Sales of the final coin in the U.S. Mint’s 2016 Centennial coin
program — the 2016-W Walking Liberty gold half dollar — have gotten
underway, and according to the Mint, 43,728 were sold during the first
day of sales out of a maximum of 70,000 coins.
The half-ounce .999 fine gold coin is priced at $865, a price that
carries a $250.60 premium over the gold content of the coin at the
London PM Fix of $1,229.20 on Nov. 16.
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Early results were typical for a coin in high demand, with some
customers reporting no trouble in placing their orders and others
reporting some computer problems at the check-out stage.
Here is what some of our readers said at our Facebook page:
Stephen D. Sutherland: Done! Took an hour on the phone but I got it.
Mike Welch: My order was placed with no problems this time.
Michael Bruni: In and out - 15 seconds, no issues getting one gold
Walking Liberty half!
This is a developing story. It will be updated as new information
About the gold Walking Liberty half dollar
As 1916 approached, United States Mint officials determined that
with the current designs on the silver coins then in production
reaching the 25-year mark, new designs would be needed. Under an 1890
law, Mint officials were prohibited from changing coin designs without
congressional approval until 25 years had passed since the designs
were introduced into circulation. The silver dime, quarter dollar, and
half dollar in production in 1915 — what today collectors call the
Barber coins — all had been first released in 1892, so they met the
The replacement designs are today considered by a majority of
collectors to be the most beautiful coins of those three denominations
— the Winged Liberty Head dime (aka the Mercury dime), the Standing
Liberty quarter dollar and the Walking Liberty half dollar.
Mint officials followed the advice of the Commission of Fine Arts —
a federal panel that continues to advise the government on artistic
matters, including coin designs — and invited three prominent
sculptors to submit designs. The designs of two of those men were
selected for the three coins; Hermon A. MacNeil’s designs won approval
for the quarter dollar, and Adolph A. Weinman’s designs were selected
for the quarter dollar and half dollar.
Not everyone in the Mint hierarchy supported the idea of using
outside artists; the strongest objections apparently came from Mint
Chief Engraver Charles Barber, who was hardly unbiased. His designs
were the ones being replaced. However, Barber also had a strong
understanding of the minting process and knew that beautiful coins
aren’t always practical, including the High Relief gold double eagles
of 1907 designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. While a small number of
the High Relief coins were struck for circulation in 1907, Barber
successfully persuaded his superiors that the relief needed to be
drastically lowered for efficient production; he lowered the relief of
the coin, which remained the version struck for the remainder of the
As 1916 progressed, Barber (and both artists, to be fair) insisted
on tweaking the designs of the three coins. Because of the delays,
only the new Winged Liberty Head dime was introduced into circulation
in 1916; the approved versions of the quarter dollar and half dollar
were not struck until December 1916 and both coins did not enter
circulation until early 1917 with the 1916 dates. Significant design
changes were made to both sides of the quarter dollar in 1917,
resulting in two distinct subtypes for the coin; production of the
dime and half dollar continued with no significant design changes.
The Standing Liberty quarter dollar was struck through 1930. After a
one-year gap in production for the denomination, a new design was
introduced in 1932 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth
of George Washington; variations of that coin remain in production today.
The Winged Liberty Head dime was struck through 1945 and replaced in
1946 with a design honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died
early in his fourth term in office in April 1945. The Walking Liberty
half dollar was last struck in 1947 and replaced in 1948 with new
designs honoring Benjamin Franklin (the Walking Liberty half dollar
holds the distinction of being the last U.S. coin struck for
circulation with a Liberty figure until 2000 when what is generally
called the Sacagawea dollar was released).
However, the designs’ last chapter had not been written.
When the American Eagle 1-ounce silver bullion coin was introduced
in 1986, it bore the obverse design from the Walking Liberty half
dollar. The design was selected by Treasury officials as an iconic
representation of Liberty. Other classic U.S. designs have also been
resurrected for commemorative and bullion coin programs — the Indian
Head 5-cent coin’s designs appear on a commemorative silver dollar and
the American Buffalo .9999 fine gold bullion coins; the obverse of the
Saint-Gaudens double eagle has appeared on the American Eagle gold
bullion coins since their introduction in 1986. And, in 2016, all
three 1916 silver coin designs were resurrected in gold for a
In September of 2014, the Mint announced that some new, special
versions of the 1916 Winged Liberty Head dime, Standing Liberty
quarter dollar and Walking Liberty half dollar would be struck in
.9999 fine gold to mark the centennial of each coin in 2016.
The original coins were struck in .900 fine silver when issued in
1916. While many collectors would have liked to see the Centennial
versions also struck in silver, the Mint lacked authority to do that
without congressional approval (that pesky 1890 law again). However,
over the years, Congress had ceded some of its authority for gold and
platinum coinage to the Treasury Department, which meant the Mint
could reissue the three coins in gold versions without seeking
approval for Congress.
In June 2015, mock-ups of 24-karat gold 2016 coins were released to
much fanfare. Despite all the attention the story got over the summer,
the U.S. Treasury did not sign off officially on the products until
late 2015. The Mint announced Nov. 14 that it would officially move
forward with production of centennial editions in 2016.
For coverage on the sales of the three coins, go here, here,