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WYNTK Full Bell Lines on Franklin Half Dollar--FBL

22 posts in this topic

WYNTK Full Bell Lines on Franklin Half Dollar Reverses


This is somewhat of a controversial issue, but I’m willing to start with what I know and what I have learned both here and in searching the World Wide Web. What I won’t be putting before you is all the price differentials and marketing concerns on high grade FBL Franklins. Another touchy subject is the consistency within a grading service or the grading industry as a whole, when it comes to assigning this designation.


But you, the readers here are encouraged to comment on these specifics and about FBL’s or any topic associated with Franklin Half dollars. This is more of a technical summary answering some of the continuing questions that arise from this rather peculiar designation.


~Acronym, Definition & Attributions


FBL- Full Bell Lines is an acronym used in the identification of fully defined

bell lines, on the 35 different business struck Franklin Half Dollars.





~General information~


Engraved parallel lines into the die will result in raised parallel lines on the coin. They are not so much lines as they are raised ridges that run along the bottom of the bell. The bottoms of the ridge edges create the appearance of lines, hence the easiest terminology used to describe a line formation.



LucyBop image of continuous FBL


When the bottom set of lines across the Liberty Bell (PCGS only) is complete and uninterrupted, a regular strike MS-60 or above should receive the designation FBL. If these lines are obscured by marks, weakness of strike, planchet defects, or other sources, the coin would not normally receive the FBL designation. A few marks across the lines will not prevent the coin from receiving the designation, as long as the continuity of the lines is not disturbed. But, multiple marks, scratches, scrapes, or other detractions that interfere with the continuity of the lines, will in fact prevent a specimen from receiving the FBL designation.


I have a strong suspicion that it’s this continuity of the lines that creates the disparity within the grading services, when it comes to assigning the FBL designation.


Slight incompleteness just to the left or right of the vertical crack, defined as 1/64 th of an inch, will not prevent a coin from receiving the FBL. As you can see in the close up of the original Liberty Bell, this area appears to be physically hammered down, filed or ground flat, which is re-created as a similar void on the coin. Now whether or not the original engraver tried to emulate this area or not is unknown to the author, but a rather strong likeness on the original bell makes one think so.




The base of the bell has a ragged edge that interrupts the bottom incuse line just over the left side of the clapper. The grading services are aware of this and offer a little "give" in this particular area when assigning FBL designations.



~The grading services~


A.) NGC requires all 6 lines must be fully visible across all 4 quadrants (except right up against the crack) and have no breaks caused by tick marks or scrapes. The lines do not have to be razor sharp.


B.) Since 1997 PCGS only required the bottom 3 lines to be fully visible and have no breaks from ticks or scrapes and again, the lines do not have to be razor sharp.


C.) ANACS requires both sets of lines on the bell to be complete and clear, except for the small area just to the left of the on the upper set, right next to the crack of the bell, (this tiny area is always weak). Marks or cuts that break the lines, unless very small, will keep the coin from being designated as FBL.


Note: It appears that NGC FBL’s are much harder to get than PCGS FBLs, especially on S mint coins, which are almost never that sharp on the top lines, even when the bottom ones are full.


~The Strike~


Due to the wear on the master dies throughout the 1950’s, much of the detail was lost during the transfer process. Finally, in 1960 they were reworked in a attempt to regain some of the detail that was once worn away. One of the problems with the newly reworked dies was in the reverse. The US Mint did not do a very great job on re-engraving the bell lines, making all the 60's issues tough to find in FBL designations. History dictates that the easiest year from those last few years, was in fact the lone 1960.



One of the highest points on the reverse of the Franklin IS the bottom set of bell lines. Speaking strictly as a striking stand point, this high area on the reverse is the last area to fill in the die. So in theory, if the lines are full across the bottom of the bell, the other set of lines will also be considered full, that is, barring any ticks, nicks or post mint impairment to the upper set of lines.



Also, a set Full Bell Lines along with a very vivid Pass and Stow is usually a good indicator of a strong strike, but these specific areas only account for a very small percentage of the overall strike of the coin. In collector circles, many other factors on the devices, fields and rims, must be taken into consideration to ultimately have what is considered a GEM specimen.



