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of United States Rare Coins

November 2017

Late Date Walkers Falling on Hard Times

     The high demand for rare early date Walking Liberty Half Dollars has held prices steady at current levels; not much has changed since our June article "Walkers: Lovely Lady Liberties”. But, also unchanged is the lack of demand for the more common dates, 1934 to the last year 1947.

     In April 2004, the FMV for a set of MS66 Walkers from 1934 through 1947 was $54,285, and today the FMV is just $30,354. Needless to say that is a dramatic drop. And there doesn’t seem to be a turnaround coming soon because there are plenty of willing sellers at these lower levels, which also hastens falling prices.

     As the number of long-time coin collectors has decreased, it seems that new collectors are not clamoring to collect Walkers. As we have covered many times previously, modern mint bullion products have become a top choice for today’s new collectors. Over the last decade most dealers have become marketers for mint products, and that has diminished the demand for collector coins.

     Also having a dramatic effect on Walker prices is the ever-growing populations for these more common dates, in particular in the MS66 grade. The 1941 S in MS66 was $4,160 in April 2004, today the FMV is only $1,250. Keep in mind, the Walker market was hot in 2004, and the 1941 S gained over $1,000 in just six months. Most of the other late dates had advanced as well, the 1940 S was up by $100 and the 1943 S was higher by $500.

1941 S Walking Liberty Half Dollar PCGS MS66+

1941 S Walking Liberty Half Dollar PCGS MS66+ sold for $2,115 at the Legend Rare Coin Auctions Regency Auction XXIII in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 26, 2017

     The population for the 1941 S Walker in MS66, according to the PCGS Population Report back in 2004, was 272 coins; the MS67 had only six coins with none higher. Today the population for the MS66 is considerably higher at 762 coins and there are an additional 226 NGC coins. There are now 88 coins with the MS66+ designation and another 33 in MS67 combining PCGS and NGC. With this massive increase in the apparent number of coins available in MS66 and the decline in the collector base, it is easy to see why these coins have declined.

     The 1944 S Walker in MS66 had a population of only 255 PCGS coins in 2004. Today the PCGS pop is a hefty 724 (an increase of over 280%) with an additional 210 NGC coins; and prices have suffered. Interestingly enough, there were only five PCGS coins certified in MS67 in 2004 and today there are still only eight in PCGS. That is most likely why the MS67 has run up to $17,550 since its 2010 FMV of $13,000. The majority of the dates from 1934 through 1947 in MS66 have increased in population much like the 1941 S and 1944 S.

Graph 1944 S Walker MS66

     It is important to note that rare collector coins prior to the 1930’s will hold their value better in the highest grades certified when their populations remain status quo for a number of years. Any major increase of population in the highest grades would likely have a drastic effect on the values, similar to what we see in the modern rarity market.

     An additional point of less significance may be that the number of resubmissions for these dates over the years have created a large group of coins that have been certified to their ultimate grade, then becoming just average for the grade. This in turn would then push buyers to lower their buy prices as a precaution against receiving these low-end coins. At the same time, many coins have been certified with the + designation allowing for premium prices. Taking into account the CAC approved, this group of coins could help the premium factor, but we are not sure that it would make up for the tremendous losses in value since 2004.

     Even though the FMV for a set of MS66 Walkers has seen better days, the percentage decrease has really been in line with many of the other collectible series over the last several years. Most of the rare coin market has taken a step back and values have shifted to lower levels because of reduced dealer buy prices, declining auction prices realized, and dealers selling off excess inventory at discounts to create a better balance of inventory versus cash reserves. Comparing the FMV of the 1934 through 1947 set of MS66 Walkers from 2010 at $39,293 versus today’s FMV of $30,354, the drop is about 21% which is about the same as most other series declines in that same time frame.

     We should also note that Gold reached a high of $1,421 back in 2010, and dealers and investors were in the middle of a very active Gold market. Premiums were much higher than they are today for generic U.S. Gold, and when buyers made profits on trading Gold, they used those profits for collector coins. While Gold is lower today, the premiums are much tighter and buyers are concentrating on Gold bullion more than collector coins. And when there are profits today, they use those profits to purchase more Gold rather than collector coins. It makes it tough for typical collector coins to maintain values when the majority of excess cash is going into Gold and Silver bullion.

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