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Weak hand on WL halves has always been ascribed to striking problems

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Many Walking Liberty halves have a poorly defined left hand on the Liberty figure. We know this detail was present in the master die and annual hubs, and most proof coins have a more-or-less full hand. Conventional wisdom has been that lack of detail on circulation strike coins was due to poor or reduced striking pressure, or possibly planchets that were too hard because of incomplete annealing.


A recently located document presents the possibility that the weak left hand was not only known to mint engravers, but that it was a consequence of changing the rim height. The image below is of a 4x6-inch piece of paper from the engraving department.




The engravers were evidently attempting to adjust the master die so that the edge thickness was uniform and there was no fin. In doing this, they considered not only specific measurements but the "Condition of hand" and "Breast re: border," two important obverse areas of visual detail.


In 1935 the hand was "Good" and the breast was "Above H&V." (H is probably 'head,' and V has not yet been identified... is it 'vine' as in olive branches?)


On 1936 #1 the hand as "Not up" and H&V were the same.

On 1936 #2 the condition was the same (but we don't know what changes were made)

Both 1937 version show changes but clearly the hand is "Not up."


This little piece of note paper might be the key to understanding why so many late-1930s and 1940s halves have weak hand detail. Was it an uncorrected consequence of other attempts to improve the coinage? Is the paper simply a side note about tests that never made it to production coins? For the present, we are guessing on scant information.


Presently, this is the only tidbit of insight we have. Maybe more will turn up.



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PS: It's OK to repost this and the proof coin threads, if anyone wishes. Input is welcome.

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  • Member: Seasoned Veteran

It seems that the greatly increased mintages starting in 1934 brought some of these issues to the fore. They were seemingly ignored by the Mint during the 1920s, when so many mediocre coins were struck. In Roger's book From Mine to Mint he points out how there was quite a laissez faire attitude at the various mints and at the DC headquarters during the 20s. This seems to have been encouraged in many government departments at the time, since budgets had been slashed as a reaction to the high spending of the war years.

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I hope to find other documents that support or refute the pictured item....but it provides a previously unknown insight.

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