1941 was the most turbulent year in U.S. history. As it was understood at the time, the world was getting shaken up by German atrocities in Europe. President Frank Delano Roosevelt got sworn in for a third term. The country introduced the lend-lease program to aid its allies (the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union mostly) war effort.
Most importantly, the unthinkable happened. Japan struck Pearl Harbor on the 7th of December 1941. The attack caused the United States to enter the war, with everything that followed, including the dreadful project Manhattan that brought nuclear weapons into the world.
Amid rising global tensions, the U.S. kept its Walking Liberty release schedule, minting around 45 million half-dollar coins. Now, over 80 years later, these coins have become rare collectibles thanks to their historical significance and rarity.
This article will teach you everything you need about the 1941 half-dollar. Its history, what makes it valuable, and how much you should expect to pay for coins in various conditions.
The History of the 1941 Half Dollar
The 1941 half-dollar is part of the Walking Liberty series, which ran from 1916 to 1947. The coin depicts the figure of Lady Liberty walking towards the horizon with an oak and laurel branch in hand while wearing a Phrygian cap. The series was designed by Adolph Alexander Weinman, an American sculptor famous for his works in public places.
The reverse side features a bald eagle perched on a branch, ready to take off. The words “United States of America,” “Half Dollar,” and the motto “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of Many, One”) surround the eagle. Its composition is 90% silver and 10% copper, giving it a weight of 12.50 grams.
The 1941 half dollar was minted in 3 variants, the Philadelphia Mint (no mint mark), Denver Mint (“D”), and San Francisco Mint (“S”). It got eventually replaced in 1947 by the Franklin dollar to commemorate the President’s leadership through WW2.
Evaluating a 1941 Half Dollar
Knowing how to evaluate a 1941 half-dollar is crucial for 2 main reasons: spotting fakes and determining the price. You don’t want to overpay for a coin that isn’t worth much, and you want to spot possible deals on valuable coins.
Here’s what you should be looking at when evaluating a 1941 half-dollar:
- Condition – Evaluating a coin’s condition is usually left to expert appraisers, but you can do a preliminary analysis yourself. Grab a magnifying glass and examine the coin’s surface. How are the lines and the strike? Are there a lot of chips and marks on the coin? Compare your coin with the ones on this chart to give a ballpark estimate of the coin’s conditions.
- Scarcity – The rarer a coin, the more valuable it is. Rare coins are in limited supply, while the number of people who want them is higher than your daily coins. It’s simple supply and demand in action.
- Mint mark – Coins minted n mints with lower production numbers are rarer and thus more valuable. This factor doesn’t always come into play, but it is noticeable when it happens.
- Looks – Finally, a coin’s looks can also influence its value. Some coins look better than others and thus appeal to more buyers. For example, a coin with a rainbow tone can fetch more than others in the same condition.
- Minting errors – It’s funny how collectors favor coins that look as close to new as possible. Still, they are willing to pay extra for coins with minting errors. While it sounds paradoxical, it brings us back to the law of supply and demand. The supply of coins with minting errors is minuscule, while every collector wants them.
Here’s a video that showcases various 1941 half-dollars and the process of evaluating them:
Now that you know how to evaluate 1941 half-dollars let’s see how much people have paid for them in the real world.
The Market Value of 1941 Half Dollars
The first thing to sort out when figuring out how much to pay for a half-dollar is where you will look for them. There are a few avenues for this, each with its own strengths and flaws:
Online marketplaces like eBay offer the most expansive selections at affordable prices. The most significant issues are reliability (it’s impossible to tell a fake if the pictures aren’t crisp) and a lack of rare pieces.
Antique shops are a great source of rare coins, but the prices can be outrageous. The upside is that these are usually reliable sellers with more knowledge about what they’re selling.
Auction houses offer a wide range of coins at various prices according to their conditions and mint marks. You can use an aggregator like Collectors Corner to see what coins are selling for.
We prepared a list of the most common values for 1941 half-dollars based on their condition and mint mark. Remember, these are just ballpark figures; if you’re lucky, you could secure a bargain at an auction.
1941 Half Dollar – Poor to Fine (Grades 0 to 15)
Coins in this category are heavily worn down. They only show enough details to prove they are 1941 half-dollars.
