Using Die Markers to Research Franklin Varieties
For years, my collecting focus has been Franklin half dollars. Countless hours have been spent researching, examining, analyzing, and photographing Franklins. Over time, Hub and Die markers have become evident. While some markers can easily be ascribed to Hubs or Dies there are a few where, to my level of understanding, the origin becomes ambiguous. I am working to get to the next level of understanding in distinguishing these markers and would appreciate any input to help clarify my quest.
In the discussion that follows, here are some simple basic assumptions for the Franklin series:
- All Hubs and Dies for this series, Master or Working, were fabricated at the Philadelphia Mint.
- Obverse Master Hubs were dateless (YY). The two digit Year is added for that production year.
- Reverse Master Hubs all the way down to Working Dies can span years of production.
- A persistent incused marker can be manifested by a dent or scratch in a Working Hub.
- A persistent relief maker can be manifested by a bump or raised metal in a Working Hub.
- Persistent Obverse and Reverse Working Hub markers are not Minting facility (P,D,S) specific.
- A unique marker is manifested by either a dent(s) or bump(s) and is specific to a solitary Working Die.
- All markers are subject to the numerous minting variables between Master Hubbing and coin pressing.
- These are just basic assumptions and exceptions that do exist but are extraneous to this discussion.
If I missed any or got it wrong, please comment.
A good example of a persistent obverse incused marker is the 1954 Proof Franklin. Virtually all 1954 Proof Franklins have an obverse incused dent or scratch in the “I” of “IN GOD WE TRUST”.
This marker exists on virtually all Proof 1954 Franklin Obverses and a few circulation strikes. Research indicates that the minting process often uses more than one Working Hub to create Working Dies. Under the multiple Working Hub method, if this “I” marker was specific to a Working Hub, it would only appear on some Proofs. Since the marker’s persistence is for the entire date of 1954 Proof production, the conclusion could be that this marker is on the Obverse Master Hub and was probably created when the YY date was stamped. Thus, it would have been propagated to the Proof Working Hubs and Proof Working dies. Below, the 1954 Philadelphia Mint die record delineates Proof Working Die numbers. In this document, there were only 84 Working Dies used in 1954 Proof production. A single Working Hub could easily handle the generation of 84 Working Dies.
If this marker appeared on only a portion of the 1954 Proof strikes that could suggest multiple Working Hubs but the numbers above seem to discount this conclusion. If this marker did not appear on the early Proofs strikes, it could suggest that a Working Hub was “damaged” sometime during the Working Die press run. It is generally accepted that Cameo Proofs are first strikes of Working Dies. A close examination of every Deep Cameo, Cameo, and high-grade 1954 Proof images in the PCGS database clearly shows this “I” marker. This evidence would suggest that maybe the marker was only on a single 1954 Proof Working Hub and not on the obverse Master Hub. Since the “I” marker does not appear on Proofs in prior or subsequent years, that seems to rule out the Master Hub and support the supposition of only one 1954 Proof Working Hub.
The question here is why does the origin of a persistent or unique marker matter? The answer is complicated but it is of particular importance when trying to determine the pedigree of a variety’s Working Die. For the following discussion, it is imperative that you understand the difference between Transitional Reverse Franklin RDV-001a and RDV-001b Franklin Sub-types. Here is a link for an abridged explanation:
The Vista Variety Website link that also contains details on the years and Mints:
Isolating the Origin of a Franklin Variety
Over the years, the uncanny similarity between the 1950-D DDR-001 and 1951-S DDR-002(FS 801) Franklin Halves has been intriguing. At first, since they were different dates and Mints, one could argue coincidence.
However, the similarity in detail, independent of the strike, begged a cohesive explanation. All reverse Working Dies are produced at the Philadelphia Mint and a mintmark is just a random punch into a Working Die pressed from random Working Hubs. This was a good starting point to unravel the significant similarities of these two reverse varieties.
The obvious similarity is that both the 1950-D DDR-001 and the 1951-S DDR-002(FS 801) Franklin Halves have been classified by CONECA as Class I Rotated Hub - Counter-Clockwise plus Class III Design Hub Doubling (R-I-CCW+III). Design Hub Doubling occurs when Working Hubs with two different designs are used to hub the same Working Die. In our scenario, a slightly rotated (CCW) RDV-001b Hub rod was misaligned for a marriage to a tray of partially hubbed Working Dies that had received the first squeeze from an RDV-001a Hub rod. This muling was the source of a “bad batch” of Class III Working Dies. Depending on the mintmark punch, subsequent strikes of Franklin reverses from a few of these muled Working Dies (Class III) would generate the multiple varieties of 1950 and 1951 DDR Franklins. If the RDV-001a Master Die was reengraved in early 1950 then these DDR RDV-001 b over RDV-001a Working Die Varieties could not have been pressed in 1951.
The 1950 Mint half dollar production year was chaotic. Proofs were being reintroduced. The new transitional RDV-001b Master Die was being re-engraved. In addition, the output of 1950 Franklins would double from each of the prior two years and Commemorative Half Dollars were still being released. To have these two varieties with the same identical reverse would require some reconciliation to account for the normal procedure for the reverse Working Dies being produced and punched in the year of production. A reasonable scenario, contrary to the norm, would be that during 1950, some of the “bad batch” DDR Working Dies were punched with a “D” and sent to Denver. At the same time, some of the remaining “bad batch” Doubled Working Dies were punched with an “S” and shipped off to San Francisco. But, apparently because of the existing Franklin inventory, the Mint decided not to produce 1950-S Franklins for circulation. It is logical that in the 1951 production year these mothballed “S” punched DDR Working Dies resurfaced when San Francisco Mint Franklin production resumed. If 1950-D DDR-001 and 1951-S DDR-002(FS 801) Franklin Halves shared the same “bad batch” of mule Doubled Reverse Working Dies, the key would be to find a Working Hub marker that was shared by these two varieties with the conundrum of two different dates and mintmarks. This would prove a single Working Hub was used for both varieties.
As it turns out such Working Hub markers exist on both the 1950-D DDR-001 and the 1951-S DDR-002(FS 801) Franklin Halves. These persistent markers appear in the “D” of the word “DOLLAR” in the reverse legend. These persistent markers can be observed in many examples of both these varieties. Sans minor strike variations, note that the “D” is virtually identical. The nature of the “D” markers suggests hand engraving on the original Working Hub.
These strikes cannot be created from the same reverse Working Die since they have different mintmarks. This is strong evidence that the same DDR Working Hub Reverse was used to produce a group of Working Dies for both the 1950-D and 1951-S DDR coins.
It should be noted that there are other varieties of DDR Working Dies in both years but due to the lack of specimens and images, further study is needed to determine if they also share markers.
To most collectors, this shared DDR lineage is of little consequence. However, it is another piece of data to give insight to the overall production of Franklin Halves. Following the trail of die markers is a valuable tool in discovering the clues that unlock the secrets to a coin’s pedigree. While it may seem insignificant, there is plausible evidence that two popular Franklin DDRs’ from different years and Mints have identical Working Hub origins.
Thanks for your time.