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HomeUS Coins1928-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar : A Collector's Guide

1928-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1928-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1928-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

While the Walking Liberty Half Dollar was well received by the public, a general lack of demand and the silver dollar production requirements of the Pittman Act of 1918 resulted in a decade of sporadic production figures. Throughout the 1920s, the United States Mint’s San Francisco facility was responsible for striking nearly 60% of all Walking Liberty Half Dollars produced and even struck the entire issuance of 1928.

It was technically difficult to replicate Adolph Weinman’s design since the high points of the obverse and reverse fields were in the same area. This caused serious striking issues and necessitated a series of redesigns, the first of which occurred in 1918. It was not nearly enough, and the vast majority of San Francisco’s production was poorly struck. Characteristic of this type, most examples display a flattening of details in Lady Liberty’s hand as well as the reverse eagle’s breast feathers and legs. Since this was a recurring issue, the Mint ordered further redesigns in the 1930s.

Despite a small mintage of 1,940,000 pieces, San Francisco used two different mintmark punches in 1928. Called MMS-002 “Small”, the first type was used for every issuance from 1917 until 1942. When the dies became worn enough, the Mint needed to re-punch the mintmark. Since the new mintmark is quite similar to those used by the San Francisco Mint in the 19th century (on Barber Quarters, for example), it is thought that mint workers used an old punch instead of cutting a new one.

The Small variety does not, however, command a premium. Instead, condition is the main driver for this type since very few half dollars were collected when new as a result of the Great Depression.

What Are 1928-S Walking Liberty Half Dollars Worth?

As one of the key conditional rarities in the Walking Liberty series, the 1928-S is extremely rare in high grades. In fact, there is only one example of the highest recorded grade, MS66+. Last sold in 2018 by Heritage Auctions, this coin holds the auction record of $28,800.

Of only 15 certified MS66s, an example sold in 2020 for $10,200 and a different example sold in 2018 for $19,388.

At one grade lower, the price is nearly halved; MS65s sold for between $4,500 to $6,500 in 2020.

In a signal that the price for the 1928-S Walking Liberty has been rising for the past few years, an MS64 at roughly $6,750 now is worth more than the MS65 2020 auction price. Meanwhile, in 2022, an MS63 sold for roughly $3,800. The price then drops to between $2,000 and $2,500 for examples certified MS62.

For pieces floating around the AU/MS divide (AU58-MS61), collectors should expect to pay roughly $2,000.

The price remains high for high AU examples, with AU50-55 being worth $750 to $1,500. The price drops again to between $375 and $450 for XF45. From VF30 to 35, examples sell for between $150 and $350, and from VF20 to 25, they sell for between $75 and $150. Even below F12, examples are still worth roughly $20.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS66+ (1, 6/2024), NGC MS66 (5, 6/2024), and CAC MS66 (2:0 stickered:graded, 6/2024).

  • PCGS MS66+ CAC #1609026: As PCGS MS66 CAC #01609026. “The Ally Collection,” Heritage Auctions, July 29, 2002, Lot 8531 – $11,500; Heritage Auctions, September 2002, Lot 7058; Heritage Auctions, August 2015, Lot 4140 – $25,850; As PCGS MS66+ CAC #01609026. Heritage Auctions, January 4, 2018, Lot 4889 – $28,800. All over orange and violet toning.
  • PCGS MS66 #46958883: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, April 27, 2023, Lot 321 – $15,275. Brilliant.
  • NGC MS66 #3853442-002: As NGC MS66. “The George Gardner Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, November 6, 2013, Lot 2098 – $15,275. As NGC MS66 #3853442-002. Heritage Auctions, July 11, 2019, Lot 3065 – $7,800Dark crescent rim toning.
  • PCGS MS66 #335388184: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, July 26, 2018, Lot 341 – $19,387.50.
  • PCGS MS66 #25787726: As PCGS MS65 CAC #25686119. Heritage Auctions, September 17, 2015, Lot 3972 – $8,812.50. As PCGS MS66 #25787726. “The Digiovanni de Abruzzi Collection,” Heritage Auctions, January 4, 2018, Lot 4888 – $13,200; Heritage Auctions, April 26, 2018, Lot 4262 – $11,400. All over toning in pale green, gold, orange, and red.
  • NGC MS66: “The George Gardner Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, November 6, 2013, Lot 2098 – $15,275. Dark crescent rim toning.
  • PCGS MS66 #3023566: Heritage Auctions, November 3, 2005, Lot 2178 – $21,275. Scattered, unattractive brown and slate toning. Rattler.
  • PCGS MS66 #8359361: “The Nicholas Collection,” Heritage Auctions, May 6, 2004, Lot 7658 – $25,300. Brown rim toning.
  • PCGS MS65+ CAC #81921407: “The Steven L. Duckor Collection of Walking Liberty Half Dollars,” Heritage Auctions, January 4, 2018, Lot 4884 – $20,400. Duckor on insert. Cream toning with rose toning along the periphery.
  • PCGS MS65+ CAC #25311978: Stack’s Bowers, November 2014, Lot 10178 – $17,037.50.

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Design

Obverse:

Completely dominating the obverse face of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar is the eponymous walking Lady Liberty. She is seen as a full-body figure, dressed in a flowing gown, and draped with a large billowing American flag. She holds laurel and oak branches in her left hand that symbolize the civil and military glories of America, respectively. As Liberty strides confidently towards the rising sun, she also reaches out and presents a welcoming and open hand. So large is Lady Liberty that she is superimposed over the obverse legend LIBERTY ringing the obverse – in fact, she obscures half of the “BE” and almost the entire “R”. Above Liberty’s outstretched rear foot is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST and below her is the date 1928.

The design bears a notable resemblance to sculptor Oscar Roty’s The Sower, a common image on French coins. Numismatist Roger Burdette posited in his book Renaissance of American Coinage (2007) that this was not a coincidence and while Adolph Weinman did not directly copy, he did derive significant inspiration from Roty’s work. Weinman’s Liberty Walking design quickly became one of America’s most iconic numismatic images and would be used with minor modifications on the American Silver Eagle bullion coin starting in 1986.

Reverse:

The reverse design of this coin is intended to show the power and might of a country becoming accustomed to flexing its global power. Perched on a rocky outcropping, a defiant eagle stares off into the distance, its wings partially unfolded. A mountain pine sapling can be seen growing from the rock next to the eagle. Above the bird’s wings is the country name UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; to the left is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM; and below its talons is the denomination HALF DOLLAR. The designer’s initials in the form of the monogram AW appear beneath the eagle’s right wing. To the left of the rocky outcropping, at 7:30 on the clock, is the “S” mintmark.

Edge:

The edge of the 1928-S Walking Liberty half dollar is reeded.

Designer

Adolph Alexander Weinman was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. He studied and worked under such famous American sculptors as Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French. Weinman is responsible for two of the most iconic coin designs in U.S. history: the Mercury (Winged Liberty) Dime and the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, both of which debuted in 1916. Weinman’s sons also became sculptors and coin designers, and he taught such pupils as sculptor Anthony de Francisci of Peace dollar fame. Adolph Weinman died in 1952.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year of Issue: 1928
Denomination: Half Dollar (50 Cents USD)
Mintmark: S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 1,940,000
Alloy: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight: 12.5 g
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Edge:  Reeded
OBV Designer: Adolph A. Weinman
REV Designer: Adolph A. Weinman
Quality: Business Strike

 

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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