Half Dollars : Walking Liberty Half Dollar

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Obverse of 1940 Half Dollar Reverse of 1940 Half Dollar

Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): In 1916 the design of Adolph A. Weinman was selected for the new half dollar motif to replace the Barber design which had been in use since 1892.  Weinman, a sculptor, also produced the Liberty Head or “Mercury” dime introduced the same year.

The obverse depicts Miss Liberty walking toward the sun, her right arm outstretched, her left arm carrying a bundle of branches, and with a starry cape behind.  LIBERTY is above, while IN GOD WE TRUST is to the lower right, and the date is below.  The motif seems to have been inspired by Saint-Gaudens’ motif for the illustrious double eagle of 1907. The reverse shows an eagle perched on a rocky crag, from which grows a pine branch, symbol of strength. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is above, E PLURIBUS UNUM is to the left, and HALF DOLLAR is below.

During the first two years of issue, the mintmark appeared on the obverse, beneath the motto “In God We Trust.”  Midway through 1917, it was moved to the reverse, near the edge at the 7 o’clock position resulting in both “Obverse” and “Reverse” mintmark varieties for that year.  While there are no extreme rarities in the series, most issues before 1934 are scarce, particularly the issues of 1919 and 1921.  Two “short” sets are popular, one including only the issues from 1934-1947, and the other only those from 1941 to 1947.

Specimens of the Liberty Walking half dollar are readily available for the type collector, with those dated in the 1940s being most easily found. Grades available range from Good through superb Uncirculated, although sharply struck pieces are decidedly scarce. Proofs were minted from 1936 through 1942 and are available in proportion to the original mintages.

The design has been a favorite with numismatists ever since the time of issue, and many consider it to be one of the most beautiful motifs ever employed on a circulating coin.

-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers

Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Collecting and Investing Strategies for Walking Liberty Half Dollars" by Jeff Ambio