Demand is broad for Mint State Walking Liberty half dollars and many issues have seen prices increase steadily in the last month.
As of May 25, there are at least five wholesale buyers who are aggressively buying MS-64 to MS-66 Walking Liberty half dollars in large quantities to fill orders. At the wholesale level, MS-64 examples are priced at $56, MS-65 pieces are at $131 and MS-66 coins are being sought in large quantities for $190 each.
While silver’s recent drop cooled off the overheated generic Mint State Morgan and Peace dollar market, Walking Liberty half dollars were unaffected.
The retail prices that collectors are paying for the half dollars have not yet caught up to the wholesale demand. For example, at a May 24 Heritage Internet Coin Auction with broad participation, a mostly brilliant 1947-D Walking Liberty half dollar graded MS-65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. realized just $126.50 over eight bids, despite several wholesale dealers offering to buy any brilliant MS-65 example for $131 (pictured left, images courtesy of Heritage Auctions).
To contrast, a toned 1940 Walking Liberty half dollar in NGC MS-65 realized just $104. As with the recent action for generic Morgan and Peace dollars, demand is reserved for coins that are untoned, or very nearly so.
For sure, the market for generic Walking Liberty half dollars is smaller than for Morgan and Peace dollars, simply because there are fewer examples. It is substantially more challenging to find 1,000 MS-65 Walking Liberty half dollars when compared to Morgan dollars in the same grade.
The market’s appetite for Walking Liberty half dollars goes up to more expensive issues. A look at recent auction results reveals that there is especially strong demand for the tough early Denver Mint issues in MS-62 through MS-64.
At the same time, buyers have become increasingly choosy with conditionally rare late-date (post-1933) issues. Wide price ranges at auction for coins of the same date, grade and grading service show that buyers are looking for more than just a grade when selecting coins for grading service’s registry sets.
At Heritage Central States Numismatic Society convention auctions in late April, just five of the 310 Walking Liberty half dollars offered failed to find bidders — each was a high-grade late-date issue. Buy-ins like these are often the result of the consignor having more enthusiasm about a coin’s value than the bidding audience
Steve Roach is a Dallas, Texas, based rare coin appraiser and fine art advisor who writes the world's most widely read rare coin market analysis each week in the pages of Coin World. He is also a lawyer and helps create estate plans for collections. Visit him online at http://www.steveroachonline.com, join him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenroach or follow him on twitter @roachdotsteve