Many times we overlook the first year of a new design, as they can be common and are heavily saved. That does not fully apply to the 1948 Franklin half dollar, but even so, it is still a relatively available date.
The release of the Franklin half in 1948 came after problems over the design. The official press release from the Mint which stated, ?Lending it distinction will not only be Franklin?s wise and kindly features, but also an impressive representation of another ?great? of American history, the Liberty Bell,? was not telling the whole story.
The Commission of Fine Arts fought with the Secretary of the Treasury. They were upset about the size of the eagle, which was not mentioned in the press release, and were also upset that the crack in the Liberty Bell was depicted.
It seems like much ado about nothing, but they took the matter seriously at the time. Ultimately, the design was approved without CFA approval.
The Secretary of the Treasury, in discussing Franklin?s famous thrift, suggested the new design would ?remind everyone that an excellent thing to do with spare half dollars and other spare coins these days is to buy Savings Bonds and stamps.?
The first of the new Franklin half dollars was made available April 30 at the Franklin Savings Bank employees? booth on the steps of the sub-treasury building at the corner of Wall and Nassau in New York City.
Just how many dashed to obtain the first Franklin halves is not recorded. At the time, the new Franklin half dollar was not needed in circulation. There was a backlog when it came to half dollars, as well as other denominations, because of the heavy World War II mintages.
Half dollar mintages had been decreasing after 1945 and that was seen in 1947, when there were mintage totals of less than 4 million at Denver and just over 4 million at Philadelphia. By comparison, in 1943, Philadelphia alone had minted over 53 million half dollars.
Under the circumstances, it was hard to expect large first-year Franklin half dollar mintages, as they were not needed for commercial purposes.
The interest by collectors was not keen. After all, the Walking Liberty half dollar had been an extremely popular design for years. That said, collectors go with the flow, and in this case, like any new design, there was going to be interest and saving. The amount of saving was probably reduced by the denomination, as there were still not many at the time collecting half dollars.
The 3,006,814 mintage of the 1948 should have produced some attention, although the mintages at the time and into the 1950s were generally low. That said, the 1948 would be the lowest-mintage Franklin half dollar until 1953.
We can see evidence of some saving in the prices today, as the 1948 lists for $15 in MS-60, and that is basically an average MS-60 price for a Franklin half dollar, but the 1948 had a below-average mintage. The same is true in MS-65, where at a current listing of $80, it could be said that the 1948 is just below average in price.
In MS-65 with full bell lines, the 1948 is at $200, as is the 1948-D, and that price is again on the low side, suggesting the two were saved. It?s certainly unlikely you can expect great price appreciation with a 1948, but it is a historic coin and one with a low mintage, which is a very good combination.