[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]
* * *
102 Type 2, or strong eagle reverse (found on both business strikes and proof coinage).
Current Availability & Values
PROOF 60-64: Comparable to the 1958 in quality. Hairlines and milkspots are once again a major problem. Most 1959 proofs grade between Proof 64 and Proof 66.
PROOF 65-68: While the 1959 is common in Proof 65-66 grade, like the 1958 it is far more elusive in Proof 67 grade and extremely scarce in Proof 68. There are very few ‘59’s in existence that do not possess at least a couple of hairlines and/or a milkspot or two.
Value: $30-$60 in proof 67. Proof 68 examples trade anywhere from $75- $200, the higher levels usually for moderately contrasted specimens. Again, great value. Flawless ‘59’s are extremely scarce, and were selling for well over $1,000 at the market peak of the late 1980’s.
PROOF 64-66 CAMEO: EXTREMELY SCARCE. Despite a mintage of over 1 million proof sets, 1959 proof Franklins with significant, heavy cameo contrast on both obverse & reverse are rarely encountered. While not as rare as the 1950, 1951 or 1952 in gem cameo, in terms of the number of cameos struck as a percentage of the total proof production, the 1959 Franklin ranks #1.
Value: $100-$200 in Proof 64-65 Cameo, double these levels in Proof 66.
PROOF 67-68 CAMEO: Very scarce in proof 67 cameo, and rare in proof 68 cameo. Virtually all 1959 cameo proof Franklins are hairlined and/or spotted. Locating an early strike 1959 with flawless surfaces will require considerable patience.
Value: The rarest issue in cameo after 1952, moderately contrasted proof 67 cameo ‘59’s can generally be acquired for $600-$1,200. Any exceptional cameo 1959 with near-Ultra contrast will often sell for double these numbers. Moderately contrasted NGC Proof 68 Cameo 1959’s have traded for as little as $1,000. PCGS graded 1959’s are much rarer in this grade than their NGC counterparts, due primarily to PCGS’ higher “Cameo” standard, and usually trade in a range between $5,000 and $8,000.
PROOF 65-66 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: EXTREMELY RARE! This has always been the case. Beginning in 1981, when this author first began to study the series, ultra heavily contrasted (the term cameo dealers and collectors used back then pre-PCGS and NGC) were almost never seen. Over the decade of the 1980’s, this author may have handled only 5-8 examples which would have met today’s NGC and PCGS standards for Ultra/DCAM. These coins are even rarer today! The latest, extremely low NGC and PCGS pop. numbers are an accurate indicator of this date’s true rarity in exceptional cameo condition.
Value: Placing a value on this issue in DCAM/ULTRA is difficult, as few ‘59’s trade in this grade in any given year. The last example this author handled, an NGC PF 66 Ultra Cameo, sold for $9,000.
PROOF 67-68 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: On almost every cameo Franklin collector’s wish list. This author has handled one example the past three years, a PCGS PR67DCAM. The coin was a true DCAM, with exceptional matching snow-white cameo devices obverse and reverse. There are only two examples graded higher – both PCGS coins, one graded PR68DCAM, and the other PR69DCAM. There is an NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo, but it is believed to be the same coin as the PCGS PR68DCAM. The 1959 PR69DCAM was acquired by the current owner for a record price of over $70,000!
Value: The last couple Proof 67 DCAM’s have sold in the $15,000 range. The lone PR68DCAM residing with the current owner sold for a then record price of almost $20,000 in the late 1990’s. The owner could realize a handsome profit today if he were inclined to part with this virtually irreplaceable rarity. If there is one coin that is irreplaceable, it is the lone PR69DCAM. This coin offers monstrous cameo contrast, superior to any known 1959.
A highly sought after cameo date, collectors attempting to assemble “ultimate” cameo Franklin sets, with all coins displaying ultra heavy cameo contrast, will have to be very patient in their search for this date. Few examples exist with the snow-white frost on both obverse & reverse needed to qualify as ultra heavy. The 1959 Franklin is truly rare in this condition. Despite a mintage of over 1 million sets, ultra heavily contrasted 1959 Franklins rank among the great half dollar rarities of twentieth century coinage. This author has personally searched through well over 100,000 1959 proof sets since 1981, and has never encountered a Franklin with DCAM/ULTRA contrast. Other Franklin dates this author has never personally located in DCAM/ULTRA: 1950, 1952, 1953, 1956 Type 1, and 1958.