The 1942 Walking Liberty half dollar is one of the more picturesque collector’s gems within the coinage history of the United States thanks to designer Adolph Weinman’s striking portrayal of Liberty striding towards the sun on the obverse.
The Walking Liberty half dollar replaced a design by long-time Mint Engraver Charles E. Barber in early 1916.
In 1915, new Mint Director, Robert W. Woolley, was under the misperception that the Mint was required by law to replace any coin designs which had been in circulation for 25 years.
Thus, Woolley’s misinterpretation of a law (which only stipulated that coins must be in circulation for 25 years with no required end date) led to a Commission of Fine Arts-led competition to replace the previous Barber coinage – dimes, half dollars, and quarters.
Adolph Weinman’s initial design ideas led to him being commissioned to replace both the dime and the half dollar, beating out competing designers Hermon MacNeil and Albin Polasek for the commission.