The above Franklin did NOT get the FBL designation due to the significant tick located in the top left quadrant of the bell lines. Also, the bottom set of lines in the lower left quadrant near the crack are mushy and indistinct.







Most high grade Franklin’s with FBL’s have come out of mint sets and a lot of those coins have progressive toning.


A Franklin with a designation of AFBL, About (or Almost?) Full Bell Lines is nothing more than a slick marketing ploy, it simply does NOT exist!


Coin World Trends (most accurate pricing)

Coin Universe Price Guide (high side)

Numismedia's Online Price Guide (average)

Greysheet does not reflect FBL prices


All 14 of the Proof issues were struck in Philadelphia and as far as I know, none of the top tier grading companies designate FBL on Proof issued Franklins.


Minted from 1948 through 1963 at all three Mints, P,D & S, some of the key date coins in the higher grades are: 1949-D, 1950-D, 1960-D, 1961, 1961-D, 1962 and the 1962-D.


The Liberty Bell design first appeared on the 1926 Sesquicentennial of American Independence commemorative half dollar . It’s designer John R. (Ray) Sinnock (1888-1947) was discredited after it was learned he copied the bell from a sketch originally done John Frederick Lewis a Philadelphia area lawyer and local patron of the arts.




Sinnock’s Franklin half dollar reverse design was patterned, in turn, on that earlier work. Numismatic reference books now credit Lewis belatedly for his role in the reverses design.


Gilroy Roberts, who completed work on the coin following Sinnock's death in 1947, added the eagle that appears to the right of the bell. This had been required by law on the half dollar since 1792 and was reaffirmed by the Coinage Act of 1873, which mandated the placement of an eagle on every U.S. silver coin larger than the dime.




The last time the Liberty Bell appeared was on the reverse of the 1976 Bi-centennial Eisenhower Dollar.




In 1950 the U.S. Department of the Treasury, with the financial aid of several American private companies, selected the Paccard Foundry, of Annency-le-Vieux, France, to cast fifty-five full-size replicas of the American Liberty Bell. The replica bells were shipped to all forty-eight American states, and to American territories and to Washington, D.C., as a part of the "Save For Your Independence" savings bond drive, held May 15 - July 4th, 1950.


As to not be omitted, replicas were also given to Alaska and Hawaii, at which time were not yet part of the United States.




Close-up of the Liberty Bell. Inscribed are the names of John Pass and John Stow, together with city and date, along the inscription "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof—Lev. XXV, v. x. By order of the Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania for the State House in Philad[elphi]a." (The spelling "Pensylvania" was an accepted variant at the time.)




On April 1, 1996, the fast food restaurant chain Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer announcing that they had purchased the bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it to "the Taco Liberty Bell". Thousands of people who did not immediately get the April Fool's Day hoax protested.



The ad reads:


Taco Bell Buys The Liberty Bell


In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is

pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the

Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures.

It will now be called the ”Taco Liberty Bell” and will

still be accessible to the American public for viewing.

While some may find this controversial, we hope our

move will prompt other corporations to take similar action

to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.




If I’ve raised more questions than answers, please feel free to respond to this thread and if not by me, others on this forum with knowledge beyond mine will respond to your queries.


Well, I hope the previous information was helpful and informative and intrigues you enough and if you haven't already, to explore the Franklin Half Dollar series.





Edit: While I still have time to edit, I want to personally thank Kryptonitecomics "AKA" Shane" for the additional information added to this thread via his prompt post and to supertooth (Bob) WYNK founder for his guidance.



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Great infomation Woody....to add to this discussion I will include a link to Frank Chiongs Franklin Half Instructional series that I consolidated into one big resource by gathering up all of his threads from across the street.


Alan from Coinzip was kind enough to host if for me:


Franklin Half Instructional Series



I have also been working on a breakdown of Mint set franklins from 1955-1958 which includes the typically grades I am running across straight out of original Mint Set along with the colors and toning patterns I have discovered. I hope to have that finished soon so I can add it to the pool of infomation about this great series. (thumbs u

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P.S. One more thing to add as purely informational based on my most recent submission...


