Collecting Friends: Naming Names in Numismatics

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CF_6_Liberty-Barking-dollar_Dennis-Tucker (1)Image: The ill-conceived “Liberty Barking” silver dollar, Judd-1544-1/2. (Actually a mockup of Dennis’s beagle Hyacinth, by retired Whitman art director Bob Cashatt.)

Dennis: A coin collector asked me about the name of the 1916–1947 half dollar: Is it “Liberty Walking” or “Walking Liberty”?

Growing up as a coin collector, I always said the latter (“Walking Liberty”), which to me was more intuitive, made more grammatical sense, and just rolled off the tongue easier. I’ve talked with collectors, dealers, and writers, and—as with many things in our hobby—opinions vary. Red Book collector Frank Colletti and die-variety specialist Ken Potter prefer Walking Liberty. Roll searcher Bill O’Rourke (author of Coin World’s “Found in Rolls” column) dissects it like an English teacher: “If we say that the figure on the coin is a personification of Liberty, then the word Liberty functions as a noun. If Liberty is a noun, then Walking is the adjective used to describe what the figure is doing . . . therefore Walking Liberty is correct.”

Dave Bowers has pointed out that the 1916 Mint Report uses “Liberty Striding,” which is more akin to Liberty Walking.

Heritage Auctions Senior Cataloger Mark Borckardt observes, “Liberty Walking is like saying Bust Draped.” (Don’t get Mark started on “the Buffalo nickel that depicts a bison!”)

Interestingly, the 1st edition of the Red Book called them “Liberty Standing” half dollars. That wording continued for several editions until finally it was changed to Liberty Walking, which is where it’s been since the 9th edition, published in 1955.

O’Rourke again: “I’ve tried to correct word usage in numismatics for years, getting nowhere. What is more correct generally doesn’t change the antiquated use of terms that should change. I still see major coin dealers advertise double dies when, for at least twenty years, the term has been doubled die.”

Our editorial style for Whitman is to follow the Red Book as our “bible” for naming coin types. That’s why you’ll see “Liberty Walking” throughout Whitman books, folders, and other products.

walking liberty

Steve, you and I are both word geeks, and we’ve talked about editorial rules and styles around nomenclature, capitalization, and the like. What do you think of these beautiful and popular silver half dollars—and more importantly, what do you call them?!

Steve: Oh, Dennis! I’ve mentioned Coin World’s continued history of calling “Mercury” dimes “Winged Liberty Head” dimes, though I’ve succumbed to using the full name on first usage and slipping in “Mercury” here and there so readers have a bit of familiarity. “Wings of Thought” dime sounds too pretentious, right? 

mercury dime

I’m a “Walking Liberty” half dollar fan, though for variety in writing – and only after a proper first usage – I’ll use the term “Walkers” to respond to dealer nomenclature. The U.S. Mint uses “Walking Liberty” in its current description of the design as it’s used on the obverse of the American Eagle Silver Bullion coins, writing, “The obverse (heads) features a refreshed depiction of Adolph A. Weinman’s full-length figure of Liberty in full stride, enveloped in folds of the flag, with her right hand extended and branches of laurel and oak in her left.” 

I’ve always thought it was curious that Weinman didn’t include more forward motion in Liberty’s leading leg, to better convey forward movement. Given the options, I’m a fan of the 1916 Mint Report that uses “Liberty Striding” though “Gliding Liberty” may be even more appropriate! 

Be on the lookout for another installment of Collecting Friends next month or subscribe here and never miss a post! In the meantime, explore beautiful coins from the ANA's Edward C. Rochette Money Museum Virtual Exhibits.

About the Collecting Friends Blog

Hello! And welcome to the ANA’s blog series, “Collecting Friends.”

We decided to approach this much like a conversation between friends. One of us starts with a topic, then the other responds. Simple as that. Along those lines, we’ll keep the tone conversational as much as possible. 

We both write about coins professionally, and will keep our relative style guides in our writing. For Dennis, Publisher at Whitman Publishing, that means capitalizing “Proof” and italicizing Red Book and never saying anything bad about Ken Bressett, who’s awesome anyway. 

For Steve, who’s written with Coin World for 15 years, it means Winged Liberty Head dime instead of “Mercury” dime, and similar nuances and oddities. And, it means writing A Guide Book of United States Coins (better known as the “Red Book”). 

Both of us started collecting when we were little, introduced to coins by a chance encounter with an old coin that sparked our curiosity. One of Steve’s interests is coin valuation, and he gravitates towards the intersection of art and coins. Dennis enjoys medals and world coins, and studying modern U.S. coins in the context of older series, what came before.

We met in 2012 at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia at an event hosted by the Austrian Mint where there was both a Ben Franklin and a Betsy Ross impersonator. We’ve become great friends in the past decade. We even were appointed together to sit on the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee starting in 2016, but Steve resigned soon after he was appointed to accept a full-time job at the Treasury Department while Dennis was re-appointed in 2020.

We taught a course together on numismatic publishing and writing a few years ago at the Summer Seminar, and while life has gotten in the way of us teaching another class, we jumped at our friend Caleb’s suggestion that we write a column. We hope you enjoy it! 

steve roach circle frame (2)dennis tucker circle frame (2)


About the American Numismatic Association

The American Numismatic Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and encouraging people to study and collect coins and related items. The Association serves collectors, the general public, and academic communities with an interest in numismatics.

The ANA helps all people discover and explore the world of money through its vast array of educational programs including its museum, library, publications, conventions and numismatic seminars.

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