Coin Specifications

Category: Shield Five Cents (1866-1883)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 14,742,500
Catalog: KM-96
Obverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Reverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Composition: Copper-Nickel
Weight: 5.00 Grams
Diameter: 20.5mm
Edge: Plain
Numismatic specification data provided by Krause Publications NumisMaster.
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1866 RAYS 5C MS obverse 1866 RAYS 5C MS reverse

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Description & Analysis

This coin denomination was authorized as a replacement for the unpopular fractional currency notes of 5 cent value which had themselves filled the void left by the silver half dime. Silver coins did not circulate in most of the nation from mid-1862 until 1875.

More than 14 million nickels were coined during the second half of 1866, as the Mint struggled to meet the urgent demand for a five-cent coin. The work that went into these pieces was hurried and a bit careless, and this situation was further aggravated by the hardness of the copper-nickel alloy and the excessive thickness of this coin as authorized. It should have been less than 5 grams, but nickel tycoon Joseph Wharton persuaded Congress to use as much of his metal as he could.

The end result was that most pieces are less than fully struck and display many die cracks, cud rim breaks and other technical flaws. Gems are available only due to the usual widespread saving of new coin types by the public for their novelty. Even those having high grades will usually exhibit some signs of die duress.

Shield Nickels, particularly the high-mintage dates such as 1866, are notorious for their numerous doubled-die and repunched date varieties. This has made them a collector's delight, and NGC recognizes the better ones under its VarietyPlus Service.

This date is valued more highly than its rarity would suggest, due to the fact that the rays feature on its reverse was removed early the following year. Type collectors seeking a With Rays nickel thus focus primarily on the 1866 issue.


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Price Guide

Last Updated: 6/30/2015

Click on a price to see historical prices, comparison charts and trends.

1866 RAYS 5C MS
Base $ 29.00 40.00 58.00 85.00 150 230 250 265 290 335 365 525 875 2050 4850 - - - -
$ 170 - - - - - 400 625 1000 2650 11150 - -

NGC Price and Value Guides Disclaimer



Total Graded: 1700
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 61
High Grade: 66

Upcoming Auctions

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
6/4/1997 NGC MS 62   Teletrade Auction 0951, 951/Lot# 1154 $196.20
1/25/2004 PCGS MS 63   Goldberg January 25-28, 2004 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 23/Lot# 1554 $345.00
5/31/2004 PCGS MS 65   Goldberg May 31 - June 2, 2004 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 25/Lot# 455 $2,185.00
9/8/2008 NGC MS 63   David Lawrence Rare Coins Monday - Internet Auction # 281, 287/Lot# 244 $425.50
9/7/2011 PCGS AU 55   Heritage Auctions 2011 September Long Beach Signature US Coin Auction Session(4), 1159/Lot# 7302 $460.00
2/28/2012 NGC MS 64   Stack's Bowers The March 2012 Baltimore Auction, 135/Lot# 1809 $592.25
5/19/2013 PCGS VF 35   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 05/19/2013, 75/Lot# 115864 $72.19
8/30/2013 PCGS AU 53   Stack's Bowers The September 2013 Philadelphia Auction, 195/Lot# 4281 $191.53

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1866 RAYS 5C MS
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 66
Points: 3712
Owner: jacmitch
Grade: MS 65
Points: 2643
Owner: mtayl03
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