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1949-D Half a Better Date But Changing
By Paul M. Green, Numismatic News
September 19, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Sometimes the conventional wisdom is wrong. In the case of the 1949-D Franklin half dollar the conventional wisdom might require a little alteration based on numbers found at grading services.

Traditionally speaking, the 1949-D has been seen as one of the better Franklins. Some do not exactly lose a lot of sleep thinking about the best Franklins, but they might want to pay more attention as a date like the 1953-S in MS-65 with full bell lines can command some pretty high prices.

It can take time for true rarity to be discovered and Franklin half dollars seem to be late bloomers.

In the case of the 1949-D, you have a date with a mintage of 4,120,600. That sounds low and it is. There have been years when more proof sets have been sold than that. This is a mintage for a coin intended for circulation.

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That said, the 1949-D was not extraordinary by Franklin standards of the day. In fact, if you took the five dates produced as of the end of 1949, the 1949-D had the fourth highest mintage of the five coins struck at that point. It was, however, the second year of the design and saving by the public and collectors usually declines in the second year so while higher mintage than either the 1948 or 1948-D, there was reason to suspect that the 1949-D might be tougher than he 1948 issues at least in Mint State.

Among Franklin collectors, the 1949-D seemed to have a real following as a better date. It was perhaps the result of 1950s collectors feeling that coins of the earlier decade were better. The lower mintages at the start helped feed this impression.

In the lower grades, the 1949-D is priced just a bit higher than bullion value until you reach AU-50 at $25. In MS-60, the coin lists for $43.50, which beats the price of all but the 1949-S for the coins of the first two years of issue.

At $900 in MS-65, it is the top Franklin of the whole series. At $1,750 in MS-65 with full bell lines it is behind the 1953-S and the 1962 Type 1 reverse.

The $1,750 price is a bit of a surprise in one way. That is actually lower than its price in 1998. It is surprising based on conventional collector wisdom, but when you check totals at the grading services, the 1949-D in Mint State with full bell lines has been seen 1,064 times by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation while the 1961 in Mint State with full bell lines has been seen just 81 times. Price of the 1961 in MS-65FBL is $1,300.

Are prices a bit out of line?

It can fairly be suggested that perhaps the dates from the 1960s have not yet been sent in enough for examination for these population numbers to mean too much yet. If you sent in a really nice 1949-D, but the grading service decided it lacked full bell lines, it can still be an expensive coin while if the same thing were done with a 1961, the price would be much lower still. That risk could cause some not to bother to send in examples.

Nevertheless, we should still watch these numbers. At some point, the 1949-D might turn out to be not quite as good as we have thought it to be.

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