1942-S Better Date in Walking Liberty Short Set
By Paul M. Green
Walking Liberty half dollars of the 1940s are
often treated as a group rather than as
individual dates and mintmarks.
It’s natural since in some cases they had very
high mintages. In other cases, they were heavily
saved. Certainly for the 1940s issues there were
simply more collectors and also more dealers
willing to save some extra examples as opposed
to the situation a couple decades earlier where
the dealers would have felt there was no
interest in Walking Liberty half dollars.
By the standards of the 1940s, the 1942-S had a
fairly large mintage for a branch mint coin. Its
total was 12,708,000. While the war year
mintages at Philadelphia were sometimes at
record levels, the totals from San Francisco and
Denver were usually much lower. In all cases
after 1945 we see far lower mintages because no
additional half dollars were needed.
In circulated grades the 1942-S is basically an
available date. That is the story of all dates
starting with 1941 as those dates are the ones
included in the so-called “short set.” These are
oftentimes assembled by collectors who want high
grade examples of Walking Liberty half dollars,
but who are unable to afford the high prices of
earlier dates like the 1919-D and 1921-S. As a
result, the short set of 1941-1947 becomes a
collection by itself and within it comparisons
can be made.
What you find is that in the short set dates,
the 1942-S suddenly looks much better. It is not
the key date in a short set, but its prices of
$37 in MS-60 and $610 in MS-65 put it among the
top few dates.
It must be remembered that the numbers seen of
these dates are not going to be anywhere near
the low levels of earlier dates. Numismatic
Guaranty Corporation has seen 911 examples of
the 1942-S in MS-65 and just over 160 in MS-66.
That seems high but it is not when compared to
other Walking Liberty half dollars from the
1940s. In fact, it is a low total.
One of the characteristics of the 1942-S, as
well as other San Francisco dates, is that many
times it was softly struck. We do not know why
this happened, but we know that many of the half
dollars produced by the facility in the 1940s
came out appearing flat. This means few coins
Considering the high number seen by NGC in
MS-65, some might question whether the 1942-S
has much of a future in terms of price
increases. It’s a fair question. While the
numbers are low compared to other dates from the
1940s, they are high when compared to Walking
Liberty half dollars from the 1920s and earlier.
However, the short set is popular, which adds to
the demand. The 1942-S is needed for a regular
Walker set as well as a short set. Moreover,
there is strong demand because people especially
want a Walking Liberty half dollar with a great
design in high grade. So don’t count the 1942-S
out for future increases, as there is strong
demand to test that good supply in top grades.