Category Archives: February 2012

Franklin Halves Intrigue Collectors

The Benjamin Franklin design half dollars minted from 1948 through 1963 are no longer being passed over by collectors. For years they were considered commonplace and hardly worth saving because they were made in large quantities compared to the more glamorous Walking Liberty half dollars that they replaced. Now collectors are taking a fresh look at these attractive coins and learning that they are neither as common or as mundane as was once believed.

Complete Franklin Half Dollar Set

Complete Franklin Half Dollar Set

The engraver of the Franklin half dollar, John R. Sinnock, was faced with the monumental task of creating a design to replace the beloved Walking Liberty coin. It was an image that had endured since 1916 and reflected patriotism and artistry. Sinnock, however, was up to the task. His subject was a famous statesman and the only non-president to appear on United States coins for many years. On the reverse of Sinnock’s coin was the well-known Liberty Bell. It was not a new theme for the artist. He had used a very similar version of the bell in 1926 when he designed a commemorative half dollar celebrating the sesquicentennial of American Independence. On the circulating coin he added a tiny eagle in the field to comply with the law requiring the National bird on all silver coins. Unfortunately, the addition of that element meant overcrowding the design and wording to the point of losing some of the artistic appeal.

Over the years collectors have enjoyed saving Franklin half dollars because the series is relatively short and there are very few scarce dates to contend with. All 35 dates and mint marks can be found easily and can usually be purchased in circulated condition for only a little over silver melt value. Even in uncirculated grade most of the coins are valued at under $10 each, and the rarest date, the 1949-S, still sells for around $50.

The desired full bell lines on the Benjamin Franklin half dollar

The desired full bell lines on the Benjamin Franklin half dollar

Now, after years of being ignored by the hobby, Franklin half dollars are beginning to be appreciated as a serious collectible challenge. They began to gain that respect when it was realized that millions of them had been melted in the period of 1978 to 1980. At that time the price of silver bullion rose to nearly $50 per ounce and Franklins in any condition could be sold for $15 each and thrown into the melting pot. The melt value was so much more than the numismatic value of these coins that nothing could stop the mass destruction of even high grade uncirculated pieces. In recent years collectors who turned their attention to these coins have attempted to form sets in the highest possible grade of condition because circulated pieces are still commonplace. Pride of ownership in “super” coins is evident in the outstanding prices that are paid for pieces that are near perfection in grade and boldness of strike. A mark of the coins quality, and desirability, is dependent on how well the design of the Liberty Bell is visible. On ordinary coins the lines in the bell are often ill formed or missing. Coins displaying full bell lines are the gems that serious collectors seek.

A review of mintage figures in this series reveals that there are several dates and mints that are worthy of notice for collectors. Many are under three million, and with the unknown factor of heavy melting years ago, there is no way of knowing how many may still be available to fill future needs. It has long been known that of the remaining coins in uncirculated condition, most of them suffer from nicks and imperfections caused by long-time storage. Coins above the level of MS-65 are considered exceptional and worthy of substantial premiums.

What the future holds for Franklin half dollars is anyone’s guess, but it seems certain that forming a set at today’s prices represents a good value. No more will ever be made, they are a significant part of our numismatic history, and they are reasonably priced in anything but the very highest grade of condition. Whether your budget can afford coins in the range of $5, $20, $50 or even $50,000 this is a set worth pursuing.

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2011 Silver Eagle 25th Anniversary Set – 70 Grade

2011 Silver Eagle 25th Anniversary Set - 70 GradeTo commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the American Eagle Silver Coin Program, the United States Mint has offered a unique limited-edition set of five one-ounce American Eagle Silver Coins. This American Eagle Five-Coin Set is an exquisite collection that captures the essence and beauty of these cherished coins – in stunning proof, reverse proof, satin finish and bullion versions minted at the West Point, San Francisco and Philadelphia branches of the Mint. The set contains one each of the following 2011-dated coins:

• Silver Eagle Reverse Proof Coin – mint mark: “P” (Philadelphia)
• Silver Eagle Proof Coin – mint mark: “W” (West Point)
• Silver Eagle Satin Finish Coin – mint mark: “W” (West Point)
• Silver Eagle Satin Finish Coin – mint mark: “S” (San Francisco)
• Silver Eagle Bullion Coin – no mint mark

What makes this set truly special is the inclusion of the rare Reverse Proof coin. Minted in the opposite way that Proof coins are, Reverse Proofs feature a frosted background with mirror-bright images and are never sold individually by the Mint – only in special collectors sets. 2011 is just the second time that Reverse Proofs have been offered (the first time was in 2006 in celebration of the Eagle’s 20th anniversary) making these scarce, low-mintage coins truly a collector’s dream come true. The 2006 Reverse Proof coin has risen in value by more than 1,500%.

These much-coveted sets, limited to an edition of 100,000, sold out at the Mint in less than five hours and prices are sky-rocketing. We have a limited edition of just 48 Inaugural Strike sets in 70 grade. Once they’re gone, no more can be sold.

Examined and certified by an independent third party grading company, each .9993 silver coin has been certified as an Inaugural Strike edition, meaning they were among the first coins struck by the Mint. The coins are also graded in flawless “70” grade – the highest grade a coin can achieve. The Proof coins have a Deep Cameo (abbreviated DCAM) finish, meaning they have a deeply frosted design and lettering that contrast with the mirror-like fields. Each coin is encapsulated in a tamper-proof holder to protect its condition for the future and to preserve the “Inaugural Strike” certification.

Posted in February 2012 | 2 Comments

Gettysburg National Military Park

2011 Gettysburg National Park QuartersThe America the Beautiful quarter series contains images of some of our nation’s most beloved treasures- our National Parks. One such Park is Gettysburg National Military Park.

Certainly every school child knows Gettysburg as the site of Lincoln’s famous address and as the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. There is so much history here however that it deserves being looked into a little more deeply. Here are five things you might not

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know about “Gettysburg.”

  • There is a bronze likeness of an Irish wolfhound on the Irish Brigade monument in the Park. The monument symbolizes the loyalty shown for the Union cause by the brigade’s soldiers, most of whom were Irish immigrants or sons of immigrants to the United States.
  • During the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1938, President Roosevelt dedicated a monument to everlasting peace between the North and South.
  • Well before the battle, Samuel Gettys opened a tavern in 1761. Fifteen years later his son, James, laid out lots that surrounded the tavern. The small town became known as Gettysburg.
  • There was only one documented civilian death during the battle. Twenty-year-old Ginny Wade was hit by a stray bullet while she was baking bread.
  • Edward Everett, the great orator, was the “main” speaker the day of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous address. Everett spoke for over two hours; Lincoln for a few minutes. Lincoln’s address consisted of 10 sentences.
Posted in February 2012 | 1 Comment

Time Flies

Fugio Copper CentBenjamin Franklin is credited with designing the first federally authorized copper coin. The coins were issued in 1787 and circulated for many years thereafter. The design shows a sun dial with blazing sun above and the inscription “Fugio”(I Flee) and “mind your business”, reminding users that time flies so take care of your duties.

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Fascinating Coin Fact

Twenty Dollar U.S. Gold Coin“Sweating” is an illegitimate means of obtaining small amounts of precious metal from coins. The practice was commonplace throughout the world prior to the last century. It was done by jostling coins together in a confined space such as a box or bag. Tiny flecks of gold or silver could be obtained by this method without seriously altering the appearance of the coins that had been sweated. Generally it was only gold coins that were worth the time and trouble of sweating, and large pieces like the U.S.$20 were often the target of such thievery.

Posted in February 2012 | 1 Comment