Picking sleepers based on their mintages can be a little misleading. Certainly mintages are one part of the assorted factors that can indicate whether a specific date is likely to be available today in large numbers or elusive. They are not, however, the only factor and the 1946-D Walking Liberty half dollar is a good example of that fact.
The 1946-D came at a time when, frankly, there was no need for half dollar production. During World War II the United States had seen what were record half dollar mintages. That was especially true from Philadelphia where the 1943 had a mintage of over 53 million. The 1942 had been over 42 million. In normal times, half dollar mintages rarely topped 10 million. Added to the Philadelphia totals were Denver and San Francisco mintages and they too were far higher than normal, oftentimes over 10 million.
For all practical purposes, the pattern had begun in 1941 and continued through 1945. While it would take the nation some time to really return to normal, the fact is there were so many half dollars in circulation and in the vaults that after 1946 the next half dollar mintage of more than 10 million would not take place until 1951. The 1946-D was part of that period of low mintages.
If you look at the mintages of half dollars for the period, you find that the 1946-D is unusually low with a mintage of just 2,151,000. While certainly not the lowest Walking Liberty half dollar in terms of mintage, the total does stand out. In lower circulated grades the 1946-D is an average $7.40 in G-4, even though other dates have higher mintages.
If you check the 1946-D in Mint State, it is priced at $47.50 in MS-60 and $150 in MS-65. Those prices are actually up compared to past numbers, but even so at $150 in MS-65 the 1946-D is basically priced at the same price as the most available of the Walking Liberty half dollars.
At $150 it is the same as the 1943 with its mintage of over 53 million and is $30 less than the 1944 that had a mintage of over 28 million. The 1946, which had a mintage of over 12 million, is actually $50 more in MS-65. Certainly the prices do not seem right based on the mintages.
If, however, you check the grading services, suddenly the situation seems easier to explain. The numbers of the 1946-D tend to be high in line with the other dates from the 1940s and higher than some.
What happened is very clearly that the 1946-D was saved in higher than average numbers and in those numbers were a decent percentage of coins that make MS-65.
Earlier in the 1940s, numbers sometimes were saved, but especially dates from San Francisco were poorly struck and seem flat today so a large percentage of coins do not get named MS-65 by the grading services.
The 1946-D is a different case and the prices today are basically correct. It’s not as extreme as the 1950-D Jefferson nickel, but it is a case where saving has produced at least one lower mintage date that is available and not a sleeper. For those who like low mintages dates, it’s a perfect addition to a collection.
Collecting and Investing Strategies for Walking Liberty Half Dollars
Author Jeff Ambio delivers detailed, easy-to-understand and practical investing tactics in this guide to Walking Liberty Half Dollars.