The Franklin Half Dollar from 1949-S

People are slowly discovering that Franklin half dollars are good. Why has it taken 50 years for many to recognize the Franklin half dollar? One explanation may be that Franklin half dollars like the 1949-S are still affordable.

Remember that the Franklin half dollar replaced the popular Walking Liberty half dollar, which can make a difference. Instead of keeping the new Franklin half dollar in 1948, many saved the final Walking Liberty half dollars. Of course, saving the design being replaced is common, but it seems to have happened more often than expected.

Safe to suppose the half dollar was a lot of money at the time. The 1949 Franklin half dollars were too expensive for most people to start saving, even if they saved the 1948 ones. New designs often have significant mintages. The Franklin half dollar started out differently than the Roosevelt dimes, which were abundant in 1946. Half dollars were plentiful, which contributed to the explanation. The wartime record high mintages of the 1940s ensured there was no scarcity of half dollars, therefore 1948 mintages were low and San Francisco had not produced the new coin.

Although San Francisco will manufacture 1949 coins, they were not much higher. The 1949 half dollar mintage was 13.5 million pieces, near to the 1943-S total if you include the three facilities. The 1943 from Philadelphia was over 53 million, showing how low early Franklin half dollar totals were compared to 1940s Walking Liberty half dollar totals.

Even with poor sales, the new design was old in 1949. Despite low mintages, the new Franklin half dollar was rarely collected or saved. The lowest mintage of the year was 3,744,000 1949-S. As half dollar collection became popular in the 1950s, few 1949-S Franklin halves were taken from circulation; it was the era of collecting lesser denominations. Additionally, most Franklin half dollars, including the low mintage 1949-S, were readily available.

Despite its modesty, the 1949-S became a better date Franklin half dollar. Although 1948, 1953, and 1955 had smaller mintages, the 1949-S was better.

Did its fame prevent it from melting about 1980? If it is 90% silver, a half dollar is worth $15 in any grade at $50 or closer to $50. While the 1949-S could have been melted at such rates, it would have been one of the final Franklin half dollar dates offered because it seemed nicer. Whether a modest amount of superior samples saved at that time prevented supply losses from subsequent dates is possible.

The 1949-S is one of the most circulating dates and the most costly Franklin at $75 in MS-60. It's not the key at $120 in MS-65 and $700 with full bell lines, but it's possible that a few nicer ones were saved from destruction. The 1949-S is tough in Mint State but more available in top grades, which is hard to explain except to say that it was well made and saved when others were not.

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