[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: Common in this grade. Most 1957 Franklins grading less than proof 65 are the result of mishandling. Many proofs from this period were improperly stored and/or dumped into rolls where they would abrade with other coins.
PROOF 65-68: Common in proof 65-66, the ‘57 is elusive in proof 67, and very scarce in proof 68. Despite a higher mintage than the 1956, the ‘57 is far more difficult to locate in high grade.
Value: In proof 65 these can be acquired for about $15, with 67’s selling for $30-$40. Proof 68’s may trade anywhere from $50-$150, depending on whether the coin has any cameo contrast, or attractive toning.
PROOF 64-66 CAMEO: The mintage was approximately 50% greater than the 1956 with over one million sets produced – the first time in the history of the U.S. mint the million figure was reached for proofs. Despite this high mintage, the 1957 is far more scarce in gem cameo than the 1956. Why? The proof Franklin dies in 1957 struck far fewer cameos before the dies began to evidence significant wear. This trend would continue into 1958 and 1959, with cameo 1958 Franklins being even rarer than 1957’s, and 1959’s being rarer than ‘58’s. The 1959, with approximately 50% more sets produced than the 1956, is 500 to 1,000 times scarcer in ultra heavy cameo. While no mint records have been found that might explain this anomaly, a possible explanation might be found in the gradual deterioration of the master die, the die used to create all working dies, during the decade of the ‘50’s. If one compares a 1950 proof Franklin to a 1959, the detail of the devices will be far more sharply defined on the 1950. The difference has nothing to do with strike – virtually all proofs of this period are fully struck. The softness of detail is due entirely to the wearing of the master die over the decade. It is quite possible that mint personnel, recognizing the deterioration in the working dies as the decade of the ‘50’s came to a close, may have cut down the time these dies spent in the acid-dipping process. This theory is supported by the fact that beginning in 1960, a reworked master die was put into use. Coincidentally, the percentage of cameos struck in 1960 rose dramatically – with the newly detailed dies, mint personnel would have been able to give these new dies a longer acid bath.
Value: Great value- currently under $100 in Proof 65-66
PROOF 67-68 CAMEO: Scarce in high grade cameo. Hairlines are a bit more of a problem for the the 1957 than the ‘56. 1957 Franklins grading Proof 68 Cameo are extremely scarce.
Value: Problem-free 1957 cameo Franklins usually trade between $200-$400 in proof 67 Cameo, and $300-$600 in Proof 68 cameo. At the top of the price spectrum, a couple of black & white borderline “Ultra examples in Proof 68 have traded for over $1,000.
PROOF 65-66 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: EXTREMELY SCARCE.The Franklin proof dies struck far fewer cameos per die pair than in the previous year. Only a handful of ultra heavy cameos were struck before the delicate acid-etched cameo devices would begin losing their frost. The finest group of early strike 1957 Franklins this author has ever handled was a small “run” of 11 very early strike cameo ‘57’s. Only 3 or 4 of these coins possessed true ultra heavy contrast on both obverse and reverse. The contrast grew progressively weaker on coins 5 thru 11.
Value: $250-$500 for Proof 65 examples, $400-$800 for Proof 66 DCAM?ULTRA coins.
PROOF 67-68 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: RARE. While several dozen examples have been graded in Proof 67/68 DCAM/ULTRA, most do not exhibit the exceptional black & white cameo contrast of the finer 1956 cameo Franklins. There were a couple magnificent cameo dies for this year, #37 and #38 in the cameo book, that did strike a handful of sensational cameo specimens. However, as the frosted cameo effect was apparently not as durable on the 1957 proof Franklin dies, only the very earliest strikes off these two dies struck examples exhibiting this ultimate level of cameo contrast.
Value: While Proof 67 DCAM/ULTRA ‘57’s can be acquired for as little as $1,000-$1,500, exceptional high-end DCAM’s may command double that figure. The premium is even more skewed for Proof 68’s, with DCAM- examples trading in the $2,000-$3,000 range, but the finest DCAM’s recently selling for over $7,000. There have been two 1957 proof Franklins graded in PR69DCAM. These coins were very early strikes off die #37.
The 1957 Franklin ranks among the more desirable dates in the series in ultimate DCAM/ULTRA contrast. It has been at least a few years since a real monster DCAM ’57 has surfaced. Most of the examples this author has handled were from clients who had acquired the coins 10-15 years earlier. 180