Numismatic Coin Club World Internet Numismatic Society


Grading Hints on the Walking Liberty Half Dollar

by Bill Fivaz, NLG (Presented by Mark Watson, WINS#13)

(Part 4 of 5)

1. The key areas to look at to determine wear are:

- Liberty's breast
- The open field behind Liberty
- Eagle's breast

2. A difference in color on the breast, denoting the lost of original luster, is an indication of wear. However, if this area is shiny, as in the case of the hipbone on the Buffalo Nickel, it is likely coin-against-coin from being in a roll. The suspect wear may usually be confirmed by checking the right field (behind Liberty) for a dullness. Again, this is due to wear disturbing the original luster.

3. Also as on the Buffalo Nickel, I prefer to grade this series by examining the reverse first. If the feathers on the eagle's breast just below the long neck feathers show the dreaded color change dullness, it cannot be a mint state coin. If there is wear on the reverse in this area, there should be wear on the obverse.

4. Collectors should be aware that there are many issues in this series, especially the "S" mintmarked coins in the 1940s, that are weakly struck and often show little or no detail on the obverse from the hand area down the skirt covering the leg, and on the reverse from the eagle's breast down the leg. This can be distinguished from wear because those areas will still have the planchet frost or luster and will not show the dull color associated with wear.

Remember, in all series, a change in color (dullness), which is the result of loss of original luster, denotes wear.

Suggested definitions for the various grades are:

MS-65: A coin exhibiting attractive, full natural luster with no wear and a minimum of contact marks, none detracting. The coin may have (natural) toning, but the original luster must be present. The strike must be full, or nearly so, for the date.

MS-64: A coin with the above characteristics except that it may have somewhat subdued luster, a few more contact marks in the focal area(s) or a weaker strike.

MS-63: Usually a lack of luster and/or a weak strike will be the determining factors for this grade. It could also have more than its share of contact marks.

MS-60: No dullness in the right obverse field or wear on Liberty's breast or especially on the eagle's breast on the reverse. There may be poor or no original luster due usually to over-dipping. Contact marks usually appear most noticeable in the right obverse field and on the sun on the obverse and throughout the eagle's wing feathers on the reverse. A poor strike will lessen the grade, but the date and mintmark should be factored in to a certain degree.


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