Monday, May 9, 2016

Walking Liberty Half and American Eagle: Sisters in Silver - by Tim Stroud

The Walking Liberty half dollar and the American Silver Eagle are sister coins.

Walking Liberty Half Dollar

American Silver Eagle Reverse Proof

What are sister coins?

The Walking Liberty half dollar is where the design for American Silver Eagles comes from. Adolph A Weinman (a former understudy of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who created the walking liberty design for the U.S. $20 gold piece years earlier) was designer, and, I must say, it’s one of my favorite US Coin motifs. The Walking Liberty design was used from 1916 to 1947 on the half dollar, until was changed to the likeness of Benjamin Franklin in 1948. U.S. coinage did not see the Walking Liberty design again until 1986 when the American Silver Eagle one ounce bullion coin was minted. The design for the American Silver Eagle, like the Walking Liberty half, shows a full-length figure of Liberty in full stride, enveloped in folds of the flag, with her right hand extended and branches of laurel and oak in her left.

The Walking Liberty half is a coin that went through both World Wars and, unlike our circulating coins of today, was composed of a 90% silver 10% copper alloy. The Walking Liberty half is 30.6mm around and weighs 12.50 grams, yielding a total of .36169  oz. of silver. Numismatically, the Walking Liberty half had a few problems. One was a weak strike and another was the date would wear down somewhat quickly. It is hard to find problem free “Mint State” Walker’s from the early years of minting, though not impossible. The Walking Liberty half was minted for 31 years and is a nice set to collect, with only 64 coins needed to complete it.

The Walking Liberty half set has six key and semi key dates. 1916-P, 1916-S are both hard to come by with the 1916-S being the harder of the two; it's a nice coin to have in any grade. 1921-P, 1921D are also difficult, and are a little higher price than the 1916P-S. If you are able to find these in high grades, try to purchase them as they always seem to be going up in value. 1938-D has just become a better date and has also jumped in price. I was able to lay aside a nice one before the price jump, though the 1938-D is a nice coin to have in any grade.

The Walking Liberty half also has Mint Set and Proof versions of the coins. The proofs show a deep cameo look of black and white that make them even more beautiful. Where the Walking Liberty half only has seven proofs, the American Silver Eagles have one for each year since 1986. Both coins have the mintmark on the reverse and in about the same place. The mint mark on the Walking Liberty half is closer to the left edge and the ASE’s mint mark is under the left eagle’s wing.

The back of the American Silver Eagle was designed by John Mercanti and shows a heraldic Eagle with 13 stars above the eagle, between its wings it features a shield. The eagle holds an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in the left. The American Silver Eagle is 40.6mm around and is composed of 99.93% silver and .07% copper. The coin weighs 31.101 grams, or 1 ounce.

The American Silver Eagle has two key dates, one in Mint state and the other in Proof. The 1995-W Proof is considered the key of the ASE series and is worth around $3,000. It was only released with the set of 4 gold coins.

1995-W Gold and Silver set

The other key dates are the 1996 mint state coin worth about $30, and the 1994 proof, which will run you around $150. There is also a variety in the series, the 2008W with 2007 reverse burnished silver eagle that will cost you closer to $500.

The ASE is the only U.S. silver coin allowed in an IRA.

There are only 3 mints that have minted the Silver Eagle:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
San Francisco, California
West-Point, New York

There are only 3 mints that have minted the Walking Liberty half:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
San Francisco, California
Denver, Colorado

The mint does not sell Mint State ASEs to the public, but sells them to a hand full of large dealers. ASEs come from the mint in opaque white tubes with green caps that hold 25 one-ounce rounds. The coins acquire bag marks while being placed in the tubes and sometimes the tubes are not the best way to store them. I am not aware of any confirmed varieties and the only error I've been able to find is the strike through errors that sell for $20 to over $100.

The Walking Liberty motif was so popular that it is the only design to be brought back to a coin years latter. The designer on the WL also designed the Winged Liberty Head "Mercury" Dime; so named because the Liberty head appears to be the Roman god Mercury.

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