The Walking Liberty Half Dollar came into existence when coin design was relatively stagnant. In fact, the U.S. Mint staff were disgruntled with previous efforts. Consequently, an artistic competition was held to get outside ideas to replace its existing designs.
The Commission of Fine Arts conducted this competition in 1915. Three well-known sculptors were chosen from a field of five to submit designs for new coins. The winner was Adolph Weinman, whose designs replaced the penny, nickel, dime, dollar and half dollar. The Walking Liberty Half Dollar was one of Weinman’s many designs.
This approach of inviting outside creativity yielded a dramatic departure from previous designs. On this coin’s obverse (front), Lady Liberty appeared youthful and active, walking joyfully across a field with stars cascading from her hands. On the reverse, the eagle was focused, perched and ready to take flight.
The implementation of this new design strategy was not easy. Unfortunately, the designer of the previous coins was asked to oversee the replacement of his own designs. Not surprisingly, it is reported that he attempted to obstruct Weinman’s designs. He changed aspect ratios and added elements, so the end products strayed from the artist’s original creations.
Regardless, the Walking Liberty Half Dollar represented a new beginning for the U.S. coin tradition. These new coins brought the practice of minting coins into a new higher artistic mode.
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