1916 saw an aesthetic renaissance of our nation’s coinage, ushering in an era of numismatic artistry at the United States Mint. Chief Engraver Charles Barber’s Liberty Head motif had dominated the silver denominations from the late 19th century through the first decade and a half of the 20th, but 1916 saw an end to this reign. The dime, quarter and half dollar were redesigned to exhibit depictions of Liberty that offered a relatively unprecedented diversity to our coinage.
The 1916-S Walking Liberty half dollar offered in our iAuction 3533 is a delightful example of this artistry. Designed by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, who also designed the Winged Liberty motif that debuted on the dimes of the same year, the new half dollar depicted Liberty elegantly striding against a rising sun, possibly inspired by Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ iconic creation for the contemporary double eagle. While the Walking Liberty half dollars of 1916 are desirable for their beauty and novelty, an element of rarity is also introduced when considering this example struck at the San Francisco Mint. Just over 500,000 1916-S half dollars were struck, one of the lowest mintages of the entire series; only the issues of 1921 are scarcer.
Examples of this date and mint can be difficult to find in most level of preservation, with problem-free Mint State coins, like the present offering, relatively scarce and sought after. Well struck, satiny and brilliant, this piece is an ideal representative of the type.
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