Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shield Nickels (1866 - 1883)

The Shield Nickel was made possible by the Act of May 16, 1866 and replaces the 5-cent notes. The new five cent coin was designed by Longacre. It is made of 25% nickel and 75% copper. This created the unusual situation where two coins of the same value circulated simultaneously - the Shield nickel and Half dime.  In order to promote the new coin, and also because of the availability of nickel and copper compared to the higher cost of silver for Half Dimes, a huge quantity of nearly 15 million new nickels was produced in the 1st year.

The design of the Shield nickel was similar to that of the Two-cent coin. On the obverse, Longacre placed a shield, with the motto IN GOD WE TRUST above. The date was below. On the reverse, the number "5" for denomination was surrounded by 13 stars and 13 rays. Around the rim, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and CENTS were inscripted. Since the rays between the stars impaired the coins' striking quality, the rays were eliminated later in 1867 creating two varieties: With Rays and No Rays. Striking problems persisted, resulting in a series of coins noted for inconsistent strikes and lots of die cracks.

Besides being interested in the two varieties of 1866 and 1867, the Shield Nickel collector will definitely look for the 1867 Proof nickel With Rays which is excessively rare. Also, other sought out and expensive examples are the Proof-only 1877 and 1878 shield nickels. Another favorite with collectors is the 1880 nickel for its low mintage. Interesting varieties include a widely repunched date in 1866, the Open and Close 3's of 1873, 1879/8, and 1883/2.

Even though the Shield Nickel is popular among coin collectors being the first 5-cent coin approved for circulation, according to Breen's "Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins," the nickel was welcomed with a lot of criticism in 1866. The shield design was actually the choice of Mint Director James Pollock. This design was ridiculed as "the ugliest of all known coins" and the coin's obverse was called "a tombstone surmounted by a cross overhung by weeping willows." Furthermore, bigots criticized the rays between stars, often referring them as "stars and bars" placed there by treasonous people in the Mint who had chosen to honor the Southern rebels.

Buy Shield Nickels from The Executive Coin Company, one of the top coin dealers in United States who offers a variety of Shield nickels in different grades and condition. Our selection includes the 1867 With Rays and the 1867 No rays, the 1881 key date, and other high grade shield nickels. All nickels we offer are expertly photographed with great care and accuracy to help you make the best choice for your collection! Check out our online selection below.