The obverse is similar to the regular issue, but LIBERTY, with a tall T extending over the RY, is moved to the right obverse field, in back of the walking figure of Liberty and above IN GOD WE TRUST. The digits in the date are tall, tightly spaced, and thick. The reverse design is broadly similar to the regular issue, but there are many differences. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is spread out in a wider arc along the periphery, with periods before and after. The extra room is provided by the moving of HALF DOLLAR to a second inner arc above the eagle and below STATES OF A, and E PLURIBUS UNUM, in small letters, is moved to the bottom rim. There is no AW monogram by the tip of the eagle's tail. Struck in silver with a reeded edge.
The www.uspatterns.com website notes that the "Judd-1797A number used in earlier editions of Judd was a misdescription of this." Just to be clear, this coin combines the obverse design as described under Pollock-2054 with the reverse design as described under Pollock-2055. The current and equivalent Judd listing is Judd-1992, where it is noted that these coins are "believed to have been struck between July 27 and August 18, 1916."
This popular pattern is called the "LiberTy" type for obvious reasons. But the Bowers and Merena cataloger, in describing the Pryor and Evans specimens (Nos. 3 and 5 below), noted a more abstruse appellation:
"The WurliTzer connection (?): The T in LiberTy is overly large, possibly adopted from the WurliTzer logotype?
"The music house of WurliTzer was founded in 1856 in Cincinnati by Rudolph Wurlitzer, who came from Germany in 1853. The WurliTzer connection with the above 1916 pattern is not far fetched. Farny Wurlitzer (named from Henry Farny, the famous American artist who was his maternal grandfather), who was in charge of the firm's plant in North Tonawanda, NY, from 1909 until the 1960s, told Q. David Bowers that an advertising copy writer came up with the idea of a large T in WurliTzer as a distinctive way of spelling the name--this was well before the 1916 pattern half dollars in question--and that over the years when Mr. Wurlitzer saw others copy the large letter T he would write them a little note of recognition ... . The use of erratic letter sizes recurs various times in American numismatics, including 'oF' in the reverse lettering of both the 1948 Franklin half dollar and the 1959 Memorial reverse of the Lincoln cent."
The obverse is somewhat similar to the regular issue as adopted, but the 1916 date is small and tightly compacted together. The 1's in the date have tiny serifs on top and bottom, and diagonal flag-shaped tops. The letters in LIBERTY are heavy and slightly further from the rim than on the regular issue, closer to Liberty's foot. Burdette points out that the right heel, foot, and the T of TRUST are farther from the rim than on the circulation dies. The reverse is also similar to the regular issue, but it lacks the AW monogram (for designer Adolph A. Weinman) behind the eagle, to the right of the rock, which was placed on the regular issues.
This pattern, although similar, shows some distinct differences on the obverse that no dedicated collector of Walking Liberty halves would mistake for a regular-issue piece. Breen's Complete Encyclopedia notes that the date is "very small and closely spaced, not extending beyond foot."
Some business strike and proof Walking Liberty half dollars also lack the AW monogram, due either to omission or commission. That is, the initials were either never placed into the dies, or they were subsequently lapped off. This pattern was identified as Judd-1801 before the eighth edition of that reference.
The current (ninth) edition notes that examples of Judd-1994 are "believed to have been struck between September 25 and October 21, 1916." The following comments from Roger Burdette's Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-21 are useful in providing an understanding of the 1916 patterns:
"The year 1916 saw the largest group of experimental (or pattern) coins produced by the U.S. Mint since the late 1870s. Unlike most nineteenth century patterns--samples intended to show what a potential coin design would look like before a design was accepted--the designs for the three subsidiary coins had been approved before any of the experimental coins were made. The 1916 coins were intended to show the accepted designs in their final forms immediately prior to commencement of production. This affected the coinage in three ways: first, with one documented exception, the experimental coins were not intentionally made with special finishing such as sandblast or brilliant proof. Second, they were struck at ordinary production pressures on normal planchets rather than at high pressure on specially prepared blanks. Third, they were 'experimental coins' and were expected to be examined by the mint and the artists for their faults rather than their virtues.
"In most instances, Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Adam Joyce wanted to know if a change in design had solved a coinage problem--hence, a pattern or experimental coin was struck so the results could be compared with previous versions. These mechanical experiments resulted in the creation of many more patterns than one would think necessary. Evidently, each change in design was modeled, reductions and hubs made, and sample coins struck for review by secretary McAdoo, directors Woolley and von Engelken, and superintendent Joyce.
Some patterns were significantly different from the later circulation coins, but many differed only in minor placement of lettering or details of the figures. Limited records were kept of the dies and pattern coins resulting in some patterns entering circulation. The greatest number of known patterns were created for the half dollar; however, mint documents suggest that the dime and quarter were also troublesome and resulted in a significant number of experimental coins. Comments by [Standing Liberty quarter designer] Hermon MacNeil in January 1917, suggest that there may have been a considerable number of quarter patterns made, but none have survived."
"All of the pattern coin examined by the author have fields that are either polished, smooth and nonreflective, or lightly textured. None of the examples appear to be deliberate sandblast or satin proofs and most look like fairly ordinary circulation strikes with impaired luster."
PR64 $115,000.00 (Jan 6, 2009 HA.com)
1916 50C Walking Liberty Half Dollar, Judd-1991, Formerly Judd-1798, Pollock-2056, High R.7
Silver, reeded edge. Struck in the matte proof format favored by mint officials of the era, this silver-gray specimen is unmarked and best identified by a small number of short mint-made lintmarks on Liberty's skirt. Fully struck, Liberty's head and branch hand have definition uncommon to the eventual business strikes of the modified type.
Judd-1991 is believed to be the earliest among the six varieties of pattern 1916 Walking Liberty half dollars, per recent research by Roger Burdette. The two major devices are similar to their adopted counterparts but are somewhat smaller in scale. The date, IN GOD WE TRUST, and the motto are all in thin, delicate type. HALF DOLLAR is on the upper reverse instead of the reverse exergue, and E PLURIBUS UNUM is on the lower reverse instead of its usual position above the pine sapling. Unlike Judd-1992, LIBERTY is not fixed above the motto, but is distributed across the upper obverse border.
No AW monogram is present. Burdette notes in Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921 that the "first coins struck had normal fields, then the dies were polished to create a 'burnished' or polished appearance." This appears to be from the first coins struck, with silvery, mattelike surfaces that show no evidence of burnishing.