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1949 Half Misfit Among Other Franklins
By Paul M. Green

The 1949 Franklin half dollar is a date that has never seemed to find precisely the right place in relation to other Franklin half dollars. In part, this was because there was very little study of Franklin half dollars and many simply saw all the dates from the 1940s as better.

There was actually pretty good reason to see the dates from the 1940s as better. There were only two years of Franklin half dollar production in the 1940s. The 1948 production was limited to Philadelphia and Denver, while the second year in 1949 saw mintages at all three facilities.

It is surprising that the 1940s mintages are both low. The 1949 Philadelphia issue actually has the highest mintage of the five Franklin half dollar issues from the 1940s with a production of 5,614,000 pieces. It was unusual to see a new design start out with two years of low mintages. While there was not much interest in Franklin half dollars for many years, what little there was centered on the dates from the 1940s.

The reason for the low mintages was that the U.S. simply did not need large numbers of half dollars. There had been record-breaking mintages during World War II and those coins were still more than enough to meet the commercial needs for half dollars. In fact, the final few years of Walking Liberty half dollar production had seen the mintages drop to low levels. Because there was a design change in 1948 did not mean there was any reason to suddenly produce an abundance of half dollars, so early Franklin half dollar mintages remained low. The first mintage of more than 10 million not occur until 1951.

Today the 1949 is priced at $145 in MS-65. That is actually more costly than the lower mintage 1948 and 1948-D and only $15 less than the still lower mintage 1949-S. The reason is simply that the 1948 and 1948-D were the first years of the Franklin half dollar and, as virtually always happens, they were likely to be saved in greater numbers.

In the case of the 1949-S, it is worth remembering that it was the first year the Franklin half dollar was produced at San Francisco so it too was likely to be saved in greater numbers. The 1949, however, was the second year of Philadelphia Franklin half dollar production and that usually means less saving. This is seen in its MS-65 price as well as its $38.50 MS-60 level, which is more than double the price of either the Philadelphia or Denver 1948.

The 1949 is also a surprise in MS-65 with full bell lines. At $250 it is more expensive than the 1948 and just $10 less than the 1948-D. That said, the 1949 is far less than either the 1949-S or 1949-D, as it is seen in some numbers with full bell lines. However, as collecting of full bell line Franklin half dollars grows in popularity, it is hard to know whether the existing supplies will be adequate to meet demand.


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