Ever since we changed to a grading system with a number of different Mint State grades, we have been learning a lot about Walking Liberty half dollars.
Prior to grading them MS-65 and better, few would have thought that a 1919-D Walking Liberty half might be worth tens of thousands of dollars more than a 1921-S or a 1921-D. The 1918-D would not have been expected to command a very high price, either. But as is often the case, a coin that was virtually ignored can provide a surprise later on!
The first point to remember is that back in 1918, the Walking Liberty half dollar was not heavily collected. A half dollar collection was simply too expensive for most people. Those who did collect half dollars tended to do so just by date. People were slowly changing to collecting by date and mint, but that transition would continue into the 1930s.
Mintage for the 1918-D was 3,853,040, which was almost three million less than the 1918 and about 6.5 million less than the 1918-S. Except for those living in Denver, the 1918-D was probably not the Walking Liberty half dollar being added to most collections.
With its limited collector interest, dealers of the time did not save rolls of the 1918-D. Also, while its mintage might seem small today, by 1918 there had already been four Walking Liberty half dollar dates with mintages of less than one million. Certainly the 1918-D would not have impressed anyone as a date that one day would command a premium price.
The fate of the average 1918-D Walking Liberty half was simply to circulate for decades. Even 25 years after being produced, it would still have been in circulation with Barber half dollars. We know that to be the case because there were 24 complete sets of Barbers in the New York Subway Hoard, which was started in the 1940s. Certainly there would have been plenty of Walking Liberty half dollars in circulation at the same time.
In all probability, the 1918-D remained in circulation until the 1950s and maybe even the early 1960s. While never a rare date, at least in circulated grades, it is better than average for a Walking Liberty half dollar with a current price of $15 in G-4.
The true tell, however, is in Mint State grades, as that is where the lack of initial saving shows. Present value for the 1918-D is $1,050 in MS-60. That is a sure sign of limited saving, since there are not many Walking Liberty half dollars at $1,000 or more in MS-60.
The real surprise, however, comes in MS-65, where the 1918-D is currently priced at $27,500. While this is $142,500 less than the 1919-D value, it is still a very high price for a Walking Liberty half.
This pricing is no accident. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation reports having graded only 14 examples of the 1918-D in MS-65 or better, and the total reported by the Professional Coin Grading Service in the same condition is 31 examples.
We cannot be sure of the reason for these low numbers. With poor saving of the 1918-D, it could simply be that few nice coins exist among the examples saved. It coud also mean Denver was not making very nice Walking Liberty half dollars. Perhaps it was a combination of these two factors.
In any case, the 1918-D is a very tough Walking Liberty half dollar to find in top grades.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
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