I just received a lot of 120 coins back from NGC and 36 of those coins were 1955-1958 Franklin Halves. Only one coin came back FBL doh!...............while those results may not be typical as evidenced by the population reports......let it be a lesson that just because it comes out of a mint set....that doesn't increase the odds of running across a full bell coin....but it can make a big difference on the general quality and grade of the coin . lol

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Good info Woody. As alluded to in your post, NGC is much tougher on FBLs than PCGS is, and much of that is due to the fact that NGC grades using the all the lines, and PCGS only uses the bottom set. Because of this, many Franklin collectors, like me, disregard the PCGS FBL designation. NGC, however, will give the designation with some nicks on the bell line. The top coin pictured below is one such coin - graded MS-64 FBL by NGC - that has a sizeable nick across the bell lines.My picture doesn't show it well, but the remainder of the bell lines are extremely strong.


This brings up another point that must be made - grading FBL from a picture is extremely difficult. Weak bell lines, if the light catches them just right, can appear much stronger than they actually are. And very strong bell lines, such as mine, can appear to be not present at all, if the light catches it wrong. Pictured below the first coin is another coin that also has very good bell lines, but this time the camera picked it up correctly. The second coin is a 1949D with good bell lines for the date - it is often considered one of the key dates in the Franklin series. With bell lines, it is even more difficult.


To the type set collector, or one who just wants a FBL coin for their collection, by far the cheapest and easiest to find will be a member of the 1951-1954 Denver minted short set. These coins are usually well struck with few problems, and are often rather attractive. The coin pictured below is my example of a 1954D. Denver minted coins are usually better struck than Philadelphia coins, and San Francisco coins are the worst struck by far. The two rarest FBL coins are 1953S and 1954S; the 1953S in FBL is ultra rare. The price record for Franklins is a 1953S in MS-66 FBL that garnered $69k. The 1954S is the second rarest Franklin in FBL.


As the master die wore on, FBLs become harder to find. A 1948 is almost always well struck, but a 1959 is harder to find well struck. However, when the die was re-engraved starting in 1960, the bell line area did not receive all the attention that it needed. Thus, FBL coins of the later dates do not have nearly as much detail as their earlier counterparts.


Woody, one comment (clarification) on something you mentioned - proof coins are never designated with FBL. It is taken for granted that a proof coin is supposed to be well struck, and if you examine Franklin proofs you will note that almost all of them have full bell lines. Those that don't will (should) just have a lower grade due to a poor strike.


One of the arguments that old school numismatists have against the FBL designation, and really all strike designations, is that it only looks at one part of the design. Although this part of the design is often the highest, and most often the weakest struck, there are other areas of the coin that must be present for a coin to be fully struck. On the standing liberty quarter, purists look at the shield as well as just the head. On the Franklin, purists will look at the three wisps of hair on Franklin's bust, just above his hair. They will also look at Pass and Stow, the words above the bell lines. In fact, early Franklin collectors wanted to be able to clearly read Pass and Stow, to the neglect of bell lines. If all three areas show good detail, then the coin is considered fully struck - not just the bottom two lines on the bell.





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Good article, Woody. Well done. The Most difficult FBL coins are generally the "S" mint coins, particularly 1949-S.

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Am grateful to both Woody and Shane for posting this valuable info on the Franklin half dollar. It should help most everybody learn some more about this well collected design.


The info that is in the link that Shane posted---done by Frank Chiong---should help many Franklin collectors. Take a look if you have any interest in this series. Thanks to all. Bob [supertooth]

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Great infomation Woody....to add to this discussion I will include a link to Frank Chiongs Franklin Half Instructional series that I consolidated into one big resource by gathering up all of his threads from across the street.


Alan from Coinzip was kind enough to host if for me:


Franklin Half Instructional Series


Indeed, I must add my :thumbsup: for the Frank Chiong series. I have been using that as one of many aids in my revamp of my Registry set. When I'm done, I'll post it for you guys to comment on, but its not done yet. I did a post a while back about the Franklin half dollar books that are out there, the link is posted below. Tomaska's book is widely regarded as the Franklin Bible, but the other books are good if you are interested.



