[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 1956 Franklin was among the highest quality proof issues in the Franklin series. Continued improvement in production techniques, coupled with the flatpack holders introduced in 1955, make 1956 a landmark year. The great majority of proof Franklins are at least proof 65 quality. A variety worthy of note is the 1956 Type 1. The Type 1 uses the reverse die design of the 1950-1955 proofs. One of the distinguishing features of this early reverse is the lack of feather detail on the eagles neck next to the Liberty bell on the reverse. (See “Cameo Proof And Brilliant Proof Coinage Of The 1950 To 1970 era”, page 38, photo #32.) Early in the 1956 proof run, the mint switched to a new “Type 2” reverse design, where each feather in the neck of the eagle is well defined. There were other minor changes in the definition of the Liberty Bell as well. The Type 1 reverse makes up no more than 5% of the proof mintage for 1956, making it far more scarce in every grade than the Type 2.
Value: $10-$15. Type I’s are a few dollars more – $20-$30.
PROOF 65-68: Most proof 1956 Franklins grade between proof 65 and 67, with a sizeable percentage, perhaps 5%, grading proof 68. The Type 1 is extremely scarce in proof 68.
Value: $18 for 65’s. Proof 67’s are currently available for as little as $30-$50. Proof 68 examples currently trade between $50-$100. The Type I trades at multiples of these levels, with proof 67 examples commanding $100-$200, and proof 68’s $300-$600.
PROOF 64-66 CAMEO: This is among the “common-dates” in the series in gem cameo. 1%-2% of the total production may have been struck in cameo proof 65 or higher condition, an extremely high percentage for cameo proofs of the 1950-1963 era. The Type 1 is rare in cameo. While this variety is occasionally found with a well contrasted reverse, examples possessing both obverse & reverse cameo contrast are seldom seen.
Value: $25-$50 for Type 2’s, while the rare Type 1 will be $100-$200 in PF64 Cameo, and up to $800 in PF66 Cameo.
PROOF 67-68 CAMEO: Of the 1956 gem cameos in existence, at least half are proof 67 or 68. This extremely high percentage attests to the generally very high quality of this issue.
Value: Depending on the grade & level of contrast, the 1956 usually trades anywhere from $75-$200. The $200 coins are usually proof 68 in grade, with near-ultra heavy cameo contrast. The $75 coins will be Proof 67.The Type 1 commands considerably more – $1,500 for a Proof 67 Cameo. The few type 1’s that have been graded in Proof 68 Cameo to date generally sold for over $3,000.
PROOF 65-66 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: While there are no common, easy-to-find proof Franklin dates in gem ultra heavy cameo, the 1956 was at one time among the least difficult dates to locate in this condition. In recent years this date has become far more elusive in full ultra heavy cameo, as the finer examples continue to be salted away by knowledgeable collectors. Common? To date, only about 700 coins have been graded in PCGS DCAM & NGC ULTRA in all grades, proof 65 and up. As with the mint state Franklin series, the word “common” is a relative term. Almost any other series with only 700 coins graded would be considered quite scarce. The Type 1 is extremely rare in Ultra Heavy cameo. This author has only handled 1 example in 15 years.
Value: The Type 2 is a $100-$200 coin in Proof 65-66 DCAM/ULTRA.
PROOF 67-68 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: Most of the known ultra heavy 1956 Franklins are proof 67-68 grade. Most 1956 proof Franklins are relatively hairline-free. The 1956 is currently 1 of 7 Franklin dates to have any examples graded in Proof 69 Ultra Heavy Cameo. To date, 42 1956 Franklins have received this grade.
Value: Spot-free proof 67 NGC ULTRA or PCGS DCAM 1956 Franklins currently trade anywhere from $250-$500, with proof 68 examples generally trading between $600-$1,000. Occasionally a “wonder-coin” will surface with truly spectacular, “ultimate” cameo contrast. These dream coins may command upwards of $1200 in proof 68. The last PR69 DCAM’s to trade sold for approximately $4,500.
A great year for the type collector. Why buy a gem non-cameo 1956 proof when stunning, black & white ultra heavy examples are still available? There was a time in the 1980’s when this author could attend a major coin convention and usually count on acquiring at least 1 or 2 truly superb ultra heavy ‘56 Franklins. Those days are long gone. However, with a bit of patience and some luck one can still pick up such a coin from a dealer specializing in high quality proof coinage. These ultimate Franklins may very well be rarities in 5 years’ time. One of the great unheralded twentieth century varieties would be the “Type 1” 1956 Franklin. While only semi-scarce in gem proof, gem cameo proof specimens are rare.