Quick Start Collecting Guide: Walking Liberty Half Dollars

Collecting Walking Liberty half dollars can be easy enough to collect for the beginner and demanding for the advanced collector. This Quick Start Guide will direct you through assembling your collection of Walking Liberty half dollars.

by James M Bucki l Published on October 15, 2021

The Walking Liberty half dollar was first produced in 1916. Designed by Adolf Alexander Weinman, it replaced the stoic design of the Barber half dollar that was first produced in 1892. This was a part of a complete overhaul of American coinage that would also include the introduction of the Winged Liberty Head (or Mercury) dime and the Standing Liberty quarter.

Weinman's classic design of Lady Liberty striding toward the sunrise on the obverse and a majestic American Bald Eagle on the reverse has made this one of the United States' most beautiful coins. The obverse design would later be adopted in 1986 to grace the obverse of the one-dollar Silver Eagle bullion coins. The beauty of this coin has also helped it to become a popular series to collect amongst coin collectors.

Beginning collectors on a limited budget may want to start their collection with a single uncirculated type coin. If your budget is a little larger, you may want to start with a short set of circulated Walking Liberty half dollars. The intermediate collector should try to assemble a complete circulated date set or an uncirculated short set. While the advanced collector with a more plentiful budget will want to start with an uncirculated date set and then advance into a complete date and mint set. Regardless of your budget, this is a great series to collect.

Type Set Collecting

If you are assembling a basic type set collection of United States coins, any uncirculated coin from 1940 through 1947 will be a great addition to your collection. Circulated specimens in this date range can be obtained for slightly over bullion value.

Collecting a Year Set

Another alternative is to assemble a collection that consists of one coin from each date without regard to the mint mark. The beginning collector may want to assemble a "short" date set of circulated coins from 1933 to 1947. This would consist of a total of 15 circulated coins at a reasonable cost. The intermediate coin collector could choose to pursue a complete year set from 1916 until 1947 that would total 25 coins.

To maximize your value and stretch your budget, choose the lowest-priced coin from each year. For example, the 1916-D is cheaper than the 1916 and the 1916-S. An advanced collector can assemble a complete uncirculated year set for around $25,000. For example, if you want to avoid the higher-priced uncirculated coins from 1916 through 1933, you can assemble a short set of 14 uncirculated coins from 1934 through 1947 (14 coins) for about $1,000.

Assembling a Date Set

A collection of Walking Liberty half dollars representing one specimen from each date and mint (date set) consists of 63 coins. Including both obverse and reverse mint marked specimens of the 1917 Denver and San Francisco minted coins would bring the total to 65 coins. An intermediate collector will assemble a circulated year set given the higher prices of the 1916-S, the 1919 dated coins, and the 1921 dated coins. An advanced collector with a large budget will pursue an uncirculated date set that may take years to assemble and cost close to $120,000.

The Short Set

A beginning collector on a limited budget wishing to assemble a date set would be more likely to collect a "short set" of circulated coins minted between 1941 and 1947. This would be a total of 20 date and mint combinations. Later on, you can assemble the "middle set" of circulated coins dating from 1934 to 1940 (19 coins) at a reasonable cost.

Finally, when the beginning collector has progressed into an intermediate collector, they will take the next step and assemble the "early set" ranging from 1916 to 1933 (26 coins). The early set will also require an expanded budget to take into account the key dates included in this set.

Complete Set of Walking Liberty Half Dollars

It would take an advanced coin collector a long time and a lot of money to assemble a complete set of uncirculated Walking Liberty half dollars that would include all date and mintmark combinations along with popular varieties and proof coins. There are 65 date and mint mark combinations, including the 1917 Denver and San Francisco minted coins where some of them have the mint mark on the obverse, and some of them have the mint mark on the reverse.

Additionally, there are a few popular die varieties. These include the 1928-S, 1943-D, and 1942-S that have both a large and small mint mark. In addition, the Philadelphia mint produced a doubled die obverse variety in 1936 and a doubled die reverse variety in 1946.

Proof coins were produced at the Philadelphia Mint from 1936 until 1942 for a total of seven coins. The 1936 proof coin runs well into the thousands of dollars while the remaining proof Walking Liberty half dollars range from a few hundred dollars to about a thousand dollars. Therefore, the complete seven coin set in PR67 will cost approximately $18,000.

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Author: James M Bucki

James M Bucki image James Bucki is a coin collector, part-time coin dealer, and professional numismatic writer. James has been educated by some of the leading professionals in the coin collecting industry. He has received national recognition for outstanding coin collections and has won various awards for his coin exhibits at coin shows.