How to Find the Value of Silver Liberty Coins

By Joseph Nicholson
Liberty Half Dollar

The content of U.S. coinage varies considerably. Early coins contain a considerable amount of silver and other valuable metals, but during the 20th century the U.S. moved away from minting coins with intrinsic value. Many U.S. coins are silver in color and feature the word "Liberty," but the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, also known as a "Walker," is probably the most obvious signification of this term. The Walker, which contains 90 percent pure silver, should not be confused with the Silver Eagle 1 ounce silver coin (which also features the Walking Liberty design) or the Liberty Dollar, a controversial piece of privately minted silver bullion.

Liberty Half Dollar

Identify the coin. The Walking Liberty Half Dollar was minted from 1916 through 1947, with about 485 million created in all. The coin is easy to identify by the designs on both sides, which include the word "Liberty" printed large on the obverse, and an eagle on the back above the denomination "Half Dollar."

Find the date and mintmark. The date of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar appears on the bottom center of the obverse. The mintmark, which shows which mint created the coin (such as Denver or San Francisco), appears on the lower left of the reverse on all but the earliest coins, on which it appears on the obverse below the phrase "In God We Trust." Particularly rare, and therefore valuable series include 1921, 1938-D, 1941-S, 1916, 1916-S and 1917-D.

Grade the coin. Numismatists grade coins according to its wear. Uncirculated coins that show absolutely no wear whatsoever will be the most valuable. The degree to which a coin exhibits wear has a direct effect on its value, but it's not necessary to have the coin professionally graded to have a general sense of its condition.

Calculate intrinsic value. The starting point for putting an actual dollar value on a Walking Liberty Half Dollar is to calculate the melt value of its metal content. The coin is 90 percent silver, and weighs 12.5 grams. The melt value can be calculated by taking the current spot price of silver (in dollars per ounce), converting it to dollars per gram by multiplying by .0321507466 (conversion factor), multiplying by 0.9 (the coin's purity), and finally multiplying by 12.5 (the weight of the coin in grams). If the spot price of silver is $15, the melt value of the coin is 15 * .0321507466 * 0.9 * 12.5, which is about $5.43.

Add additional value. If it is in uncirculated condition or of a rare mintage, add additional value. Otherwise, the melt value of the coin is the fair value.

About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.