Franklin half dollars are silver half dollars that offer a pure silver play with the kick of coins, which can pick up premiums in markets with heavy public participation. Franklin half dollars bear likeness of Benjamin Franklin, hence their names. The reverse carries the image of the Liberty Bell.
Ben Franklin half dollars are 90% silver and 10% copper. Each coin, when minted, contained 0.36169 ounce of silver. A bag ($1,000 face — 2,000 coins) of circulated Franklin half dollars weighs right at 55 pounds on a bathroom scale and will yield 718-720 ounces of silver if smelted. Between 1948 and1963, the U.S. Mint produced approximately 309.4 million Benjamin Franklin half dollars.
Silver Half Dollar Market
In the 1970s, investors who bought circulated silver half dollars received mixes of Franklin half dollars, Kennedy, and Walking Liberty half dollars , but mostly Franklin and Kennedy coins. Generally, bags of silver half dollars carried no premiums over dimes and quarters, as all pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver coins were abundant.
By the 1980s, the smelting of 90% coins became commonplace. Still, bags of 90% silver coins were plentiful. Yet following the 1980s melt, silver half dollars sometimes picked up premiums over dimes and quarters.
During the 1990s, after a decade of heavy smelting of 90% coins, silver half dollars often sold at premiums to dimes and quarters. When silver half dollars didn’t sell at premiums to dimes and quarters in ’90s, it was during periods of little interest in silver, such as in the early 1990s before silver enjoyed a run-up.
Silver Half Dollar Premiums
Y2K buying in 1999 put premiums on all 90% silver coins, and silver half dollars sold at solid premiums over dimes and quarters. However, during the Y2K wash-out in 2000 and early 2001, when people who had bought in 1999 began dumping, silver half dollars did not carry premiums.
People who bought because of Y2K did so because they feared a collapse of the world’s economy, not because of silver’s supply/demand fundamentals or because they knew the dangers of paper money and wanted an alternative. So, when Y2K became a nonevent, 90% silver coins poured into the market. That selling, however, was short lived.
By 2001, silver half dollars began picking up premiums over dimes and quarters. By summer 2002, a strong demand for silver half dollars caused them to be separated into bags of Franklin, Kennedy, and Walking Liberty silver half dollars. Walking Liberty silver half dollars picked up the largest premiums followed by the Franklin half dollars, and then the ’64 Kennedy half dollars.
Basically, investors who buy bags of junk U.S. 90% silver coins are making silver bullion investments. However, certain types of 90% silver coins have the potential to pick up premiums when the public comes heavily to the silver market. Franklin half dollars are among those special coins.
Ben Franklin Half Dollars are unique
Ben Franklin half dollars are unique because they were minted using only 90% silver. This is true also for Walking Liberty silver half dollars and Mercury dimes. In contrast, Roosevelt dimes and Washington quarters have been turned out with a 90% alloy (pre-1965 dates) and with a cupro-nickel alloy (1965 to current dates). Kennedy silver half dollars have been minted with three alloys: 90% silver for the 1964 coins, 40% silver for the 1965-1969 dates, and a cupro-nickel alloy since 1970.
Because Ben Franklin half dollars were minted with only 90% silver, you do not have to look at their dates to know that they are 90% silver. That is one reason Franklin half dollars and Mercury dimes carry premiums over other circulated 90% coins. Walking Liberty half dollars carry still higher premiums because of the popular Walking Liberty design on the front and because they are in short supply.