The 1917-D Walking Liberty mintages began normally enough if one can consider the second year of any mintage normal. It is probable that Denver was still getting used to striking the new design. The facility managed to produce 765,400 of the coins with the mintmark located on the obverse.
Then it was decided to relocate the mintmark to the reverse. We cannot be sure of the exact reasoning for the change, but the mintmark was removed from just below “Trust” on the obverse to the 8 o’clock position near the rim on the reverse.
Another 1,940,000 coins were struck in Denver with the relocated mintmark.
The lower mintage obverse mintmark version being the scarcer of the two has a higher G-4 price of $23.50 compared to the $10.50 price of the reverse mintmark version.
Values are flipped for MS-60 coins. The lower mintage obverse mintmark is priced at $625 while the higher mintage reverse mintmark version is $940.
The spread gets wider in favor of the reverse mintmark in MS-65, which has an $18,500 price tag while the obverse mintmarked coin is $7,900.
The 1917-D with obverse mintmark is not seen that often at the grading services. At the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, just 30 coins ranked as MS-65 or better.
The Professional Coin Grading Service has seen a larger number of coins and 61 measure up to MS-65 or better.
Realistically, when you consider the demand for Walking Liberty half dollars and the fact that demand for the short-lived obverse mintmark pieces might be a little higher, the numbers seen at the grading services are not all that strong a supply especially if additional demand were to surface.
The higher prices in top grades for the reverse mintmarked 1917-D raises questions. It is possible that coins with the obverse mintmark were seen as a novelty and pulled from circulation more often and more rapidly than the coins with the reverse mintmark.
Whatever the reason, the grading services support the price differences. Fewer coins with the reverse mintmark have been seen. At NGC, the total is just 20 coins compared to the 30 for the obverse mintmark. At PCGS, the difference is even wider. Just 33 pieces measure up to the MS-65 and higher grades as compared to the 61 for the obverse mintmarked version.
The numbers seem to make a conclusive case as to why prices are higher for top grade 1917-D half dollars with the reverse mintmark. It is a much tougher coin. Whatever extra demand there is for the version with the obverse mintmark is no match for the coin with the lower surviving population in top grades.
Realistically, both coins have to be seen as desirable even if the reverse mintmarked version is the better of the two. It is a lesson that mintages don’t tell the whole story.
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