1917-S Halves Good Value in Top Grades
By Paul M. Green
turned out there were not one but two different
1917-S Walking Liberty half dollars. That is not
all that unusual; however, what is unusual is
that both 1917-S Walking Liberty half dollars
are good and both are really special in top
In 1917, the designs that were first released in
1916 were getting some additional attention.
This is not all that surprising since the dime,
quarter and half dollar all received new designs
As 1917 dawned, the Walking Liberty half dollar
production continued at San Francisco. It would
produce a total of 952,000 examples of the old
style that featured the “S” mintmark on the
obverse under “TRUST.” The relatively low
mintage would make it a better date today at $27
It must be remembered that the second year
saving of a new design is usually much lower
than the first as the novelty of the new design
has worn off. The Professional Coin Grading
Service reports nearly 400 Mint State examples
of the obverse mintmark 1917-S, but only 38 were
called MS-65 or better. The Numismatic Guaranty
Corporation reports less than 150 examples of
the obverse mintmark 1917-S in Mint State, and
just 17 were called MS-65 or better.
The combined total of 55 examples in MS-65 or
better is certainly not a large one. It might be
enough to keep the prices of the obverse
mintmark 1917-S from climbing rapidly, but there
is certainly not enough to guarantee
satisfaction of future demand.
The situation in 1917 was complicated by the
fact that both the Walking Liberty half and the
Standing Liberty quarter received modifications.
The quarter changes involving covering Liberty’s
exposed left breast are more famous, but the
fact remains that both the quarter and half
dollar had some small changes, probably produced
by the haste of production in 1916.
The most obvious change to the Walking Liberty
half dollar was that the mintmark was taken off
the obverse and placed on the reverse at about
the 8 o’clock position near the rim. The mintage
of the 1917-S with the reverse mintmark was
5,554,000. Today it is at $9.70 in G-4, $330 in
MS-60 and $13,850 in MS-65.
It is worth remembering that while not
considered a different type by most, the obverse
mintmark did stand out, so they were saved as a
novelty. The reverse mintmark 1917-S did not
have that advantage but with its large mintage
it was likely to be found in some numbers, at
least in circulated grades.
In Mint State we find that the 1917-S with
reverse mintmark has appeared about 370 times at
NGC with an MS-65 or better total of about 17.
At PCGS it has been called Mint State more than
390 times and of that total, 38 were named MS-65
With both grading services in agreement that the
two are nearly identical in availability in
MS-65 or above, today’s price difference is hard
to justify except for the fact that the obverse
mintmark may have greater demand because of its