1944-S Walking Liberty half was long overlooked
Slowly but surely, the 1944-S Walking Liberty half dollar is starting to receive some attention. That may be surprising, given that the general feeling is that half dollars from the 1940s are about as ordinary as can be. They are, after all, the dates from the short set. Historically, not much thought was given to those dates, and unlike the earlier years, the short set half dollars are seen as available.
In fact, it would not be too hard to divide the Walking Liberty half dollar into a couple of very basic groups. The dates prior to about 1941 were simply not saved. A half dollar was a lot of money to many at the time; plus, the idea of collecting by date and mintmark was relatively new. Those factors resulted in very little saving of the earlier dates until years after they were released, making them available in circulated grades but almost impossible in Mint State in some cases.
Things changed greatly once there were albums and holders. Collectors had more information and ways to house a coin collection. That encouraged significant numbers of new collectors, which meant more saving.
Another change was a rise in mintage for the Walking Liberty half. In 1942, Philadelphia had a mintage of 47,839,120; it was even higher in 1943 at 53,190,000. There had never been half dollar mintages even remotely similar to those totals, and it is easy to understand why such dates got a reputation for being available.
However, every date from this decade did not have similar mintages. While the 1941-45 Philadelphia dates could safely be called high mintage, the same was not true for Denver and San Francisco Walking Liberty halves. At 8,904,000, the 1944-S was neither particularly high nor low; it would not be a significant rarity or a common date.
Lumped together with what were available 1940s dates, the 1944-S was overlooked for a long time. In the minds of many, the only better date from the period was the 1941-S, which ironically also had a similar mintage of 8,098,000. The big difference was that the 1941-S received some recognition in MS-65 condition. It was the key short-set date, noted for soft strikes that gave it a flat appearance, and it was where the action was supposed to be in terms of price. Today, it lists for $610 in MS-65.
However, what has become more apparant with the passage of time and greater information (thanks in large part to the grading services) is that the 1941-S is not the only better date from the 1940s, at least in MS-65. It is followed by the 1942-S, currently listed at $375, and the 1944-S at $340.
Let’s look at grading service totals. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has seen the 1944-S in MS-65 condition a total of 1,286 times, as compared to 1,121 times for the 1942-S and 924 times for the 1941-S. At the Professional Coin Grading Service, the 1944-S has been graded 3,092 times in MS-65, compared to 2,798 times for the 1942-S and 2,718 times for the 1941-S.
Under the circumstances, the 1944-S is probably not going to catch either the 1941-S or the 1942-S in price. That said, it is holding steady as only slightly more available than either. That should keep its price strong and maybe even see it edge closer to the 1942-S and 1941-S. When you consider the number of coins graded MS-65, the 1944-S is very close to dates always assumed to be far better
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More Collecting Resources
• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.
• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2019 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.