1957 Franklin Half Dollar: Full Bell Lines Designation Adds Value

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Franklin Half Dollar Overview

Lesser known than other half dollar pieces, the Franklin half dollar is a unique and attractive coin that is relatively easy to get your hands on.

The idea for this coin was first conceived by mint director and long-time Franklin admirer Nellie Tayloe Ross. The coin was initially struck in 1948 and was the successor to the popular Walking Liberty half dollar.  

The man Ross tasked with designing the coin was John Sinnock, Chief Engraver at the US Mint.

The obverse of Sinnock’s design features a profile bust portrait of Benjamin Franklin with the inscription “LIBERTY” above his head, “IN GOD WE TRUST” below him, and the year of mintage to his right.

In the center of the reverse design is the Liberty Bell. Above the bell is the legend “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” and below the bell is the denomination “HALF DOLLAR.” To the left is the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and to the right is a small eagle with spread wings.

The eagle was not part of the original design but was added to comply with a bill that required all half dollar pieces to incorporate the iconography of an eagle.

The mintage of the Franklin half dollar was brought to a screeching halt by the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. The coin was discontinued in that year to make room for the commemorative Kennedy half dollar that would first be struck in 1964.

History of the 1957 Franklin Half Dollar

1957 was one of the most productive years for the Franklin half dollar; around 25 million coins were minted in total.

Franklin half dollars of this year were struck at two locations: Philadelphia and Denver, the latter being the chief location for this particular issue.

In 1957, some 19,966,850 half dollars were struck at Denver. These coins are marked with a small “D” just above the Liberty Bell on the reverse.

Philadelphia produced much fewer half dollars: 6,361,952. As usual, Philadelphia mintages display no mint mark.

Typical for the Franklin half dollar series, 1957 coins have a composition of 90% silver and 10% copper, a mass of 12.5g, and a diameter of 30.6mm.

Grading: Full Bell Lines

One of the most important criteria for judging grade in Franklin half dollars is the condition of the lines that appear around the base of the Liberty Bell on the reverse design.

Similar to the Full Step designation for Jefferson nickels, if a Franklin half dollar displays clear, distinct lines all the way across the bell, it can be classified as a Full Bell Lines example.

The clarity of the line detail is indicative of a full, high-quality strike. This can raise the value of your coin and is usually a tell-tale sign of a high-grade specimen.

Some issues of the Franklin half dollar are difficult to find with Full Bell Lines. 1957 mintages are not among these rarities, but Full Bell Lines can still bring a higher premium for your 1957 specimen.

Valuing the 1957 Franklin Half Dollar

Because the Franklin half dollar contains a significant amount of silver, the minimum value for these coins is often their melt value, or how much the metal is worth to a precious metal dealer.

Based on the current price of silver, the melt value of a 1957 Franklin half dollar is $5.71. This will change as the silver bullion value fluctuates, but it will not change because of the condition of the coin.

Since the 1957 mintage was rather large, and because these coins are not very old, the value for most grades is not very high. Still, even lower grades are significantly above face value and melt value.

Grades from Good-4 to Very Fine-20 are worth $7.42. This increases to $8.55 in Extremely Fine-40, $9.36 in About Uncirculated-50, and $10 in Uncirculated (MS-60).

Higher levels of Uncirculated (MS-65 and above) bring increasing premiums in accordance with increased scarcity.

MS-65 examples are worth $35, and Proof coins are valued at $22.

To illustrate the difference that the Full Bell Lines designation can make, let’s examine a 1957-P M-65 grade example.

With incomplete bell lines, the coin is valued at $35-46. With Full Bell Lines, on the other hand, it is valued at $75-85.

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