Since we changed to a grading system that gave us a number of different Mint State grades we have been learning a lot about Walking Liberty half dollars. Prior to grading Walking Liberty half dollars MS-65 and better, few would have thought that the 1918-D might command a high price.
The Walking Liberty half dollar was not heavily collected in 1918. A half dollar collection was simply too expensive for most people. The few who did collect half dollars basically collected by date only.
The 1918-D had a mintage of 3,853,040. That was almost 3 million less than the 1918 and about 6.5 million less than the 1918-S. Outside of Denver, the 1918-D was not likely to be found in half dollar collections. Since there was limited collector interest, the dealers of the time probably didn?t save it either.
Back in 1918 there was just no particular reason to be impressed with the 1918-D. Now, as we have learned over and over, there is a nearly perfect recipe for surprises. The coins that were frequently ignored often turn out to be better, simply because they were ignored.
The fate of the average coin was simply to circulate, and to circulate for decades. Even 25 years after being produced the 1918-D would have still been in circulation with Barber half dollars. We know this is the case because there were 24 complete sets of Barber half dollars in the New York Subway hoard, and it was started in the 1940s. Certainly there would have been plenty of Walking Liberty half dollars like the 1918-D in circulation at the same time.
The 1918-D was probably in circulation until the 1950s, and maybe even until the early 1960s. While never a rare date in circulated grades, it is better than average for a Walking Liberty half dollar. It is valued at $8 in G-4.
The lack of initial saving impacts Mint State examples. The 1918-D is worth $1,350 in MS-60, and there are not many Walking Liberty half dollars at $1,000 or more in MS-60.
The real surprise, however, comes in MS-65. The 1918-D is currently priced at $25,000, which is a very high price for a Walking Liberty half dollar.
The price is no accident. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation reports having graded just 15 examples in MS-65 or better. The Professional Coin Grading Service reports a total of 27 examples in MS-65 or better.
We cannot be sure of the reason for the low numbers. It could simply be that there were few nice coins among the saved examples. It could also mean that Denver was not making very nice Walking Liberty half dollars. Perhaps it was combination of the two. Whatever the reason, the 1918-D is a very tough Walking Liberty half dollar in top grades.