This is a two-part article on how to spot mint state Franklin Half Dollars with full bell lines and proof issues with deep cameos. We provide a general guide at the top of each segment with photos and descriptions from online auctions offering lots worth bidding on and others best ignored.
The abbreviated designation “FBL,” or “full bell lines,” pertains to a strong strike especially on the reverse of a Franklin Half Dollar so that the two lines on the bottom of the bell run unbroken to the crack. Rick Tomaska, author of A Guide Book of Franklin & Kennedy Half Dollars and a top expert on the topic, defines FBL more specifically on this link.
Franklin halves rank with Peace dollars as being one of the most difficult coins to grade because of the frequent soft strikes, especially on San Francisco mint coins. Grading them online is doubly difficult because photos often lack sufficient detail to discern FBL, let alone mint state.
Of course, you can be relatively sure that Franklins in PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG holders have mostly accurate designations. But they can be pricey, too. If you can spot a raw coin–and I consider “raw” any other Franklin in lesser-tier holder–that grades well, you can score an exceptional bargain on eBay or Proxibid.
The best way to show how to do this is to go through a selection of coins online and to share why I bid or did not bid on an item. (Click on any photo to expand.)
This is a typical poor Proxibid photo. But the image contains sufficient detail to look at the reverse for FBL. The left field of obverse bothers me. Right field looks mint state. That’s enough for me to check out the reverse.
This could be FBL. Unfortunately, there seems to be a scratch or bag mark above the bell lines by the crack. So this will be a pass. I do not bid.
This half is from a double mint set. I’ve seen the toning before. I’m a little leery about what appears to be a rub on the nose of Franklin. But I’m intrigued enough to check the reverse.
Well, this looks like a weak strike with no FBL. I’m concerned about the possible rub, and now do not plan to bid on this coin.
This looks like a strong strike on the obverse. It’s another double mint set coin. The toning is attractive. We’ll proceed to the reverse.
Strong strike. This very well can be FBL. I put the grade at MS64 FBL, an $80 coin. I’ll bid $35-40.
Hmmm. There’s some spotting above the date and some noise above the “In” in “In God We Trust.” Strike is weak. I’m not bidding.
Nice toned coin with a strong obverse strike. If the reverse is similar, we might have a biddable coin.
Oh, no. Some marks around the crack in the bell. And the lines don’t look so full. I’ll have to pass.
I like old PCI/Hallmark slabs because they tone coins in nice hues. This is a good example. The obverse has a weak strike, though; but let’s go to the reverse because even a hint of FBL on a 52-S be rare. In fact, a FBL on this year in MS64 can bring more than $500. (An MS64 FBL in 1953-S can bring upwards of $9000!)
That’s a pretty strong strike. This could be FBL. I’m all in with a $65 bid.
If you know your Franklins and full bell lines, share your best bidding practices with our readers … and look for our deep cameo post soon!
terry allen says
a great lesson by Michael.i learned a great deal about the franklin half. keep up the good work.
Larry L says
I have a Philadelphia mint 1963 Franklin half dollar (in the original mint package, unopened, including the penny, nickle and quarter). It appears to be a FBL, as best I can determine from reviewing your observations. I live in the New York City area – can you recommend a coin dealer that I can take it to for appraisal?
Michael Bugeja says
We cannot make those recommendations, but the value typically of a 1963 gem business strike, rather than proof strike, with full bands is about $1,000+ retail. They are rare. If this is a proof coin with mirror finish, the retail value is about $35. The business strike, or mint strike (rather than proof), would have come in an envelope with 10 coins, with half, quarter, dime, nickle and cent from Philadelphia and Denver. If your envelope is yellow, not white, and contains the initials 1963 P.C., you have a proof set.
Hello , I have a set of certified Franklin halves that I have been working on for a good number of years . I recently pulled my set and knowing I had probably half in FBL , wanted to check PCGS’s certified price list and was shocked at some of the prices I saw . My question is simple . Have the FBL’s in Mint State 64 and 65 gone up as much as these prices indicate ? Thanks .
Michael Bugeja says
The FBL designation is tricky if one doesn’t know the standard. A bag mark in the wrong place can lose the designation. That said, common dates in MS64 are not pricey; but if you can find a 1953-S with FBL, you hit the jackpot.
it was pretty interested in what I read about the 1953 us half dallors bell line.i was wondering if u have a email where I could send some pics of the coin…ty so much.
Michael Bugeja says
Thanks for your message, Shawn. I cannot look at or make determinations about coins. But I can point you to a good resource: https://www.pcgs.com/News/Tips-From-The-Grading-Room-Part-4
You also can see videos, a good selection, here: https://www.google.com/search?q=pcgs+full+bell+lines&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS777US777&source=lnms&tbm=vid&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjasffusOnZAhUCMqwKHZttDMkQ_AUIDCgD&biw=1024&bih=637
Terrance B Norris says
I thank You for the FBL information on the Franklin half. I did not know of this feature for valuing this coin. I have many Franklin halves and now I’ll look them over. Again, thank You!
Thanks for the information. Im headed to my local pawnshop now to look at there Franklin’s. Ive been working on Morgan’s an Peace Dollars. I noticed they had a few 1953s so this was helpful… Do you know any other years an mint marks to look for?
Cody Adams says
I have (from what iv read anyway) a super rare 1961 Philadelphia collection still in it’s stamped package FBL half doller included . 😊 I wish to sell it but not sure where? From what iv read they can be worth thousands. Any leads as to where I can find any proper buyers?
Kim Chi Gov says
I have a 1961 half dollar with full bell line. Wish to know it’s value
Kelvin Burks says
how do you tell whether a coin is ms or proof