Introduced early in 1883, this type was a great improvement over its predecessor, both technically and aesthetically. Its diameter was enlarged slightly, permitting thinner planchets and much greater die life. Originally conceived as part of a matching set of copper-nickel one-cent, three-cent and five-cent pieces that would its value readily apparent, the Liberty Head Nickel when first issued lacked the word CENTS. This oversight was quickly exposed when con artists reeded the edges of these coins and gold plated them to pass as half eagles. The Latin legend was hastily relocated to provide for the value CENTS, but not until more than five million examples had been coined and issued.
Minted in large numbers, the only scarce issues within this series are 1885, 1886 and 1912-S, the latter being one of only two branch mint pieces. The famed 1913 nickels, though clearly coined at the U. S. Mint, are delicacies not required for a complete date/mint set. Such sets are extremely popular, as most issues are readily available in uncirculated condition or as proofs.
Variety collecting is limited for this series, though a handful of interesting varieties do exist. Standouts include 1884 with doubled date and the doubled-die reverses of 1887 and 1900. There is still the chance of discovering new misplaced date varieties of the Liberty Head Nickel, as this class of variety has gained popularity only recently.
NGC currently attributes the handful of varieties that are listed with VarietyPlus. This includes most of those found within The Cherrypickers’ Guide and selected others from the Flynn/Van Note book.