United States 1953 Proof Franklin Half Dollar

After the production of Proof Franklin half dollars began in 1950, two years after the introduction of the series, the United States Mint saw a massive increase in demand of more than 150% by 1953. Because the mintage of each component coin in the annual Proof Set was tied to market demand, and since the Mint sold 128,800 Proof Sets that year, only 128,800 1953 Proof Franklin half dollars were struck. While collectors can often find nice examples of later-date Proof coins by buying unopened original sets, most of the 1953 sets have already been searched through. Additionally, not only do these sets sell for between $250 and $300 but the empty boxes have been known to sell for as much as $30!

As the early 1950s saw a massive increase in production, quality control began to suffer. The 1953 Proof Franklin half in particular experienced issues with die re-engraving and over-polishing. For example, a number of pieces show that the reverse eagle was over-polished and then poorly re-engraved.

The 1953 Proof Franklin Half Dollar in Today’s Market

Below PR 61, these pieces generally sell for between $70 and $100. While they should not quite be considered “common”, pieces in these grades aren’t too difficult to acquire.

These coins were highly collected when new, and so most examples survive in PR 61 condition or above. These pieces will sell for roughly $100 to $150. There are, however, a number of examples in PR 62 that have sold for as low as $50 over the past two years.

PR 63-64 sees a small bump in price, with examples valued between $150 and $200. While this price range mostly also holds true for PR 65-66, at least one piece recently sold for $475 on eBay – though it’s important to note that this lot was a “best offer” sales post.

In the highest grades (PR 67-69), this type becomes a true conditional rarity with very few examples available to collectors. Since demand far outstrips supply, these pieces are quite valuable and hold a premium over lower grades. While PR 67s consistently pull in $400 to $700, a PR 68 is worth $1,000 or more. Nearly perfect PR 69s, which only come to the market once a year or so, sell for between $7,000 and $9,000.

However, the peak for this type is the Deep Cameo (DCAM) designation. Even in PR 66, such pieces are comparable in price to a straight PR 68. Furthermore, in recent auctions, PR 67 DCAM examples have commanded prices between $7,000 and $10,000. The highest DCAM grade for this type, PR 68, has sold for as low as $17,000 and high as $30,000 in the past two years.

Design

It is interesting to note that both the obverse and reverse designs of the Franklin half dollar were rejected by the United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). The Treasury Department ignored this recommendation and approved the design anyway. In this instance, it seems that the CFA got it wrong. The Franklin half dollar design, despite being simple, has become an exemplar of modern U.S. coinage, with the coin’s frosted Cameo Proof striking being highly coveted by collectors.

Obverse:

Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock designed both sides of the Franklin half dollar. His obverse was based on Jean-Antoine Houdon’s 18th-century bust of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. Sinnock had previously used this bust to create a Franklin medal issued by the Mint in 1933. The date (1953) appears in the lower-right of the obverse, while the national motto IN GOD WE TRUST curves beneath Franklin and LIBERTY curves around the top. The designer’s initials (JRS) are located at the truncation of Franklin’s bust.

Reverse:

Sinnock and future Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts designed the reverse, which depicts the Liberty Bell based on the 1926 Sesquicentennial half dollar reverse and a small eagle (mandated by law) at right.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA arcs above the Liberty Bell while the denomination HALF DOLLAR curves beneath it. E PLURIBUS UNUM appears to the left of the bell and an eagle, its wings spread, stands to its right. Two sets of three parallel horizontal lines encircle the base and bottom of the bell, a key grading diagnostic indicative of strike quality.

Coins struck at the Denver and San Francisco Mints exhibit a small mintmark above the wooden beam holding the Liberty Bell, below STATES in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The Franklin half dollars struck at the Philadelphia Mint were not struck with a mintmark.

Edge:

The edge of the 1953 Franklin half dollar is reeded.

Designers

John R. Sinnock became the eighth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint upon George T. Morgan’s death in 1925, holding the position until his own death on May 14, 1947. In addition to being chosen by Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross to design both the new Roosevelt dime and Franklin half dollar in 1946, Sinnock is responsible for engraving the 1926 Sesquicentennial American Independence half dollar and gold $2.50 for the 150th anniversary of the United States of America. Sinnock also helped sculpt the U.S. Army’s modern Purple Heart medal for Military Merit for soldiers wounded in combat.

Gilroy Roberts was the ninth Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, serving from 1948-1965. He is best remembered for his design of the Kennedy half dollar obverse.

Coin Specifications

Country:  USA
Year Of Issue:  1953
Denomination:  Half Dollar
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 128,800
Alloy:  90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight:  12.50 g
Diameter:  30.60 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer  John R. Sinnock
REV Designer  John R. Sinnock | Gilroy Roberts
Quality: Proof

 

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