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1929-S half dollar worth watching

Some coins are a mixture of factors that can make them a problem to find, or in other cases, more available than might be expected. The 1929-S Walking Liberty half dollar is one of those coins that was issued at a time of swirling events in the country and in collecting. Those events all played a role in making the 1929-S an interesting coin today.

We forget how dramatic the Great Depression was. At least 25 percent of the nation’s workers were out of work and 50 percent of the home loans were behind in their payments. Fear was everywhere and at such times you rarely find a hot coin market or large coin mintages, especially of higher denominations.

Even before the economy went downhill, the mintages of Walking Liberty half dollars were becoming sporadic. There had been a period of no mintages between 1923 and 1927. The 1927 and 1928 mintages had only been at San Francisco.

2012 U.S. Coin Digest: Dollars

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In 1929, however, there were Walking Liberty half dollar mintages at both San Francisco and Denver. The Denver total was lower at 1,001,200 pieces while San Francisco produced a total of 1,902,000. As it would work out, the two would be very closely related.

Any half dollar produced in 1929 was not heavily saved at the time. The denomination was just too high. Moreover, it was still a transitional time, as collectors were changing the way they collected from date sets to sets involving mintmarks as well.

Today we see the lack of saving reflected in G-4 prices. The lower mintage 1929-D would be expected to be more expensive and it is at $8 in G-4 as opposed to $5.75 for the 1929-S.

In Mint State, however, things change as Mint State prices are determined by the number of coins that have survived to present day. In MS-60 the 1929-D is $415 while the 1929-S is $425. In fairness, the price difference is so small, they are basically the same. But the 1929-S had a mintage almost twice as high as the 1929-D. In MS-65, the 1929-D is $3,500 while the 1929-S is $3,550, again basically no difference.

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The grading services can shed light on the situation. At the Professional Coin Grading Service, the 1929-D has been seen 39 times in MS-65 and above while the 1929-S is at 36 appearances in the same grades.

At the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, the 1929-D has been seen 85 times in MS-65 or better but the 1929-S has made 136 appearances in the same grades. The totals raise questions about the current price differences.

It is hard to know precisely what the price relationship of the two dates really should be, the one suggested by the prices and PCGS totals, or the one suggested by NGC totals. That makes the future of the 1929-S price uncertain and one worth watching carefully.

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