All 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollars are scarce in circulated condition, rare in lower uncirculated grades, and extremely rare in gem or finer grades. A quick look at the PCGS and NGC population reports is sufficient to get a general idea of the rarity of these 20th century Mint products. Neither of the two major grading companies have graded any coins higher than MS-66. And even at that grade level only about a dozen pieces are known, across all Mints and across both grading services combined. It should not come as a surprise that this number is extremely low within both the context of the series and that of 20th century United States coinage.
The Philadelphia issue has seen a total of four coins graded by PCGS at the MS-66 level, with 51 (a number no doubt influenced by resubmissions) graded as MS-65. The numbers at NGC are even lower, with two MS-66’s graded, followed by thirty-one MS-65’s. As can be expected, these are seldom traded, and when they do they sell for a fair amount of money. The record for this issue at public auction stands at $29,900. To indicate the rarity of pieces graded MS-66, it must be noted that this prize record is for a PCGS MS-65, none of the MS-66 graded pieces have traded at public auction since 1998. Whenever one of the pieces reappears it will no doubt easily set a new record for this issue.
The population reports for the Denver issue show a similar scheme. PCGS has graded three coins at the MS-66 level, followed by thirty pieces graded as MS-65. Again, the NGC population report shows similar numbers, with three graded in MS-66, and twenty-one in MS-65. One of the PCGS MS-66 pieces holds the price record, having sold in February 2006 for $48,875, while another piece in this grade and holder sold for the same amount in January 2005. Pieces graded by either of the two major grading companies have sold for amounts between $25,000 and $35,000 in the last decade. Overall, this makes the Denver issue of the 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar slightly rarer than the Philadelphia issue at higher grade levels.
Despite having the highest mintage of the trio, the 1921-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar is the rarest issue of the group in gem or higher grades. PCGS has graded only a single coin in MS-66, followed by a mere sixteen pieces which have graded in MS-65, clearly a number influenced by some resubmissions as well. Even in MS-64 the 1921-S is a rarity, with only 46 pieces certified in almost 25 years of coin grading by PCGS. NGC has also graded a single piece as MS-66, with a total of eighteen MS-65’s graded. Unsurprisingly, the two MS-66 pieces have not traded at public auction, and the price record for this issue is held by a PCGS graded MS-65, which sold for an amazing $161,000 in November of 2006. This is not only a price record for this issue, it is also one of the price records for the series, regardless of date or grade.
Because of the lower mintages, both the Philadelphia and Denver issues are scarcer than the 1921-S in circulated grades. However, as we have mentioned, the San Francisco issue is absolutely the rarest and most valuable of the trio in uncirculated condition. Even in circulated condition these carry a strong premium and have been in demand ever since the 1950s. By that time, however, most had been in circulation for a long time, and most collectors will now have to satisfy the 1921, 1921-D and 1921-S slots in their sets with a circulated coin. In uncirculated condition any Walking Liberty Half Dollar dated 1921 is a trophy coin which is very difficult to upgrade once such a piece is acquired.