Of the modern coinage issues, few have a shorter run than the
Franklin half dollar. The series was cut short by the assassination of
President John F. Kennedy. The Franklin half dollar should have had a
minimum 25-year run, but Congress passed special legislation to honor
the slain president on the half dollar starting in 1964, thus ending
production of the Franklin half dollar after just 16 years.
Despite the short run, a number of interesting die varieties can
be found on the series. Tony Russo has added to the list with a very
nice recent find. Russo found and submitted a strong doubled die on
the reverse of a Proof 1951 Franklin half dollar.
An unusually strong Class II (“Distorted Die”) spread toward the
center shows on the left side of the bell yoke, the left side of the
upper bell supports, the upper bell, along the bottom of the bell, on
the lettering within the bell and on the eagle. The doubled
inscriptions on the upper bell show a remarkable spread. I’ve listed
this variety in my files as 1951 50¢ Pr WDDR-005.
The strength of the doubling on this doubled die variety should
certainly have an effect on the value. However, as it is a Proof coin,
another factor contributes to its value, and that is rarity.
The average life for a Proof half dollar reverse die is 2,500
coins. Simply put, it is highly unlikely that you will find more than
2,500 examples of this doubled die variety, making it extremely rare
in terms of mintage. Now despite that rarity, if you want one badly
enough, you should have a decent shot at finding one, with some
The total mintage for the Proof 1951 Franklin half dollars was
57,500 coins. Based on the average life of a Proof half dollar reverse
die (2,500 coins), some quick math tells us that about 23 Proof
reverse dies were used for the 1951 Franklin half dollars.
If you can find enough Proof 1951 half dollars to search, you have
about a 1-in-23 chance of finding an example of this strong doubled
die variety. Good luck.
John Wexler is a renowned numismatic researcher and author on
error coins and die varieties.