[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
PROOF 60-64: There was little improvement in quality with the 1951 Franklin. Hairlines are still a major problem and the primary deterrent in finding gems. Glue stains are not the problem they were for the 1950 Franklin and proof dies were changed a bit more frequently. Still, the vast majority 1951 proof Franklins are very heavily hairlined. Most ‘51’s fall in the proof 60-63 range.
Value: This date can currently be acquired for about $150 in proof 63 & lower grades, with proof 64’s selling for only $25-$50 more.
PROOF 65-68: Proof 65 1951 Franklins are scarce. This date is quite rare in the highest proof 67-68 range. To date, only a handful of examples have been graded in proof 67, and less than 5 in proof 68! When acquiring a brilliant proof 1951 Franklin, look for a haze-free example. Many high grade proofs from this period have fairly heavy grey-blue toning that most collectors do not like.
Value: Currently at record low levels – $250-$350 for proof 65’s, with “66’s” selling for under $500, & “67’s” for under $1000.
PROOF 64-66 CAMEO: Extremely scarce in gem cameo. Most are NGC coins. While perhaps 2%-3% of 1951 proof Franklins are cameo contrasted, a fairly high percentage, most of these are very heavily hairlined. Most cameo 1951 Franklins are struck from repolished dies. Rather than discard a die when it reached a certain state of wear, it would be removed and repolished, restoring the mirrored fields. Early strikes off these repolished dies would often exhibit phenomenal cameo contrast, with intensely frosted cameo devices. These devices would exhibit fine die polishing lines, often mistaken for hairlines by novice collectors. However, under magnification, one can see that these lines are raised, not recessed as they would be if the coin had been mishandled after minting.
Value: $400-$600 in PR64 Cameo. PR65 Cameo examples have traded in wide range from a low of $800 up to $3,000, depending on the cameo contrast and grading service. Proof 66 Cameo examples are roughly double those numbers.
PROOF 67-68 CAMEO: Extremely scarce in NGC PF 67 Cameo, and rare in PCGS PR 67 Cameo – only two have been graded by the latter service.
Value: A couple of the lighter contrasted examples graded by NGC have sold for under $3,000, while heavier contrasted examples in the same grade have sold for over double that figure. The finest PCGS PR67CAM’s sold for over $10,000.
PROOF 64-66 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: RARE All known examples are struck from repolished dies. The finest 1951 Franklins in ultra heavy possess breathtaking cameo contrast, and are so superior in appearance to the typical ‘51 as to make it difficult to believe such a qualitative difference could take place within a single year. (See “Cameo And Brilliant Proof Coinage Of The 1950 To 1970 Era,” pages 35, 62, and 63 for more information) PROOF 67-68 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: To date, only one 1951 has been graded in PR67DCAM by PCGS, and 2 PF 67 ULTRA CAMEO’s by NGC.
Value: The owner of the NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo acquired his coin from this author for around $12,000. The coin would certainly command more if it came onto the market today. The PCGS PR67DCAM reportedly sold for over $35,000.
Many of the problems associated with the 1950 Franklin can also be found on the 1951. Hairlines are a major problem with this date. As with the 1950 proof Franklin, many proof 1951 Franklins were also struck from overused, worn dies. To rectify this problem, the mint began repolishing its dies in 1951. Some of the most beautiful cameo Franklins of the 1951- 1955 period, with stunning frost, were struck from repolished dies. Superb Deep Cameo 1951 proof Franklins are among the most striking coins in the series, because they are so superior in appearance to the typical proof example, or the typical cameo example. The finest NGC Ultra Cam’s and PCGS DCAM’s are very few in number. The biggest “horde” to ever surface were two examples this author acquired at a Long Beach show in the year 2000. Both coins received a grade of Proof 66 Deep Cameo from PCGS. They were sold to the first two clients they were offered to! The two clients had been in the hunt for a 1951 of this caliber for several years.