Editor’s note: NG0 means “not graded”. We included these coins in this category.
Prices for these coins start at $11:
A couple sold for around $40:
A few more sold for around $100-$150:
Some coins in this category sold for a few thousand dollars:
1941 Half Dollar – Very Fine to About Uncirculated (Grades 20 to 58)
Coins that belong to this category are heavily worn, but most of the design is visible. There will be heavy marks and chips all over the coin’s surface, making it unpleasant to the eye.
Prices in this category start at around $10:
They then grow up linearly up to a few hundred dollars:
1941 Half Dollar – Uncirculated to Select Uncirculated (Grades 60 to 63)
As the name suggests, uncirculated coins are those that weren’t used in daily life. They still have some imperfections, and often present a weak strike, but they’re still new.
Prices in this group start at around $20-$30:
They then grow linearly up to around $100:
A few manage to breach the $300 mark
And a couple got to over $1,000:
1941 Half Dollar – Choice & Gem Uncirculated (64 to 66)
Here’s where a magnifying glass becomes handy. These coins show an above average strike and look almost perfect to the naked eye. They have chips and marks on their surface, but you’ll need a magnifying glass to see them.
Prices in this group start at around $30-$75, depending on mint:
Prices the grow linearly up to around $500, when a big divide starts happening:
Prices start growing at a much faster rate and quickly get to a few thousand dollars:
- This MS66-D coin sold for $2,530
- This MS66 coin sold for $3,594
- This MS66+-S coin sold for $5,581
- This MS65 coin sold for $9,200
The record auction in this category goes to this MS66 coin that went for $18,515.
1941 Half Dollar – Superb & Perfect Uncirculated (Grades 67 to 70)
Coins in this category look as if they were fresh off the minting press.
Prices for coins in this group start at a few hundred dollars:
The cheapest coins minted in San Francisco start showing up at around $5,000:
The next big price cluster is at around $10,000:
A few coins sold well into the tens of thousands of dollars:
- This MS67-S coin sold for $35,250
- This MS68-D coin sold for $36,000
- This MS68+ coin sold for $50,400
The record auction goes to this MS67-S coin that went for a staggering $90,850.
1941 Half Dollars Minting Errors
Minting errors drastically rise the value of 1941 half dollars. Here are the most common ones you’ll see when dealing with these coins:
- Double die obverse — A double die obverse happens when the printing press strikes a face of the coin twice. This results in doubled image and lettering on that coin’s side.
- Planchet error — A split planchet coin error occurs when impurities like dirt end up under the surface of the metal bank, making the coin not fit together precisely.
These are the known documented minting errors of 1941 half dollars, but you might run into one with a different one. Keep an eye out for these, as they are very valuable to collectors, who are willing to pay extra for a coin with these errors.
FAQs about 1941 Half Dollars
How much silver in a 1941 Half Dollar?
90% of its 12.50 grams are silver, that means it’s about 11.25 grams of silver.
Where is the mint mark on a 1941 half dollar?
If your 1941 half dollar is from Philadelphia, it won’t have a mint mark. If it was struck in Denver or San Francisco, though, it will. Look for a small “D” or “S” respectively. You’ll find it on the reverse, along the rim from the “H” of “Half Dollar.”
What is the most valuable 1941 half dollar?
The most valuable 1941 half dollar is this MS67-S coin that sold for $90,850. A few other pieces sold for tens of thousands of dollars as well.
Collecting 1941 half-dollars can be a gateway into the collecting hobby, as most pieces, even in good condition, aren’t excessively expensive. Veterans will find gorgeous coins highly-priced, and beginners can start with something more modest.
1941 was a turning point in history, with the United States entering WW2. Having a coin from such an iconic year will feel special, no matter its state. Before buying, do your own research. Ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for, and avoid sketchy vendors.
Some people like to buy these coins as an investment. While it is possible to buy coins and sell them off when their price rises, this is only the case for the rarest and most expensive ones.
We recommend taking your time if you’re in the market for a 1941 half-dollar. Look around the web, go to an auction or 2 if possible, and get a feel for how much people are willing to spend on these coins. The price guide in this article is a good starting point, but only with experience in the real world, you’ll be able to get a good piece for yourself.