Nickel 5 Cent Pieces
In 1866, the nickel 5 cent piece first debuted in the United States. Up until that time, a half dime was also that was available. The Mint's first series of this new type of coins was Shield Nickels. They lasted less than 20 years. In 1883, Liberty Head Nickels replaced the Shield Nickels. The design of the coin is attributed to Charles E. Barber, who had been employed as an engraver at the Mint for about three years. The obverse of his coin features a Liberty woman facing to the left with the date below and a ring of stars around the bust. The reverse features a Roman numeral V. Within months of the first strike, the word "cents" was added to the reverse. As it turns out, clever counterfeiters had been gold plating the nickels and passing them off as $5 gold pieces. The coin was about the same size as a half eagle. For 1883, then, you will find two varieties - those with and those without "cents." Surprisingly, the "with cents" variety are scarcer. The Philadelphia Mint coined all items through 1912, when the Denver and San Francisco branches added their own coins to circulation. While the series officially ended in 1912, less than a half dozen 1913 nickels were mysteriously released in a year that only was supposed to have Buffalo Nickels. Thus, this series of coins began with controversy and ended in controversy in 1913 as described further below. It is a terrific set to collect!
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How Do I Approach Collecting These Coins?
Liberty Nickels cover 30 years. This is a compact and completely approachable set to collect. As described above, nearly all coins (except for 1912) were minted in Philadelphia, allowing the collector to focus on years of issuance only and not bothering with by mint marks. In 1912, branch mints in Denver and San Francisco also coins these coins.Try collecting these coins
- By date (and mint mark for 1912)
- By type (such as the Cents and No Cents Varieties)
- By grade (ie: such as collecting Fine or better condition)
- Accumulating by roll (of 50 coins)
- By Key Date (1885, 1886 and 1912-S)
- By Decade (ie. one each from the 1880's, 90's, 1900's & the 1910's)
- Proof coins only (most years approximately 4,000 were minted and many or still easily available today)
Whichever way you direct your focus, these are underrated coins. You will find these a satisfying series to collect.
What Is A Set Worth?
Today, a complete series of Liberty Nickels can be collected fairly easily. A complete set in Good to Very Good Condition may be found on eBay for around $1,300. If the set is going for a much lower price, take another look at the key dates to the series. They are probably in Fair or Poor condition. You can find other guides describing the key dates (1885, 1886 and 1912-S) in our other write ups!
If you are looking to add one of these terrific pieces to your collection, please check out our eBay auctions. We offer several fine examples that are available today!