Walking Liberty Half Dollar Values (1916–1947)

Walking Liberty Half Dollar Values (1916–1947)

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez
Published May 08, 2020
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The Walking Liberty half dollar is considered one of the most beautiful silver coins ever made. It’s also among the most popular collectible coins.

Walking Liberty Half Dollar 1945D Obverse

Walking Liberty Half Dollar (obverse)

Walking Liberty Half Dollar 1945D Reverse

Walking Liberty Half Dollar (reverse)

Its allure transcends the numismatic arena. Even many non-collectors also enamored with the coin’s soaring depiction of Miss Liberty, her right arm gracefully outstretched toward a mountain-peaked sunrise. On the reverse is a regal American eagle perched upon a craggy mountaintop. The design by Adolph A. Weinman was featured on the United States half dollar from 1916 through 1947. It reemerged in 1986 with the debut of the one-ounce American Silver Eagle bullion coin.

What Are the Rarest & Most Valuable Walking Liberty Half Dollars?

The Walking Liberty half dollar series encompasses a number of scarce key and semi-key coins as well as conditional rarities. Some of the lowest-mintage pieces include the 1921 and 1921-D Walking Liberty halves. They have mintages of 246,000 and 208,000, respectively, and serve as the series keys. Meanwhile, there are nearly a half dozen semi-keys, including:

1916 608,000
1916-D 1,014,400
1916-S 508,000
1917-D (Mintmark on Obverse) 765,400
1917-S (Mintmark on Obverse) 952,000
1919 962,000
1919-D 1,165,000
1919-S 1,552,000
1921-S 548,000
1938-D 491,600

A lot of collectors fixate on mintage numbers and think they directly correspond to how many specimens of a coin remain. But this is simply not true. Mintage figures simply illustrates how many pieces were officially struck. They do not reflect how many specimens still exist. And when it comes to vintage coins the mintage numbers are almost always much, much higher than the actual number of survivors.

This is an important point relating to so-called conditional rarities. These are issues that may show relatively high mintage figures but exist only in small numbers at or above a certain grade range. This is certainly true for the pre-1934 Walking Liberty half dollars. All of them are tougher in grades of Fine or better and decidedly scarce in Extremely Fine or higher.

How Much Are Walking Liberty Half Dollars Worth?

The series spans the gamut on pricing. Well-circulated common-date pieces dated after 1933 are worth around spot metal prices. Yet many pre-1934 Superb Gems reach into the five- and six-figures.

What does that mean for collectors? There’s something for collectors of just about every income.

1917-D (Obverse Mintmark)$75$225$575
1917-D (Reverse Mintmark)$40$275$900
1917-S (Obverse Mintmark)$125$700$2,500
1917-S (Reverse Mintmark)$18$65$415
1936 Proof~~$2,700
1937 Proof~~$700
1938 Proof~~$550
1939 Proof~~$500
1940 Proof~~$425
1941 Proof~~$400
1942 Proof~~$400
1946 (Doubled Die Reverse)$25$55$250

*All prices above are for typical, problem-free specimens.

As a rule of thumb, all business strikes made from 1934 through 1947 are worth approximately their silver content values. The only exception is the scarce 1938-D.

For this range of dates, only uncirculated business strikes are worth any significant sums. Prices hover between $35 and $50 for typical specimens in grades of Mint State-60 to Mint State-63.

Given that this pricing structure is relatively simple, this article will focus on individual prices for issues from the earlier (pre-1934) segment, as well as all key dates and semi-keys, and proofs.

Walking Liberty Design On Silver Eagle Coin

Walking Liberty Design On Silver Eagle Coin

Collecting Walking Liberty Half Dollars

The Walking Liberty half dollar is a widely collected coin. It’s not necessarily cost prohibitive to build a handsome collection of this beloved series.

Circulated examples offer collectors who want to build a comprehensive date-and-mintmark set affordable options. Those who want an uncirculated set without breaking the bank can assemble a short set. Specialists with deeper pockets will find many challenges in building the entire set with uncirculated specimens as well as proofs and major varieties.

As the price chart above illustrates, you can assemble a nice set at relatively low prices. That is, if you target the lower circulated grades.

In fact, if you want to build a set in the Good-4 to Very Good-8 range, you can do so for only a fraction of the Fine-12 prices listed. Good-4 coins lack much of the detail that becomes evident even in the moderately circulated grade of Fine-12. Yet a Good-4 specimen is nevertheless still highly collectible. It presents the collector with a satisfying representative of a given issue.

The main caveat here is for collectors who want a set that will retain its value and appeal to potential future buyers: Only seek problem-free examples with normal color. Surely, it's better to buy a problem-free, attractive Good-4 than a whizzed or cleaned Fine-12.

Walking Liberty half dollar both sides

Image via USA CoinBook

Compile a "Short Set"

Collecting a short set of "Walkers"? These sets typically focus on the regular-issue business-strikes minted from 1941 through 1947. This avoids all key dates and semi-keys as well as proofs and varieties.

One can build a nice circulated set in this date range for little more than spot value. One of the advantages of focusing on this latter period in the series, however, is that all dates are widely available in uncirculated grades. This means a beautiful, fully uncirculated 1941–47 short set of Walking Liberty halves can be assembled at a cost that many find affordable.

Compile a Complete Set

Finally, there is the complete collection, including proofs and varieties.

There are very few major varieties—the 1946 doubled die reverse being one of them. The proofs issued from 1936 through 1942 offer collectors some challenge.

Not only are all proofs fairly expensive, but finding particularly nice specimens can be daunting. A collector who wants a complete date-and-mintmark set (with proofs and varieties) may decide to assemble a higher-grade set. They might do so for the sake of built-in value and overall eye appeal.

Such a collection may entail the first half of the collection containing examples grading Extremely Fine-40 to About Uncirculated. The latter segment from 1934 to 1947 would exclusively grade Mint State-60 or better.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a journalist, editor, and blogger who has won multiple awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild. He has also authored numerous books, including works profiling the history of the United States Mint and United States coinage.

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