[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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Current Availability & Values
All Circulated Grades: Readily available.
Value: AU’s are worth about $5. Uncirculated coins are recommended as they are cheap enough. Like the 1953-S, poorly struck circulated specimens without luster look F-VF.
MS 64 FBL: While the 1954-S is the easiest “S” mint Franklin to locate in MS 64 FBL, that ranking is relative. ALL the “S” mints are tough in MS 64 FBL – some are just tougher than others! This date is very scarce in MS 64 FBL with attractive toning.
Value: Attractive brilliant 1954-S MS 64 FBL Franklins can still be acquired for $50-$70. Given the scarcity of the issue in this grade, that price has to be considered a very good value. Premium color coins have traded for over twice those levels.
MS 65 Brilliant: The easiest date in the series to locate in MS 65 brilliant (non-FBL). Original rolls of this date may contain a half dozen gems or more. Bagmarks are very few, luster is excellent, and strike is below-average to average.
Value: If you’re getting an MS 65, hold out for a near-mark-free “65+”, with minimal bagmarks and good strike. These coins can be acquired for as little as $50-$70.
MS 65 Toned: Mint set toned ‘54-S Franklins possess average color – typically a mellow golden-brown. The strike on these coins is usually below average. Occasionally, a 1954-S will surface with spectacular multi-colored iridescent toning, though these coins are quite scarce.
Value: The average toned 1954-S can usually be acquired for around $50 in non-FBL. More spectacular pieces may command 3-4 times that price.
MS 65 FBL: The 1954-S in MS 65 FBL is quite another story! Very common in MS 65 non-FBL, this is a very elusive date in full bell line. Roughly 5% of MS 65 1954-S Franklins are also full bell line. In the heat of the market in the early 1980’s, a few examples reportedly sold for $600. You needn’t pay that much today. Fully struck examples do exist with bold lines, though most of the FBL specimens do not quite fall into that category, typically exhibiting just a bit of weakness in the upper right quadrant of the bell lines. This date is particularly rare in NGC MS 65 FBL, due that service’s somewhat tighter (in this author’s opinion) grading standards. Through October of 2001, NGC has only certified 12 examples in MS 65 FBL!
Value: “Average” MS 65 FBL specimens can usually be acquired for $200- $300. Fully struck examples, in brilliant condition or with attractive color, may command $250-$400. Given the scarcity of the issue in this grade, that price has to be considered a very good value. Premium color coins have traded for over twice those levels.
MS 66 & MS 67: Most existing 1954-S Franklins in MS 66 are mint set toned coins, though a handful of examples also exist in untoned, brilliant MS 66. Occasionally an MS 66 can be located with the beautiful, multi-colored iridescent toning previously noted. As with many key and semi-key dates in the series, high grade MS 66 FBL 1954-S Franklins have risen sharply in value the past several years. PCGS has currently graded only 13 examples, and NGC but 1! The few MS 67 1954-S Franklins that have been graded were not FBL, but for one coin.
Value: Toned examples of this date, with average color, easily command upwards of $3,000. The most recent MS 66 FBL specimens with good color have sold for $4000-$6000. The few brilliant specimens that have been graded command similar premiums.The handful of MS 67 1954-S Franklins certified by NGC have generally sold between $1500 and $3000. The lone PCGS MS67 FBL sold for over $20,000.
The last “S” mint of the Franklin series, the 1954-S is among the most common dates in the series in MS 65, and among the rarer dates in the series in MS 65 FBL. At one time in the 1980’s MS 65 full bell line 1954- S Franklins were selling for over $500 before the advent of certified grading, when standards were a bit more liberal. Today’s levels are downright cheap by comparison. Fully struck examples in either brilliant or attractively toned MS 65 or MS 66 are extremely elusive coins, and well worth the premium they currently command Very few MS 66 FBL 1954-S Franklins exist with either superb color, or brilliant untoned surfaces. As a result, collectors who own such examples are reluctant to part with a coin that borders on being irreplaceable.