The Liberty Nickel was designed by the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, Charles E. Barber. This series replaced the Shield Nickel, which was struck from 1866 through 1883.
This series was also known as a “V” nickel series due to the large “V” Roman Numeral (for five) on the reverse. The obverse of the coin has a depiction of Miss Liberty’s head, facing left. She is wearing a tiara with the word “LIBERTY,” on it and around the periphery the head is surrounded by 13 six-pointed stars. The date is below Miss Liberty.
The reverse has the large Roman Numeral “V” representing the word FIVE inside of a wreath. The upper periphery has “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” and the lower periphery has the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM.”
To learn more about the backstory behind this coin series, read our article on the history of the Liberty Nickel.
Key Dates & Varieties
The Philadelphia Mint struck a large quantity of these coins – 5,474,300.
The inaugural issue in 1883 caused confusion and aided and abetted those trying to commit fraud. Without the word “CENTS” appearing anywhere on the coin, some people decided to have them gold-plated and tried to pass them off as Five Dollar Gold Coins
The denomination was added part-way through the year, in order to clarify the true denomination. Surviving gold-plated specimens are known as “Racketeer Nickels.”
In order to stop people from profiting from the lack of a denomination inscribed on the coin, the word “CENTS” was added to the reverse of the coin at the bottom and the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” was moved above the “V.”.
To alleviate the problem, the Mint struck 16,026,200 coins to flood the marketplace, but there was no recall of the Cents-less variety.
With a total mintage of 11,270,000 coins, one wouldn’t think that this date is particularly scarce, but it is a better date that commands a higher price.
The 1885 is the first true key date of the series. With only 1,472,700 coins struck, there was hardly enough for circulation, let alone for the collectors of the day.
The 1885-dated coin is classic and is always in demand.
With a mintage of 3,326,000, it truly is another scarce key date, Liberty Nickel. Each of those first four years of production produced scarce key date coins.
The mintage for this date was 10,167,901 coins so one might now think this is a key date coin. But the current prices for virtually all grades indicates rarity and desirability.
The 1894 Liberty Nickel saw a mintage of only 5,410,500 coins struck. Half of the dates issued in the 1890s had over 15 million coins struck in each of those years, to point out the rarity of this 1894 issue.
This was the very first Liberty Nickel that was struck at a branch mint. The Denver mint struck 8,474,000 coins at their facility in 1912. But many were saved and did not see circulation as no one knew what the final mintage would be as these coins entered circulation.
Unlike it’s Denver Mint counterpart, the San Francisco Mint struck a mere 238,000 Liberty Nickels for circulation, making it a truly key date.
It is scarce in all grades from well-worn to highly uncirculated specimens.
1913 Liberty Nickel – Proof Only issue
No one is completely certain as to why five 1913 Liberty Nickels were struck that year.
What is certain is that Brown was the first person to hint at the existence of these five extremely rare coins. Brown promoted the 1913 Liberty nickels in The Numismatist magazine. That was the first acknowledgement of the existence of these coins. He first offered $500 and later, in subsequent issues, he raised the bounty to $600 for any one of these coins. It is believed that Brown knew exactly how many 1913 Liberty Nickels were struck as he may have had a had in their production, but that is only rumor.
The first time all specimens were publicly shown was at the 1920 ANA convention in Chicago.
Liberty Nickel Values
|Date MM||Mintage||Very Fine||Abt Unc||Ch Unc|
|1883 No Cents||5,474,300||$15||$45||$125|
|1913 PR||5 Known||—||$1.2M||$3.5M|