FBL designation is not used for Franklin Half Dollar Proofs, which are assumed to have been well-struck.

The Franklin Half Dollar is the only Half Dollar with a unique strike character. Other series with unique strike chracters include the Standing Liberty Quarter (Full Head), the Mercury and Roosevelt Dimes (Full Bands, Full Torch) and the Jefferson Nickel (5 or 6 Full Steps).

The FBL strike character can be combined with the strike characters for “PL” (for Prooflike) and “DPL” (for Deep Prooflike), but to date, only a handful of PL Franklin Half Dollars have been certified by NGC (with no DPL ones). The full list of potential combinations is as follows:

Franklin Half Dollar Full Bell Line (FBL) coin grading info, courtesy NGC

Coins with certain strike characters are often more highly prized by collectors. As a result, strike characters are separated on different lines for each coin in the NGC Census to give a better understanding of their relative rarity. The NGC Price Guide also lists the FBL designations separately.

Numismatic Guaranty Company
Numismatic Guaranty Companyhttps://www.ngccoin.com/
NGC was founded in 1987 and has become one of the largest third-party grading services. Their parent company is the Certified Collectibles Group (CCG).

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  1. Have heard/seen it stated by other sources that only the BOTTOM three lines…nearest/at the bottom of the bell…are considered. You (NGC, this article) state “all” horizontal lines “must be distinct” (not necessarily unbroken all the way across) but your illustration only highlights (with squiggly extension lines) the next/upper set of three lines, about a mm up from the bottom set. Are other sources/grading services using different standards…? Please clarify, and if so, let’s get together with the private entities and agree to standardize these across numismatics for the good of all.


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