Where to Find the Mint Mark on a Walking Liberty Half-Dollar

Walking Liberty Half Dollars are considered to be among the most beautiful coins ever produced by the United States Mint. Designed by renowned sculptor-engraver Adolph A. Weinman, these coins were struck from 1916 to 1947 and have remained beloved by collectors throughout the years. The obverse of the coin features a youthful Miss Liberty in an elegant gown, striding gracefully with an olive branch in her left arm and her right arm outstretched towards the sunrise. On the reverse side, you’ll find an eagle perched upon a rugged rock formation, clutching a pine branch that symbolizes American strength.

The Walking Liberty Half Dollar is widely regarded as one of the greatest coins ever minted in the United States, if not the world. One of its notable design features is that it became the first U.S. coin since the 1830s to carry its mintmark on the obverse. Prior to this, mintmarks were typically placed on the reverse of higher denomination coins. However, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar broke this tradition by placing the mintmark on the obverse, below the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” in the right field, behind Miss Liberty. This unique placement of the mintmark can be found on all coins dated 1916 and some bearing the 1917 date.

The production of the 1916 Walking Liberty Half Dollars began in late November and was released in January 1917. However, shortly after the release, the mintmark was relocated from the obverse to the reverse. The decision to move the mintmark was made by Director of the United States Mint Friedrich Johannes Hugo “F.H.” von Engelken, who believed that the obverse mintmarks appeared to be defects in the die and were too prominent. Despite his directive, von Engelken resigned from his position at the Mint just six months later, and Raymond T. Baker took over as the new director.

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In April 1917, Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Adam Joyce confirmed to Baker that von Engelken’s order regarding the relocation of the mintmark should still be carried out. Baker reaffirmed the decision in writing, and the dies were modified to accommodate the relocation of the mintmark. The mintmarks were moved to the reverse of the coin, a short distance from the left of the “H” in “HALF DOLLAR,” around the 7 o’clock position near the rim.

While Walking Liberty Half Dollars are not considered exceedingly rare, the mintmarked 1917 halves are relatively scarce. The 1917 Walking Liberty Half Dollars with the obverse mintmark, especially the Denver-minted “D” issue, has a low mintage of only 765,400 pieces. The San Francisco-minted “S” issue has a slightly higher mintage of 952,000 halves. In contrast, the reverse mintmark issues have much higher mintages, with 1,940,000 struck at the Denver Mint and a whopping 5,554,000 from the San Francisco Mint in 1917.

In terms of value, coins in G4 and VG8 conditions are affordable, trading for less than $50. However, moderately and lightly worn examples, particularly the less common 1917-S Reverse Mintmark, can fetch hundreds of dollars each. The mintmarked 1917 Half Dollars in Choice and Gem Uncirculated range are considered conditional rarities and can sell for four-figure prices or higher.

If you’re a collector, it’s important to seek out examples of Walking Liberty Half Dollars with the best strike possible. Many of the earlier branch-mint coins exhibit strike weaknesses, so finding well-struck examples may require some patience and persistence. However, the effort to find high-quality coins is well worth it, as these Walking Liberty Half Dollars are truly a treasure to own.

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  1. Burdette, Roger W. Renaissance of American Coins, 1916-1921. Great Falls, Virginia: Seneca Mill Press, 2005.
  2. Fox, Bruce. “Major Design Changes.” David Lawrence Rare Coins Blog, DLRC Press, January 30, 1993. Archived August 1, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  3. McAdoo, William G. Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of the Finances, 1916. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1917.

Walking Liberty Half Dollar

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