I'm Interested in >
Mint dates: 1916-1947
The Walking Liberty half dollar is the result of the second artistic competition held by the U.S. Mint to replace its existing coinage at the time. Under the discretion of the Commission of Fine Arts, in 1915, three renowned sculptors were chosen from a field of five to submit models for new coins. The penny, nickel, dime, half dollar, and eventually the dollar, were all replaced as a result. After three rounds, the announced winner was Adolph A. Weinman.
The Walking Liberty was a radical, yet lovely departure from the coinage designed by Mint Engraver Charles E. Barber that had been in circulation since 1892. Displaying a young woman striding across a field, Weinman’s Liberty was active, ebullient, sowing prosperity and potential from the stars that cascaded from her hand. On the reverse perches an eagle preparing to take flight. The bird was so potent as to inspire awe in its singular focus.
After the debacle with the Saint-Gaudens Standing Liberty Silver Dollar in 1907, the staff of the Mint was reticent to work with yet another artist. It did not help matters either that Barber, then 75 years of age, was essentially being asked to oversee the termination of his own designs. He is documented as clearly obstructing Weinman’s design, going so far as to completely rework it, changing aspect ratios of the original design and adding decorative elements.
The Walking Liberty half dollar represents the beginning of a new tradition of high artistic merit in the design of U.S. Coinage. A student of Saint-Gaudens, Weinman was able to better navigate the demands of the minting process, as well as the controlling personalities that often demanded a consistent reuse of styles, confusing them with technique. The coin stands as a testament to the art of minting and the minting of art.