By CoinWeek ….
Online bidding ends Sunday, August 30 on GreatCollections.com for this 1937-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar, graded MS-67+ by NGC.
While the 1937-D Walking Liberty’s mintage of 1.676 million pieces is over twice as large as the Denver Mint’s 1938 output of 491,600, it is still a middling to low number for the Walking Liberty series. But Denver had not quite earned its reputation for producing sharply struck coinage by this point in time, and so the 1937-D is a condition rarity in high Mint State.
NGC reports eight coins graded MS-67+, with just one finer at MS-68. In fact, the MS-68 specimen is the record-price holder for the date across all grading companies, selling for $23,000 USD in 2007. There are no auction records listed for NGC MS-67+s, but there are a handful of results for PCGS-certified coins from the last five years. In January 2020, two pieces sold at the same auction for wildly different prices: $13,513 and $21,738, respectively. In March 2019, an example sold for $14,400. January of that year saw a specimen go for $17,625 – almost right in the middle of the January 2020 results. Another MS-67+ sold for $19,975 in July 2018. In January 2017, a piece garnered $14,100, and in April 2015 an example went for $10,281.
So while prices for the 1937-D Walking Liberty in high Gem may seem to be jumping up and down, there is clearly an upward trend.
For more auction results, you can search through the GreatCollections Auction Archives, with records for over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years.
The starting bid for the coin on offer here is $8,500.
Background of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar
Charles Barber’s half dollar design was introduced in 1892, a beneficiary of the Mint Act of 1890, which allowed for the design of a coin to be changed every 25 years.
And likewise in 1916, Barber’s designs for the dime, quarter, and half dollar were also set aside–though unlike the smaller denominations, the half dollar of 1916 did not use Barber’s Liberty design. Mint Director Robert W. Woolley had invited three renowned sculptors from outside the Mint to produce designs for all three denominations, possibly intending that each coin would display the efforts of a different artist. However, German-born sculptor Adolph A. Weinman captured two of the three prizes, for the dime and the half dollar. Hermon A. MacNeil’s design was used for the quarter.
These new designs were representative of the artistic vigor of the early 20th century, following the previous changes to American coinage during that period (such as the Lincoln cent, the Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel, and of course the two Augustus Saint-Gaudens gold designs, among others).
Weinman’s designs were well-received at the time of release and are popular today, though there were technical issues. Many dates are weakly struck because areas of high relief on the design were opposite each other; weakness is often seen on Liberty’s left hand and leg and the eagle’s breast and leg feathers. In hopes of improving striking quality, engraver George T. Morgan made modifications in 1918 and 1921. These were followed by those of John R. Sinnock in the late 1930s, but neither produced significant improvements.
Liberty Walking halves, variously known as “Walkers” and Walking Liberty halves, were produced through 1947, replaced by John R. Sinnock’s Franklin design; Sinnock’s Roosevelt dime also replaced Weinman’s ‘Mercury’ dime. While often assembled as a complete set, some collect only the “short sets” of either 1934 through 1947, or 1941 through 1947. Half dollars for circulation were not minted in 1922, 1924 through 1926, and 1930 through 1932.
A full-length, striding figure of Liberty is displayed on the obverse, walking to the left. She wears a soft cap, Roman-style sandals with crossed ties, and a long flowing garment of alternating solid and vertically-striped panels. Her right arm is outstretched, reaching nearly to the flat rim of the coin, while her left holds a ‘bouquet’ of long oak and laurel (or olive) branches. Behind Liberty, and wrapped partially around her left arm, an American flag of stars and stripes billows, pushed forward by an implied wind at her back. At the bottom left is the sun with rays, partially obscured by a mountainous rise. The word LIBERTY surrounds a little more than the top half of the flat rim, the L overlapping a sun ray, and BER partially obscured by Liberty, the flag, and the branch leaves. To the right, near the bottom is IN GOD WE TRUST, the words on two lines, and the date is at the center of the bottom, below the level plain upon which Liberty walks.
On the reverse is a majestic standing eagle, wings partially uplifted, stands on a rock outcrop facing left, the right claw clutching a pine branch (showing both needles and cones) said to be symbolic of America. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is placed near the flat rim above the eagle, and HALF DOLLAR is at the bottom. E PLURIBUS UNUM, UNUM on a separate line, is placed at the left-center just above the tips of the pine branch. Center dots separate adjacent words of the text phrases, with an additional dot following AMERICA. The designer’s initials AW, the A nested beneath the W, are at the bottom right, just to the right of the rocky perch. Liberty Walking half dollars minted at Denver in 1937 have the “D” mintmark located at the lower left, between the left of the edge of the rocky outcrop and the rim.
The edge is reeded.
A Rough Guide to the Walking Liberty Market
At the time of writing, prices are modest through MS63 for some issues prior to 1933, and for most dates post-1933 to MS65.
Higher-priced coins include most pre-1934 issues finer than MS60, particularly the 1916-S, the 1917-D and the 1917-S Obverse Mintmark, and most 1919 through 1921 examples. A few issues from 1934 and later–such as the 1937-D–that should also be included in this category are the 1934-S, the 1938-D, and the 1946 Doubled Die Obverse – the last two expensive as Gem and finer.
Proof half dollars were minted from 1936 through 1942. The 1936 Walking Liberty is the highest-priced issue, expensive to extremely expensive in all grades, followed by Cameos of various dates. The remaining Proofs are modestly priced through PR64 (PR66 for non-Cameo coins from the 1940s), though they can be more expensive in finer condition.