1959 PF 67 Ultra Cameo
The 1959 Franklin Half Dollar is an iconic piece of numismatic history. This is predominantly due to more than one million Proof sets minted for the second time in the United States Mint history, and the deterioration of the master dies caused by overuse. Since 1948 the same master die were responsible for minting the Franklin Half, culminating in 1959 at which point the master dies were all but completely worn out. Much of the original detail found on the master die from the inception of the Franklin Proof series was by now almost gone – attributing to the low overall quality of strikes from this date.
As you can see from the current population report finding a deep cameo example is EXTREMELY rare. Despite having a mintage of over one million sets, the 1959 Proof Franklin ranks among the key dates in the series in ultra or deep cameo condition.
The most likely explanation for the tremendous rarity of this issue in ultra or deep cameo is, as I mentioned earlier, linked to the decline in the quality of the master die. In use since 1948, the master die by 1959 was quite worn, with almost all the original fine detail of Franklin’s bust and the Liberty Bell having been deteriorated. Cameo examples have been even more anomalous than brilliant examples possibly because Mint personnel, in an attempt to conserve detail, limited the acid bath time of the Proof Franklin dies. As a result, only the very, very earliest strikes off these dies exhibited enough contrast to earn an ultra or deep cameo designation. Compounding the problem in finding superb 1959 cameo Franklin halves are two other factors.
The first is the great “silver melt” of 1979 and 1980, when silver exploded in value, briefly touching $50 per ounce, which resulted in many 1957-1963 Proof Franklins to be melted for their bullion.
The second factor is that many cameo 1959 Proof Franklin halves were ruined through incorrect dipping. This latter Phenomenon is most prevalent in the 1958 and 1959 Proof silver issues. Before the advent of conservation services like the Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS), collectors would often attempt to remove toning or spots on their Proof coins with one of the many available acid-based coin dips on the market. Many silver Proof coins react surprisingly well to this process; unfortunately this is not the case with 1958 and 1959 silver Proof coins. When exposed to acid-based coin dip silver coins from these dates typically develop a myriad of light green spots, which are only exacerbated by further exposure to cleaning solutions. Why the silver Proof issues of these two years react in this manner likely has something to do with the surface film left on the planchet after striking- perhaps a lubricant used on the dies that was not used previous to those years or after them.
All of this helps to make any beautifully struck ultra cameo example 1959 Franklin Half dollars a rarity of the highest degree, and this coin is no exception! Surmounting all of these potential pitfalls this 1959 Franklin Half Dollar has managed to survive in near pristine condition for more than 50 years with, in my opinion, unrivaled cameo contrast for the date. Only six examples in Proof 67 Ultra Cameo have gone to auction in the last 12 years, which means this may be your only chance to get your hands on one. We currently have TWO examples, one graded by NGC and one graded by PCGS available.
With only 10 examples graded Ultra Cameo by NGC in existence, and none graded higher, either of these coins could easily be priced at $30,000 or more.
If you’re interested in purchasing either of these coins feel free to give us a call at (858)792-1219!