Franklin Half Dollar Design

John R. Sinnock based the obverse design of the new Franklin Half Dollar on a bust of Franklin in marble by Jean-Antoine Houdon. The French artist Houdon had made the bust in 1778, when Franklin was in France, promoting the cause of the new nation. On the Franklin Half Dollar the bust is facing to the right, with LIBERTY above the head, and IN GOD WE TRUST below. The date is directly in front of the bust. Sinnock had made an earlier medal with the same bust of Franklin and basically copied it directly for use on the Franklin Half Dollar.


The reverse features a design which had already been used on a half dollar commemorating the sesquicentennial of American Independence in 1926. It features the Liberty Bell, viewed from the front, with the characteristic crack clearly displayed on it. This crack would lead to some criticism (from Commission of Fine Arts) which would lead to nothing when the coins were eventually released. Another part of the reverse design (finished by Roberts after the death of Sinnock) also critiqued was the small eagle, which is placed to the right of the Liberty Bell, as mandated by law. It was considered to be too small, which is true, especially so compared to previous designs, which featured the eagle quite prominently. Both of these points, however, would not appear to become any point for the American public.


Other parts of the reverse design include the denomination, HALF DOLLAR, placed directly under the Liberty Bell. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is above the Liberty Bell, with the motto, E PLURIBUS UNUM placed to the left of it.

Both obverse and reverse design would essentially remain unchanged throughout the fifteen year lifespan of the series. Some parts, however, were slightly altered to improve the general quality, such as the eagle on the reverse in the mid 1950s. Since the advent of commercial coin grading the reverse has become more important than ever, as coins are not only graded by their general quality, but also by the strike as judged by the horizontal lines on the Liberty Bell. Coins with unbroken, full lines (called “Full Bell Lines”, or FBL) can be worth considerably more for some issues.