Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): In 1948, John R. Sinnock, chief engraver of the Philadelphia Mint, produced a new design for the half dollar, to replace the Liberty Walking motif, which had been in use since 1916. The Franklin half dollar depicts a head and shoulders portrait of Franklin on the obverse, facing right, with LIBERTY above and IN GOD WE TRUST below. The date is to the right. The reverse depicts the Liberty Bell with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA above and HALF DOLLAR below. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is to the left while a small eagle is to the right, fulfilling the requirement of the Coinage Act of 1792 that an eagle appear on the reverse of all silver coins (that requirement was relaxed somewhat in 1837, when the half dime and dime were exempted.)
At the time of issue, the design was criticized by many, perhaps because it is rather plain in comparison to the “classic” Liberty Walking style. However, in recent years Franklin half dollars have emerged as popular pieces, and today are highly desired by numismatists.
The type set collector can easily obtain a business strike in any desired grade from Very Fine to superb Uncirculated, although sharply struck Uncirculated pieces showing full bell lines on the reverse and other minutely detailed areas are elusive for some issues. Proofs were minted from 1950 through 1963 and are available in proportion to their original production quantities.
-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers