[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: The last year when proof sets were issued exclusively in individual cellophane envelopes. Each coin was housed in a small cellophane packet, with the packets then stacked one on top of another and stapled together. Over time, many of these cellophane envelopes would dry and crack open, releasing the delicate proof coin. The half dollar, being the largest and heaviest coin, was usually the first to crack out. Most 1953 proof Franklins are less than Proof 65 gem quality, with the majority grading proof 63-64.
Value: This date can be acquired for under $100 in proof 64 & lower grade.
PROOF 65-68: Semi-scarce in Proof 65-66. Most gem examples are heavily toned, the result of many years’ storage in the aforementioned proof set envelopes. Untoned, brilliant examples are scarce in Proof 65. Proof 67 examples are extremely scarce – especially in untoned, brilliant condition. The 1953 proof Franklin is the first date in the series to have an example graded in Proof 69. It is extremely rare in this grade.
Value: Proof 65’s are currently selling between $100 and $125, with 66’s selling in the $200 range, and 67’s generally trading between $300 and $400 – well below the market peak of $1,000 in 1989. NGC Proof 68’s can usually be acquired for $500-$1000. If a hazefree brilliant example can be acquired in that range, it offers excellent value. The last Proof 69’s graded, an NGC coin, was surprisingly inexpensive, considering the rarity and quality – selling for $2,000-$3,000.
PROOF 64-66 CAMEO: Scarce in gem cameo, the 1953 is far easier to locate in this condition than the 1952. “Easier” is a relative term. To date, only about 600 coins have been graded by the major services in Proof 65-66 Cameo.
Value: Proof 64 examples can usually be acquired for around $100-$200. While Proof 65-66 Cameo ‘53’s will trade in a wide range – anywhere from $250-$1000! The higher priced coins offer exceptional cameo contrast bordering on ULTRA/DCAM.
PROOF 67-68 CAMEO: The 1953 is scarce in NGC PF 67-68 Cameo. In PCGS, it is very scarce in Proof 67 Cameo, with no examples graded higher.
Value: A few exceptional proof 65-66 cameo ‘53’s recently sold for over $500, though more moderate cameo 1953’s can currently be acquired for as little as $200-$400. At the higher end of the spectrum, a couple of extraordinarily clean deep-mirror proof 67 examples graded by PCGS sold in the mid four figures. These were extraordinary cameos, easily among the finest known for this date. Two examples graded Cameo PF 68 by NGC sold for over $5,000. In NGC PF 67 Cameo, the 1953 is usually valued anywhere from $700-$2000. PF 68 Cameo examples are usually double those values. A 1953 PCGS PR 67 Cameo is far more elusive, primarily due to that service’s requirement for a higher degree of cameo contrast for a “Cameo” designation. The rarer PCGS coin will usually trade in the $2,000-$4,000 range.
PROOF 64-66 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: RARE. While the 1953 is far easier to locate in Cameo Proof 65 than either the 1951 or 1952 Franklin, 1953 Proof 65 Ultra Heavy Franklins are quite another story. The 1953 proof Franklin is almost as rare as the 1951 and 1952 in this grade. Another red-hot date in DCAM/ULTRA CAMEO!!! Nearly all the examples graded are from one die – an example of which is pictured in “Cameo And Brilliant Proof Coinage Of The 1950 To 1970 Era” – die #17 in the book. However, only the earliest strikes off this die offered the cameo contrast need for the ultimate DCAM/ULTRA designation.
Value: The 1953 PR64DCAM/ULTRA CAM usually trades between $1,000- $2,000. The last Proof 65 reportedly sold for $4,000. The finest, deepest Proof 66 examples have sold in the $10,000 range.
PROOF 67-68 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: EXTREMELY RARE. To grade “67”, a proof must be virtually perfect, with hairline-free surfaces. Finding a later-strike non-cameo 1953 Franklin in this condition is difficult enough. A very early strike “Ultra Cam”, with its deeper, more delicate mirrored surface, is almost always heavily hairlined on the rare occasions these coins do surface. There are only a small handful of minimally hairlined, “ULTRA” 1953 Franklins in existence. There have been 5 examples of the 1953 proof Franklin that have been graded in PR67DCAM by PCGS. All the coins offered amazing cameo contrast, as they were obviously very early strikes off this top cameo die. They were also virtually flawless, hairline- free coins!
Value: These ultimate 1953 proof Franklins all sold between $20,000 and $30,000 when they were originally offered. None are currently for sale, but it is likely the current owners would want considerably more than their cost!
Not rare but not common in proof 65, the ‘53 is elusive in nontoned gem condition. Finding non-toned, deep-mirrored proof 67 examples will prove to be a very challenging task. The 1953 is very undervalued in this condition. Gem cameos are scarce and undervalued also. Some of the most beautiful cameo Franklins of the 1950-59 period bear the 1953 date. These beautiful black & white cameos are usually struck from repolished dies. (See “Cameo and Brilliant Proof Coinage Of The 1950 To 1970 Era,” pages 36-37, photos #17 & #18). Early strikes off these dies are very rare with minimal hairlines, this author having handled fewer than 20 gem examples in over 15 years of specializing in this field. The finest known, deepest examples from one of these dies – #17 in the cameo book, account for most of the DCAM/ULTRA CAM’s graded. Only the earliest strikes off this top die exhibited this DCAM/ULTRA contrast, and most examples fall in the Proof 64-65 range. A handful of early strikes off this die have been graded in Proof 66, and a few in Proof 67. Given the breathtaking cameo contrast and eye-appeal of these coins, coupled with their tremendous rarity, and one can begin to understand why quality conscious collectors an dealers looking for “the best” esteem these coins so highly.