[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: 1955 was a very significant year in the proof Franklin series. The year began with proof coins being issued in the same poly bags as the previous year. Few proof Franklins survived years of storage in these bags without developing very heavy toning over their surfaces. Midway through the year, the mint switched to the now familiar “flatpack”. The flatpack design was among the mints’ best. It consisted of a single cellophane envelope divided into five compartments for the individual coins. Unlike the poly bags previously used, the cellophane envelope was inert, and did not tarnish the coins. Additionally, the new envelopes were durable, and did not crack apart as some of the earlier cellophane-type holders. The new packaging, when combined with a continued improvement in production techniques and quality control, resulted in the majority of proof Franklins being issued for this year being at least proof 65 quality.
PROOF 65-68: Most 1955 proof Franklins grade at least proof 65, and a significant percentage grade proof 66. Proof 67 examples are more scarce, perhaps comprising about 5%-10% of the total mintage. Proof 68 examples are extremely scarce, though not as difficult to acquire in this grade as the 1954. While hairlines are no longer the problem they were just a year or two earlier, most ‘55’s will still evidence a hairline or two, knocking them out of the “68” category.
Value: $40-$50 for proof 65’s, and $75-$125 for 67’s. Proof 68’s can currently be acquired for as little as $150-$300. Look for examples with haze-free, deep-mirrored fields, or attractive color toning. Many examples will even evidence a bit of cameo contrast – an extra bonus giving you added value at little or no additional cost.
PROOF 64-66 CAMEO: The 1955 Franklin is a scarce coin in gem cameo. A large percentage of otherwise cameo ‘55’s were originally issued in the old mint poly bags. The heavy toning these coins subsequently developed obscured the beautiful cameo surfaces. Far more elusive than a few years ago, this date is especially scarce in PCGS “Cameo”, with that service’s strict “CAM” standard.
Value: The shrinking supply of Proof 64-66 1955 Franklin halves in cameo has been nudging the values of these coins up of late. Currently, coins in this grade trade anywhere from $75-$125 for a Proof 64-65 CAM, up to $250 for a PCGS Proof 66 CAM. Borderline DCAM/ULTRA examples may trade at double those levels.
PROOF 67-68 CAMEO: Extremely scarce – especially in PCGS PR 68 CAMEO! While moderately contrasted examples surface from time to time, and may receive a “Cameo” designation from NGC, few high grade ‘55’s surface exhibiting the heavy cameo contrast necessary for a PCGS “CAM” designation. Most heavily contrasted 1955 cameo Franklins are hairlined, and grade between Proof 65 and Proof 67.
Value: While moderate cameo 1955 Franklins in Proof 67-68 grade still trade between $200 and $600, the heavier cameo examples, particularly those graded by PCGS, have been selling for upwards of $1,500.
PROOF 65-66 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: The 1955 Franklin becomes a truly scarce coin in gem “Ultra Heavy” cameo. While a sizeable number of cameos were struck for this date, few examples possess the ultimate snow-white cameo contrast obverse & reverse, along with the deeply mirrored fields required to earn this top designation. Far less than 1% of examples originally struck exhibited this level of cameo contrast. Many of the finer cameo examples were issued in the notorious “poly bags”, and are no longer well suited for a top cameo set, their surfaces having developed a very heavy, dark toning. Of those that did survive the packaging without serious damage, most grade between Proof 65 and Proof 67.
Value: The 1955 Franklin in Proof 65-66 DCAM/ULTRA will trade in a wide range – anywhere from $500 to $2,000, depending on the level of cameo contrast and the grading service. These are approximately the same levels this date was trading five years ago.
PROOF 67-68 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: Once again, it is in the highest grades of DCAM/ULTRA that a proof Franklin year has appreciated! The 1955 is in high demand – especially in Proof 68 DCAM/ULTRA. Few examples were struck with intense obverse/reverse cameo contrast, and virtually flawless, hairline-free surfaces. There were two 1955 cameo Franklin varieties struck from original dies that are responsible for some of the most spectacular examples of this date. One of these examples represents the only 1955 to be graded PF 69 Ultra Cameo by NGC.
Value: The few 1955’s that have surfaced the past year in Proof 67 DCAM/ULTRA have generally traded between $1,500 and $3,500. While a couple “low-end” Proof 68 Ultra’s have traded for under $5,000. The finest, heaviest contrasted examples have generally sold between $6,000 and $10,000. A couple of the “monster” variety, with intense, snow-white cameo contrast and deep, jet-black mirrors, have sold for $15,000+. While the $15,000 price tag seemed like a strong premium at the time, the coins now look like a bargain. Their eye-appeal, with their phenomenal cameo contrast, is second to none. Their rarity is irrefutable.
It is in the higher grades of DCAM/ULTRA that this date has experienced the greatest appreciation. The 1955 is extremely scarce with this high level of cameo contrast. Those that are heavily contrasted are almost always hairlined. Nevertheless, the quality of the 1955 is moderately improved over the previous year. The 1955 proof Franklin is the first Franklin issue to have an example graded in Proof 69 DCAM/ULTRA by either PCGS or NGC. Only one example has received this ultimate proof Franklin grade. 174