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Shield Nickels

Shield Nickels were made of 75% copper and 25% nickel, and were produced from 1866 to 1883. A shield is featured on the front (obverse) and the numeral 5 surrounded by stars on the reverse.

1882 Shield Nickel
(click image for larger view)
1882 Shield Nickel

Early varieties had rays between the stars on the reverse (1866-1867). These were later removed, hoping to get better strikes on the coins.

These coins are another US coin that came about because of the hoarding of precious metals during the Civil War.

The government had issued fractional currency, which was paper money in fractions of a dollar (3, 5, 10, 15, 25 and 50 cents), but people hated them, they wore out quickly, and many merchants refused to accept them. So, a nickel five cent piece was produced to replace them.

This was the first nickel five-cent piece minted in the United States. Previous coins that were called nickels were actually one, two and three cent coins that were made with nickel.

Nickel is an extremely hard metal and it was difficult to make coins from it in 1866 when these nickels were first produced. The machinery just couldn't handle this hard metal.

Because of this, there are many minting errors in this nickel type.

It fact, it is difficult to find one of these coins that doesn't have some sort of problem, notably die cracksDie Crack
A fine raised line on a coin that was caused by a crack in the die.

Today's modern minting equipment, however, handles nickel just fine.

Variety 1 - Rays Between Stars

(click image for larger view)
1866 Shield Nickel
with Rays
1866 Shield Nickel with Rays
Type Variety 1, Rays Between Stars
Designer James B. Longacre
Years Minted 1866-1867
Weight 5 grams
Composition 75% copper, 25% nickel
Diameter approx. 20.5 mm
Edge plain
Mints Philadelphia - no mint mark
Mintage 1866 - 14,742,500
1867 - 2,019,000

Variety 2 - Without Rays

(click image for larger view)
1873 Shield Nickel
Without Rays
1873 Shield Nickel
Type Variety 2, Without Rays
Designer James B. Longacre
Years Minted 1867-1883
Weight 5 grams
Composition 75% copper, 25% nickel
Diameter approx. 20.5 mm
Edge plain
Mints Philadelphia - no mint mark
Mintage 1867 - 28,890,500
1868 - 28,817,000
1869 - 16,395,000
1870 - 4,806,000
1871 - 561,000
1872 - 6,036,000
1873 - 436,000 close 3
1873 - 4,113,950 open 3
1874 - 3,538,000
1875 - 2,097,000
1876 - 2,530,000
1877 - proofs only
1878 - proofs only
1879 - 25,900
1880 - 15,000
1881 - 68,800
1882 - 11,472,900
1883 - 1,451,500

For some great deals on U.S. Shield Nickels and Coin Supplies visit my friends at Jake's Marketplace, Inc. They have a very comprehensive selection to choose from and give great discounts!

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