Recently we have taken a look at American coin types that provide opportunities for collectors to purchase interesting coins for less than $100; this article continues the series with the Walking Liberty half dollar. Designed by Adolph Weinman, these silver half dollars were struck from 1916 to 1945 and are considered to be one of the most classic issues of American coinage. In fact, when the United States Mint sought a classic design to use on the American Eagle silver bullion series in the 1980s, it was Weinman’s obverse from the Walking Liberty Half Dollar series that was chosen.
While many collectors hope to complete a collection of this iconic series, there are several very tough coins needed for such a set. Many divide the group into several “short” sets (such as 1934 to 1947, or 1941 to 1947), that can still pose a challenge. Still, there are several very nice coins in the series, and quite a few can be found for less than $100.
1917-D Obverse Mintmark
The Walking Liberty Half Dollar was introduced in 1916, replacing the Barber Half Dollar, which had been struck since 1892. The following year, two varieties were made at the Denver and San Francisco Mints. Initially, the mint mark was placed on the obverse, above the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. Midway through 1917 it was decided to move the mint mark to the reverse, where it would remain until the end of the series.
While many early dates are scarce, the 1917-D obverse is a coin that can be acquired for less than $100. A collector can’t expect a high-grade piece at that price level, but a decent Fine can definitely be found. It’s a coin that provides decent value for a short-lived type with the relatively low-mintage of 765,400.
Spend a little more: You could spend a lot on this coin, but a collector should be able to find a nice original VF for $150-$180. Such coins are scarce, however, as few coins have survived in these mid-level grades (a graded AU can be found much easier than an original VF).
In the 1920s production of half dollars at all mints across the country was limited, and there were several years in which no half dollars were struck at all. Even in the years they did make them, the mintage was often small, and many half dollars from the 1920s are scarce, in higher grades especially.
For collectors on a budget, one date that might be worth trying to locate is the 1927-S, which was the first half dollar struck since 1923. It had a mintage of 2,392,000 pieces, a total that represented all half dollars made in 1927, since none of the other mints struck any. While this would be a multi-thousand dollar coin in most Uncirculated grades, VF’s are more affordable and can be found for right around the $100 mark.
Spend a little more: This is a prime candidate to try to shoot for a high-end XF. Anything higher than that exponentially goes up in value, and a totally original XF with hints of luster is surprisingly difficult to find for a coin with a mintage of over two million pieces.
The 1933-S half dollar, another coin from the San Francisco Mint, was struck toward the end of the Great Depression. It was the first half dollar produced since 1929, and even then not many were needed in circulation — just 1,786,000 were minted. Because of its status as the first half dollar struck in the 1930s as well as being a remnant of the Great Depression, it would be a nice coin to add to a collection if you can locate one for less than $100. At that price point one should be able to find a nice and original XF that gives you a lot of coin for the money.
Spend a little more: Any AU is going to sell for at least $200, and a choice original AU-58 will be going for over $600, with a nice Uncirculated example selling for over $1,000. If you are able to find a graded AU-50 that is fully original and has good eye-appeal for less than $225, you are doing very well as this is a good example of this scarce date.
As mentioned in our introduction, many collectors decide to split up this series in so-called “short sets.” One popular set is dated 1934 to 1947, which excludes some of the really scarce coins from the teens and twenties. While many of these issues are generally available in Uncirculated condition, there is one coin that is much scarcer than the others: the 1938-D. It has the third-lowest mintage of the entire series, with just 491,600 pieces struck for circulation. It still is not as scarce as the mintage might suggest (quite a few were saved), but it can certainly be classified as a semi-key date. For collectors on a budget this is a coin that can be found in VF+ for less than $100, with some searching.
Spend a little more: If I were in the market for this date and trying to assemble a nice quality set, I would try to find a nice and original AU. A certified, original AU-50, for example, should not cost much more than $250, giving you a semi key-date in a very collectible grade.
MS-65 Type Coin
After all the circulated coins in this list, one has to wonder if a collector on a budget can even afford a Gem Uncirculated example of this type, but thankfully most of the dates in the 1940s can be found in this condition for right around $100. A good option would be the 1945, which not only is a coin struck the year World War II ended, but is also one of the more affordable dates of the series in Gem Uncirculated condition.
Spend a little more: While an MS-65 graded example of this type makes for a relatively affordable — yet very pretty — coin, it’s always good to shoot a little higher. A common-date MS-66 can easily be acquired at a cost of around $150. With an MS-67 type coin being priced at multiples of that, an MS-66 is a solid coin and a good value.