[The following excerpt is published courtesy of DLRC Press and its author, Bruce Fox. This information was originally published in 1993 in The Complete Guide to Walking Liberty Half Dollars]
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Proof Walking Liberty half dollars were minted from 1936 to 1942. All dates are available, but low mintages make it difficult to locate superior pieces. Some collectors have a tendency to place proof coinage in a category of near perfection and uniformity. This is not the case. Strikes vary on proof coins and make a more glaring difference than in business strikes. When one expects a proof coin to have a needle sharp strike and you find weakness in the obverse center–which occurs on some Walker proofs–it may be disillusioning. Couple that with hairlines (light scratches caused by polishing, cleaning or improper storage) and unattractive toning, and you find there are not that many attractive Proof 65 coins available for any of the seven years, let alone the low mintage years of 1936 and 1937.
There are also some proof varieties (see Chapter 5). These include the coins without Weinman’s initials (AW) at the lower right reverse in 1940 and 1941, caused by excessive die polishing. The 1940 specimen without initials is the rarer of the two. The 1941 proofs without initials are more common than those with initials, and believed to be only coined in the Iast two months of the year. There have been reports of other proof years without initials and they are also listed in Chapter 5.
Although 1936 through 1942 are the years recognized as proof production years for the Walking Liberty half dollar series, 1916 and 1917 also saw unofficial production of proof half dollars. Breen has seen at least four 1916 examples. These were made from a somewhat different design, recognizable by a closely refaced date entirely fitting beneath Liberty’s foot. Breen has also seen four or five pieces of conventional design that qualify as matte proofs. Those have needle sharp details and typical matte proof borders. One complete 1917 proof set is known to have existed. The set was sold to Joel Rettew 1976 and later broken up. Two other matte proofs outside of this set are also known. During this time no proofs were publicly sold as a matter of mint policy. The few half dollars that were produced went to VIP’s and are controversial to this day. The only proofs issued to the public were the 1921 dollar and the 1928 Hawaiian commemorative half. Needless to say, 1916 and 1917 proof half dollars are rare and essentially unobtainable. Table 4-7 shows proof rankings by grade based on the number graded by the three major certification services. For PRF64 and PRF65 grades, rankings turn out to be in chronological order. Appendix C contains a breakdown by date for each grading service. Table 4-8 summarizes the proofs certified by date and grade.