By Tony Davis
As a coin dealer, we’re frequently asked which 90% silver half dollar coin is the best investment. While on the surface, it appears to be a pretty simple question, there are several factors to take into consideration when evaluating the silver coin options. For our purposes, we’re referring to the most common 90% silver half dollars, which are 1964 Kennedy half dollars, Franklin half dollars and Walking Liberty half dollars. In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each type of half dollar and conclude with our personal favorite.
1964 Kennedy Half Dollars
According to these mintage figures from Wikipedia, approximately 430 million 1964 Kennedy half dollars were minted for general circulation. This is an incredible number of coins, and is nearly on par with all of the Franklin half dollars minted from 1948 – 1963 and all of the Walking Liberty half dollars minted from 1916 – 1947. Needless to say, these coins are plentiful. Not only are a large number of 1964 Kennedy half dollar available, but they also tend to have the least amount of wear out of the three coin types that we’ll be highlighting. This is because 1964 was the last year that half dollars were minted with 90% silver content, so many of these coins were taken out of circulation shortly after they were produced. The condition of 1964 Kennedy half dollars makes them appealing, as they tend to have little, if any wear. This means that the total silver weight is typically greater than the other coins we’ll discuss below. On the other hand, because only 1964 is the only Kennedy half dollar that contains 90% silver content, checking the dates is required to ensure that you’re not purchasing silver clad or nickel copper coins. Furthermore, not everyone in the general public is aware that 1964 Kennedy half dollars contain 90% silver content.
Franklin Half Dollars
Minted from 1948 – 1963, Franklin half dollars are some of the most popular 90% silver half dollars available in the market today. These coins display a side profile of Benjamin Franklin on the obverse and a picture of the Liberty Bell on the reverse. As mentioned above, the production of these coins is on par with 1964 Kennedy half dollars, with a total mintage of 465 million coins from 1948 - 1963. Unlike Kennedy half dollar coins, some Franklin half dollars contain numismatic value in addition to bullion value. Most Franklin half dollars in high end condition will sell at a premium above and beyond their silver content. Furthermore, there are a few semi-key date coins to be on the lookout for, which include 1949-D, 1949-S, 1951-D, 1952-S and 1953-S Franklin half dollars. Earlier minted Franklin half dollars tend to have a good bit of wear, while coins minted in the 1960’s are typically lightly circulated. On a positive note, since all Franklin half dollars were minted prior to 1964, you can be certain that you’re purchasing a 90% silver half dollar when acquiring Franklin half dollars.
Walking Liberty Half Dollars
Walking Liberty half dollars were designed by Adolph Weinman, the legendary sculptor who also designed the iconic image of the Winged Liberty Head, which can be found on Mercury dimes. Walking Liberty half dollars are considered some of the most beautiful coins ever minted. In fact, the image of a walking Lady Liberty is the same image that can be found on American silver eagles, the official silver bullion coin of the United States. Walking Liberty half dollars were produced for a period of 32 years, double that of the Franklin half dollars, but the production levels only exceeded Franklin half dollars by approximately 20 million coins. Like Franklin half dollars, a few key date Walking Liberty half dollars exist, which include most coins produced in 1916, 1919 and 1921. Additionally, many coins produced prior to 1934, including the 1938-d, are fairly valuable in high end condition. The four most valuable Walking Liberty half dollars in average circulated condition include the 1921, 1921-d, 1921-s and 1916-s coins. The drawback with Walking Liberty half dollars is that most of these coins tend to have a good bit of wear; especially those minted in the 1930’s and earlier. However, most Walking Liberty half dollars in high end condition, including the key date coins mentioned above, sell for a premium.
In summary, we’ve highlighted the three most common 90% silver half dollars, including 1964 Kennedy half dollars, Franklin half dollars and Walking Liberty half dollars. We’ve discussed some of the pros and cons of each, which primarily involve the level of wear of the coins and the opportunity to find semi-key or key date coins. In this author’s opinion, the “sweet spot” of 90% silver half dollars are Franklin half dollars. All of these coins are recognizable as 90% silver half dollars, and if you stick with the more recently issued Franklin half dollars, most of these coins tend to have little wear. Regardless of which half dollar you choose, you really can’t go wrong, as all three are great ways to invest in 90% silver coins.
Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes.