[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: A large percentage of proof 1961 Franklins are currently less than proof 65 quality. Though most in original government-issue flatpacks are at least this, the majority of these coins have long been removed from these protective envelopes and many were placed in rolls, where they would often abrade with other coins.
PROOF 65-68: Not as easy to locate in high grade as one might think, given the high mintage. Many proof ‘61’s have been mishandled – having been thrown into rolls as noted above. Many others have been stored in non- PVC flips, which damages the delicate proof surfaces. Still others were melted down during the great silver & gold bullion boom of 1979-80, when silver briefly touched $50 an ounce. Proof 67 1961 Franklins are semiscarce. Proof 68 examples are very elusive. Most 1961 proof Franklins that are not mishandled will likely be plagued with an assortment of hairlines and/or milk-spots.
Value: The 1961 begins to bring a premium in proof 67 grade, with certified examples generally selling in the $15-$30 range. Proof 68 ‘61-s currently trade between $40-$60.
PROOF 64-66 CAMEO: SCARCE. While the mintage of just over 3 million sets is about equal to the 1962 and 1963, the 1961 Franklin is far more elusive in cameo. It is many times rarer than either the 1962 or 1963 in gem cameo.
Value: Minimally contrasted examples generally trade between $15-$30 in Proof 64-66 Cameo.
PROOF 67-68 CAMEO: VERY SCARCE. Nicely contrasted, flawless or nearflawless ‘61’s are very underrated. Again, they are many times rarer than either the 1962 or 1963 in this condition.
Value: Minimally contrasted 1961 Franklins in PF 67 Cameo may sell for as little as $40, and as high as $200. It all depends on the cameo contrast – whether the coin is a CAM- or a CAM+! Proof 68 examples may sell for as little as $80, or as high as $400-$600. Again, the price differential generally depending on the cameo contrast of the coin.
PROOF 65-66 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: Forget the proof mintage of 3 million sets. There were few 1961 Franklin die pairs which struck the matching two-sided “black & white” cameo Franklins that are so highly prized by collectors. The majority of the finer cameo ‘61’s are either mismatched cameos, with ultra heavy obverses but heavy reverses; or matching heavy+ cameos, which are attractive, but do not have the snow-white cameo devices. The occasional ultra heavy ‘61 that does surface is usually hairlined, with a milk-spot or two.
Value: A bargain at today’s levels $200-$500 in Proof 65-66 DCAM/ULTRA.
PROOF 67-68 PCGS DCAM/NGC ULTRA CAM: EXTREMELY SCARCE. Many of the finest PR68 DCAM 1961 Franklins came from an incredible “run” of superb black & white cameos, the finest group of ‘61’s this author had ever handled in 15 years. About 15 coins in all, these coins possessed matching snow-white cameo devices obverse & reverse. The finest of these 15, approximately 6 coins, were virtually perfect, without the usual assortment of hairlines and/or milkspots, and were graded PR 68 DCAM by PCGS.
Value: Problem free proof 67 examples usually trade between $400-$800, depending on the cameo contrast. The finest 1961’s that have traded in proof 68 ultra heavy were sold for upwards of $2500, with a few ultimate examples (from the small run noted above) selling in the $3500 range.
A favorite date of this author. The 1961 is among the highest mintage dates in the series, with over 3 million sets minted. Yet, it is extremely scarce with full ultra heavy cameo contrast on both obverse and reverse. Additionally, the date is plagued with hairlines and milkspots. If one has the good fortune to locate an exceptional cameo of this date, it will likely have these problems. Tuck away any spot-free black & white cameos you find at current levels. Exceptional DCAM/ULTRA 1961 proof Franklins are now harder to find than ever. The examples typically found by this author of late fall on the lower end of the DCAM/ULTRA spectrum. The 1961 proof Franklin does not have a single example certified in Proof 69 DCAM/ULTRA.