[The following excerpt is published courtesy of DLRC Press and its author, Rick Tomaska. This information was originally published in 2002 in The Complete Guide to Franklin Half Dollars]
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101 RPM west. (W&M photo)
Current Availability & Values
All Circulated Grades: Readily available.
Value: AU’s are worth about $4. Very high mintage makes these readily available. Price based on bullion for lower grades.
MS 64 FBL: Heavily bagmarked mint state examples are the rule for this date. For a small additional premium, a relatively attractive MS 63 or MS 64 example can be acquired. The 1954-D is about equal to the 1954-P in scarcity. This is the earliest “D” mint that is relatively common in MS 64 FBL. However, the 1954-D is extremely scarce in MS 64 FBL with attractive color toning, as most mint state examples have very dull gray-brown toning.
Value: Given the ready availability, MS 64 FBL coins can usually be acquired for $30-$50. Unattractive examples will sell for $20-$30. Superb color coins have sold for over $200 in MS 64 FBL!
MS 65 Brilliant: The last of the 1951-1954 Denver series, four issues which are very similar in all respects – strike, luster, bagmark characteristics, and rarity. Of this group, the 1954-D is the least difficult to acquire in MS 65 brilliant condition. This is relative – by no means is the 1954-D easy or not difficult to acquire – only less difficult than the other three, extremely scarce issues. The water-spots which first made their appearance in 1953 are a major problem for the 1954-D. While luster is exceptional for this date, most BU’s of this issue will display some degree of spotting. Most 1954-D’s are fully struck in MS 65, with outstanding definition on all areas of the devices. If an example is located with minimal spotting, it will be among the most attractive brilliant Franklins in your set.
Value: This date can currently be acquired for as little as $100-$150 in MS 65 non-FBL brilliant condition – far below its peak of $500 at the height of the market in 1989.
MS 65 Toned: Most gem 1954-D’s are mint set toned coins. Mint set toned 1954-D’s are generally quite unattractive – grey is a very common color. On rare occasions, this date can be found with truly stunning iridescent wine-red, burgundy, and golden-orange coloration.
Value: Average grey-toned ‘54-D’s can be acquired for as little as $75 today in MS 65 non-FBL, due to their lack of eye-appeal. At the market peak, the 1954-D would command a minimum of $450. Attractively toned 1954-D’s, because of their rarity, may command 3-4 times the amount of average examples – up to $300 in non-FBL in some cases.
MS 65 FBL: The 1954-D is a very well struck date. If a 1954-D does not qualify as full bell line, it is generally do to excessive abrasion in the bell line area, rather than inadequate strike. At least 50% of existing MS 65 1954-D Franklins probably qualify as full bell line. While the 1954-D ranks among the “least rare” issues in fully brilliant MS 65 FBL, beautifully toned specimens are quite another matter. These latter coins are quite rare, as most toned ’54-D’s can best be described as drab in color.
Value: This is one date that has languished in value in brilliant MS 65 FBL. Superb examples can still be acquired for under $200. On the other hand, superb color coins have appreciated substantially. A beautifully multi-colored 1954-D may sell for several times the price of a brilliant specimen.
MS 66 & MS 67: Extremely scarce in MS 66 or MS 66 FBL, and rare in MS 66 FBL with brilliant untoned surfaces! Most MS 66 examples originated from mint sets. To date, only one 1954-D has been graded in MS 67 FBL. It is a toned coin.
Value: This date has appreciated dramatically the past several years in either fully brilliant MS 66 FBL or superbly toned MS 66 FBL. While a couple dozen 1954-D Franklins have been graded in MS 66 FBL by NGC & PCGS combined, most of these examples are average toned mint set coins. As a result, fully brilliant specimens have occasionally sold for upwards of $5,000. Beautiful color coins may sell for even more!
Mintage figures are irrelevant when gauging the rarity of a particular Franklin issue in MS 65. The 1954-D is a case in point. While it has the third highest mintage in the series, the 1954-D is extremely difficult to locate in gem condition. It is not quite as elusive as the 1952-D or 1953-D issues preceding it. As with other “D” mints from this era, strike is generally not a problem, but bagmarks and water spots are. Fortunately, the majority of MS 65 specimens would probably qualify as full bell line. While average MS 65 FBL examples have exhibited little movement in value the past several years, such is not the case for the finest MS 66 FBL coins exhibiting either brilliant or superbly toned surfaces. These coins are very few and far between. As a result, these coins are highly prized among Franklin specialists, and command very significant premiums.