Walk right into the world of collecting Walking Liberty half dollar
coins, a series struck between 1916 and 1945.
Weinman's obverse design for the Walking Liberty half dollar has been
hailed as one of the greatest of all time. It depicts a full-length
allegorical Liberty striding left, garbed in the stars and stripes of
Old Glory. Liberty carries in her left hand branches of laurel and
oak. Her right hand is outstretched as she walks toward the dawn of a
new day represented by the rising sun with rays. A large, plain field
is on the right, at Liberty's back. Dominating the reverse is a
left-facing fearless and powerful eagle captured with his wings about
to unfold to begin flight from his perch atop a mountain crag. In the
foreground is a mountain pine sapling springing from a rift in the
rock. Open field space occupies a very small portion of the reverse.
COIN VALUES: See how much Walking Liberty half dollar coins
are worth today
Weinman had a busy year in 1916. His models for the dime and half
dollar won coinage design contests. They have remarkably similar
heads, although the depiction of Liberty on the half dollar does not
have a winged cap.
The D Mint mark for Denver or S for
San Francisco appears in the obverse field on all 1916 and early 1917
issue Walking Liberty half dollars. The Mint mark was moved to below
and to the left of the mountain pine near the rim on the reverse
beginning later in 1917. Various repunched Mint mark varieties are
cataloged for the series. The coins were struck at the Philadelphia
Mint without a Mint mark.
A problem encountered
throughout the series is the typical weak strike. The obverse facial
details and hand holding a branch are typically weak. The hand is
directly in line with the high points of the eagle's breast and left
leg on the reverse, which is also typically either weakly struck or
the first place to wear.
There simply wasn't enough metal
to properly fill those design elements.
There are a
number of challenging key dates to seek out in this series. Nine
issues have a mintage of less than 1 million pieces each. These are
1916, 1916-S, 1917-D (on obverse), 1917-S (on obverse), 1919, 1921,
1921-D, 1921-S and 1938-D. The lowest mintage of all is 1921-D at
The Walking Liberty half dollar appears
in U.S. Proof sets of 1936 to 1942. The 1936 has the lowest Proof
mintage at 3,901 pieces. The highest mintage is 21,120 pieces for
There are early dated Proofs struck individually,
rather than for sets. There are, as an example, at least three known
Satin Finish Proofs of the 1917 half dollar.
two varieties of the 1941 Proof coin, with and without the designer's
It took seven revisions before the Weinman
design could be used on the half dollar. This was due to the high
relief in several places. Patterns exist of the Walking Liberty half
dollar in several stages of its development.
officially none of these patterns were ever released, examples are
known in private hands.
The design for the half dollar
could be legally changed after July 1, 1941, 25 years having passed
since its introduction.
However, wartime demands on the
Mint allowed this design to continue through 1947. The Walking Liberty
half dollar was replaced with a design depicting Benjamin Franklin in 1948.
Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:
Cents and half cents:
2- and 3-cent coins:
Dimes and half dimes: