By CoinWeek ….
Bidding for two noteworthy Walking Liberty half dollars comes to an end at GreatCollections.com on Sunday, November 8. With the market for coins in the $5,000 to $25,000 segment being so strong recently, we thought we’d remark about these two Condition Census examples
At the time of publication, the high bid for the 1941-D Walking Liberty half dollar is $13,000 after 28 bids. The coin has a splash of golden toning in the center and some whispy gold toning on the reverse. The coin is otherwise brilliant.
The high bid for the 1943-D Walking Liberty half dollar is $16,500 after 12 bids. The 1943-D has a light ring of rim toning and is otherwise fully brilliant.
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.
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, the quarter, and the 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 replaced by John R. Sinnock’s Franklin design (Sinnock’s Roosevelt dime also replaced Weinman’s ‘Mercury’ dime). Half dollars for circulation were not minted in 1922, 1924 through 1926, and 1930 through 1932.
Walking Liberty Short Sets
The Walking Liberty series ran from 1916 through 1947, with a few years in between when the coin was not struck (1922, 1924-26, and 1930-32). Each coin consists of approximately 12.5 grams of 90% pure silver and bears the popular Weinman Liberty Walking design on the obverse. A stern and proud perched eagle, wings open as if about to take flight, beautifully fills the reverse.
With the exception of dramatically larger mintages in the later years of the series’ run (thanks to the improving wartime and postwar economies and the associated increase in demand for coinage), there isn’t much difference between the earlier issues and the later ones. But for collectors, there is one difference that has traditionally come into consideration, and that is the matter of Walking Liberty “short sets”.
A “short set” is a subset of a larger series that makes sense to a majority of collectors and has been accepted by them as a logical or “valid” way to collect. In the case of Walking Liberty halves, the series can be collected in two short sets: 1916 through 1940, and 1941 through 1947. This is because when Whitman Publishing first issued coin folders for the type, these are the dates into which the company divided the series.
Perhaps Whitman made the decision because the number of coins that would’ve been placed in one folder would’ve been too awkward, or too heavy, to make a product that customers would like. In any case, the resulting arrangement did have the benefit of sequestering the hard-to-find key dates into the first folder, so a late-date short set of Walking Liberties would have been an appealing choice for beginning collectors to get started pursuing the series.
Other short sets are, of course, possible – 1916-33 and 1934-47, for instance.
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. The “D” mintmark is located at the lower left, between the left of the edge of the rocky outcrop and the rim.
The edge is reeded.