Issued by the United States Mint from 1916 to 1947, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar replaced the Barber Half Dollar Coin. It was designed by German-born Adolph A. Weinman, a sculptor who had once studied under the famous Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Walking Liberty Half Dollars are not only considered America’s most beautiful coins but they’re also among the most collected silver pieces ever made.
The Obverse of the coin depicts a full-length Lady Liberty with her right hand outstretched and an American flag draped over her shoulders. She is wearing a long gown and holding a bunch of olive branches in her left hand. A rising sun is shown to the lower left of the coin, and IN GOD WE TRUST is inscribed to the lower right. The engraving LIBERTY encircles the top half of the figure, with the mintage year displayed below.
On the reverse of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar is a left-facing eagle with raised wings, looking defiant. The bird is perched on a rock with a mountain pine, which is shown just below the marking E PLURIBUS UNUM. Above the eagle is the engraving UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and below is the marking HALF DOLLAR. Weinman’s initials AW sit directly under the eagle’s tail feathers.
In 1915, United States Mint engraver, Charles E. Barber was asked to prepare new designs for the Silver Half Dollar, Quarter and Dime. Mint Director, Robert W. Woolley later took Barber’s sketches to the Commission of Fine Arts to see whether the members liked the designs. The Commission didn’t appreciate the sketches submitted by Barber so, instead, selected three sculptors from New York to come up with new designs for each coin.
The chosen artists were Hermon A. MacNeil, Albin Polasek and Adolph A. Weinman. Although Woolley hoped each sculptor would be awarded one of the three coins, Polasek’s designs were not chosen. MacNeil was given the Quarter (Standing Liberty Quarter), and Weinman got the Dime (Mercury Dime) and the Half Dollar (Walking Liberty Half Dollar).
Born in Germany, Weinman moved to the United States when he was a young boy. He later studied at the Arts Students League of New York and, by 1915, was regarded as one of America’s most talented sculptors. Even though Weinman created many different sculptures and medals up until his death in 1952, he is still best known for being the designer of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, a design later used for the obverse of the American Silver Eagle.
There are few Walking Liberty Half Dollar varieties but they’re still worth mentioning nonetheless. All 1916 coins and some 1917 specimens struck at the mint facilities in Denver (D) and San Francisco (S) feature the mintmark on the obverse below IN GOD WE TRUST. As the mintmark was moved to the reverse in 1917, the majority of the 1917-D and 1917-S Walking Liberty Half Dollars display the mintmark just below the mountain pine springing from the rock on the reverse. The mintmark remained on the reverse until the last coins were released in 1947.
Other varieties include over-punches, such as the 1942 coins that feature a D mintmark over an S and the doubled-die reverses of 1942 and 1946. There were some mintmark size changes throughout the series as well, including 1928-S, 1934-D and 1942-S. We should also point out that no Walking Liberty Half Dollars were minted in 1922 and from 1924 to 1926, nor were they struck between 1930 and 1932. All proof coins were produced at Philadelphia from 1916 to 1917 and 1936 to 1942.
Walking Liberty Half Dollars were struck at the mint of Philadelphia (no mintmark), Denver, and San Francisco. The 1921 coins are considered major keys because mintages were very low that year, and any of the coins dated before 1934 are scarce in uncirculated condition. Other rare finds include the 1916, 1916-S and 1938-D, as well as the 1917-D and 1917-S with obverse mintmarks. Struck in very small numbers, the 1916 proofs are also extremely scarce.
It’s incredible to think that the Walking Liberty Half Dollar served America throughout two world wars and the worst economic downturn in U.S. history. Otherwise known as Walkers, these stunning coins are composed of 90% silver and feature important symbols of American spirit and pride. As a result, they attract both collectors and investors, along with the non-collecting community.
When it comes to purchasing Walking Liberty Half Dollars, you’re not just investing in historical pieces but also one of the world’s most sought-after coin designs. If you’d like to get your hands on one or a number of issues from the series, simply call Capital Gold Group or send us a message for further advice about placing an order.