The Walking Liberty Half Dollar

The Walking Liberty Half Dollar

The decade leading up to the Roaring Twenties was a huge transitional
period for the citizens of the United States.  Cities were growing; the
automobile was starting to become the more reliable means of transportation;
people were flocking to the movie houses; the United States had entered the
realm of world politics; and, we entered the Golden Age of numismatics. 
In the same competition that won Adolph Alexander Weinman the commission to
design the new dime, later to be known as the Mercury Dime, he also won the
commission to design the new half dollar.  The design would be called the
Walking Liberty, and it is considered to be the most beautiful of all silver
coins ever produced by the United States Mint.  The design was considered
to be so profound that it was reintroduced when the Silver Eagle Bullion coin
made its debut in 1986.

A.A. Weinman was a sculptor who was German born, and came to the United
States at the age of ten.  He worked and trained under Augustus Saint
Gaudens ( famed sculptor and designer of the $10 Indian gold and $20 St. Gaudens
gold pieces).  By 1915, Weinman was a well know, and a highly acclaimed
sculpture in his own right.

The obverse design of Weinman's Walking Liberty half dollar is one of
powerful symbolism.  Miss Liberty, dressed in the stars and stripes, is
walking Eastward towards the dawning of a new day over war ravaged Europe. 
Her right arm is extended with the palm of her hand upward as if to offer a
helping hand, yet on her feet are the crossed thronged sandals of the ancient
Roman soldier.   In the crook of her left arm is a large bundle of oak
and laurel branches representing both civilian and military honors.  She
also wears a cap similar to the one depicted on the dime, but without the wings.

The reverse design of this half dollar depicts a very powerful appearing
eagle facing Eastward with wings spread as if to spring into flight from a
mountain crag.  Nearby, it is said, is a mountain pine sapling which is
symbolic of America springing forth from the rocky terrain.

These were powerful symbols to express to the rest of the world as the United
States prepared to enter World War I.

The Walking Liberty Half Dollar was produced from 1916 through 1947.  In
1916 and part of 1917, the San Francisco (S) and the Denver (D) mintmarks
(remember Philadelphia did not use a mintmark) appeared on the obverse of the
coin below the motto In God We Trust, and after that the mintmark was
moved to the reverse of the coin below the mountain pine sapling.  We do
not find much variation in this coin issue because all the designs and legends
were hubbed, i.e. made a part of the working die, with the exception of the
mintmarks which were struck into the dies after they were produced.  That
is where a collector will find variations.  The coins with mintmark
variations are 1928-S (both large and small mintmarks), 1934-D, 1941-S, 1942-S
(both large and small mintmarks), and the 1942 D over S.

Some of the other varieties we find within the series are:

  • In 1941, Proof coins were struck without Weinman's initials AW

  • A double die reverse in 1946 on some of the Philadelphia struck coins

  • A very rare over date has been found in 1943.  It is possibly a

Key dates to obtain in this series include the 1916, 1916-S, 1917-D (obverse
mintmark), 1917-S (obverse mintmark), 1921, 1921-S, 1921-D, and the 1938-D.

One may ask, other then the beauty of these coins, what makes the Walking
Liberty Half Dollar (Walkers, as they are called in the industry) so
desirable?  This coin carried the United States through World War I, the
Great Depression and World War II.  Very few of these coins were collected,
especially during the depression.  So, a collector will find that
completing a set of the Walking Liberty Half Dollars, not an impossible task,
but a very challenging endeavor especially in Mint State condition.

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This content was written by Raymond F. Hanisco. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Gary Eggleston for details.