By CoinWeek ….
One of the highlights of Sunday’s (February 24) upcoming auction at GreatCollections.com is this NGC-certified MS-67 1945-S Walking Liberty half dollar. The date itself is common enough (over 10 million business strikes were issued), and the coin isn’t hard to acquire in grades all the way up to MS-66. However, with PCGS reporting a population of 48 examples at MS-67 (with only two finer at 67+), and NGC reporting 38 grading events at 67 with none finer, this entry in the popular Walking Liberty series becomes a condition rarity ready-made for the competitive registry set collector or those looking for the best specimens with which to upgrade their Walking Liberty set.
The record price for a 1945-S Walking Liberty half in MS-67 (PCGS) is $37,375 USD at the Heritage February 2011 Long Beach U.S. Coin Signature auction. More recent results, however, suggest a calmer market. A little over a month ago, Heritage sold a specimen for $7,800 at the 2019 Winter FUN Show. This represents something of a jump from the price Heritage managed at the August 2018 ANA, which was $5,760, and more than twice the $3,720 that Stack’s Bowers sold a 1945-S for in June of 2018.
But even just a month prior to the Stack’s Bowers sale, Legend Rare Coin Auctions sold two examples for prices closer to this year’s Heritage result: one going for $7,050 and the other selling at $7,344. So it isn’t much of a stretch to assume that the current GreatCollections offering will be going for at or near that pricing level.
Bidding starts at $4,500.
Late-Date Walking Liberty Half Dollars
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 Liberty Walking design by Adolph A. Weinman on the obverse. A stern, glorious 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. NGC recognizes all of the above short sets in their Set Registry, while PCGS does not have competitive Registry Sets for any of them.