United States 1944 Walking Liberty Half Dollar

In 1944, the United States Mint was working overtime to accommodate not only the wartime needs of the United States but also the needs of its allies. The need was so great that “nearly three billion domestic coins” and “nearly 800,000,000 coins” for 17 other countries were produced “at cost”, which combined to make the “largest output in the 152 years of Mint existence” up until 1944.

Part of that massive output was the 28,206,000 Walking Liberty half dollars struck by the Philadelphia Mint. While it is by far the most common half dollar issue from that year and accounts for approximately 63% of all the half dollars minted that year, it still represents a 47% decrease from the previous year’s mintage of 53,190,000 pieces.

This massive demand for coinage also forced the Mint to become lax with quality control, leading to a drop in strike quality across the board during the war years. While not the worst, the 1944 Philadelphia Walking Liberty half boasts particularly soft and mushy details. This was due particularly to worn-out dies. In fact, these old dies have led to a false variety for the 1944 Philadelphia half dollar: the “No AW”. Since Adolph Weinman’s monogram (“AW”) was simply polished off the dies over a long period of use, these coins do not actually constitute a variety but rather a die state.

The 1944 Walking Liberty Half Dollar in Today’s Market

Despite the last public auction record being quite recent (a June 2021 Stack’s Bowers sale), it is rather difficult to acquire a top population specimen, with only three MS 68s graded each by NGC and PCGS. Additionally, this grade has an absolutely massive spread in recent auction values, with the June 2021 Stack’s Bowers MS 68 hammering for $84,000, an August 2020 Heritage Auctions coin going for $4,920, and an August 2010 Heritage MS 68 selling for $109,250. An additional Heritage example of the grade, which also sold in 2010, only hammered for $6,900!

In MS 67, only one grade down, examples have regularly sold for between $450 and $900 in recent years, while one specimen hammered for $2,174 in 2021.

Despite MS 66s also having a price outlier of $960, most recent sales peg the price for this grade at between $200 and $300.

In MS 65, a collector should expect to pay between $100 and $150, and in MS 64 between $70 and $90.

For the lower Mint State grades (MS 60 – 63), examples regularly sell for $30 to $50.

And finally, in circulated grades, the 1944 Walking Liberty is worth between $10 and $30.

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 glory of America. 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 IN GOD WE TRUST and below her is the date (1944).

The design bears a notable resemblance to sculptor Oscar Roty’s The Sower, a common image on French coins. 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 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 E PLURIBUS UNUM, and below its talons is the denomination HALF DOLLAR. The designer’s initials “AW” appear beneath the eagle’s right wing.

Edge:

The edge of the 1944 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 or 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:  USA
Year Of Issue:  1944
Denomination:  Half Dollar (50 Cents)
Mint Mark:  None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 28,206,000
Alloy:  90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight:  12.5 g
Diameter:  30.0 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer  Adolph Alexander Weinman
REV Designer  Adolph Alexander Weinman
Quality: Business Strike

 

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Sources

https://www.usmint.gov/learn/history/historical-documents/wartime-contribution-to-foreign-coinage
 

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