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Good going Woody.




Bell lines may come, and bell lines may go, but the vagaries of the TPG's goes on forever!... Do NOT trust the FBL designation for either service if you are bidding sight unseen.

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Thanks, Woody! Now if I can just find the time to use this info for the set I purchased in January.



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Thanks Woody! Very educational and interesting. I personally don't buy just because the FBL is on the slab. I have seen alot of FBL's not get the attribution on the holder. I will have to agree with skyman to not bid just because the holder says FBL without actually seeing the coin in hand.


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Great information Woody. and your timing is impeccable as well:) I picked up some Frankies in an auction several weeks ago and they were all labelled fbl. After reading your thread I can now designate them as either pcgs fbl or ngc fbl :o:D A definite bookmark for future reference :cool: Thanks for sharing

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super info woody...but I can't believe a thread on FBL Franklins did not mention the 1953-S !!! I believe there are almost 200 1949-S FBL's but only 5..yes FIVE total in all grades of FBL 1953-S's

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Hmmm.... well, that info about CAC is unfortunate. Basically it means that CAC, like PCGS, is worthless for FBL collectors. CAC, like PCGS, apparently only uses the bottom set of lines to determine the designation. To me, this is unacceptable. NGC uses both sets of lines. Thus, it is much harder to get an NGC FBL, but it is a much higher quality strike.

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Hey Now

This is not specific to FBLs, but was interested in opinions regarding the grading of coins from proof and mint sets and other raw coins.


So I have been buying complete sets of Franklins in folders hoping to acquire gradable coins. I purchased a complete set of proofs in a plastic holder held together with screws. Is this a Capitol holder? Anyway, some coins appear to have a milky stain. Would the staining prevent them from being graded or otherwise just not worth the cost of being graded?


Also, it is common to have coins from proof and mint sets graded? Is the whole set typically sent in to have all coins graded or are coins singled out and sent in? These may seem like dumb questions, but since I am new to collecting, I'm not too clear on the whole grading thing.


Looking forward to helpful responses.


P.S. 2/25/12

Finally received that set of proofs. Much nicer coins than pic shows. It looks like and I'm hoping that some are cameo. Three coins have fingerprints. Maybe a job for NCS. Holder is broke, too.


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Thank you for this article.  My Dad passed away 6 years ago and I have the task of sorting through his various 60+ years of coin collecting and Inwish I paid more attention as a child when he drug me and my sister to local coins shows while Mom was in medical school and working night. But its been a struggle to find out why he kept certain coins over others and while my siblings would rather throw them all in boxes and send to the melt, I find it more valuable to understand my Fathers impressive and compicated thought process in everything especially  his personal coin collection ( as opposed to the bank roll stuff he kept in bank drawers ).  I could not figure out why he would stash or hoard certain items that seemed common and most other people I talk to dismiss them and its annoying because he was meticulous and persistent in his pursuit of specific items and a tremendous thinker and wealth of knowledge beyond comprehension. He is terribly missed and my one goal is to try and understand what these meant and at least get some satisfaction knowing it was not as sophomoric as people are dismissing his items as and  I dont have enough knowledge of coins and each time I deep dive it gets more and more complex. 

Again thank you, and it gives me some joy knowing why he had all these 1960 and 1961 mint sets when they just seem to be $15 throw aways and looking through them now I am finding the treasures, along with the Franklins that seemed random.  Now I get to tackle the next odd bunch.  But at least I no longer feel like the peasants in the Monty Python skit where Dennis Moore kept bringing them lupins from the rich to feed them. “Oh, look another box of 1960 and 1961 mint sets :/“

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I have a set of Franklins and I love these coins. I have also noticed an interesting "feature" of many of these coins. I see evidence of die clashing. I wonder if polishing out the die clash marks, makes the die shallower and then easier to get an FBL since it does not have to fill as deep. The picture of the 1954-d coin in the post above by physics-fan3.14 shows this evidence of clashing. You can mostly see if because the flat surface around Franklin's head is no longer flat, in a bell-shape like the reverse. You can see a similar head-shape on the reverse.

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