VarietyPlus » Shield Nickels (1866-1883)

Shield Nickels (1866-1883)

Like the three-cent piece introduced the year before, the copper-nickel five-cent piece was created to retire the unpopular fractional currency notes of that value. These had themselves been issued in place of the silver half dime, hoarded since 1862 and never again to play a significant role in circulation.

A homely coin, the Shield Nickel was also proportionally too thick for its diameter, this awkward size resulting from the determination of Congress to have a coin weighing an even five grams. The result was poorly struck coins and rapid die failure. To reduce the rate at which dies cracked and chipped, the U. S. Mint removed the rays from this coin’s reverse in 1867, but the improvement in die life was negligible.

These coins were produced in large numbers from 1866 through 1869, but once the despised fractional notes had been replaced a redundancy of nickels developed, and mintages declined. A high mintage was not achieved again until 1882, by which time a replacement design was already being readied.

Moderately popular with date collectors, the only challenges to completing this series are the proof-only issues of 1877-78 and the low-mintage dates of 1879-81. Proofs of the latter three are more commonly seen than currency strikes.

This series is astonishingly rich in varieties. The rapid failure of dies and the consequent great number of dies needed to produce even modest mintages led to hasty work. The result was a vast array of doubled dies, repunched dates, hub changes and progressive die breaks. Perhaps the most prominent of these varieties are the Reverse of 1868 nickels, the 1869 Narrow Date dies, the several doubled-die obverses of 1872 and the various overdates of 1883. In all likelihood, there are as many or more variety collectors of this series as there are date collectors.

NGC attribute an extensive roster of Shield Nickel varieties described in VarietyPlus. Additional varieties are found within more specialized references.

Denom.MS/PFDateFee*NGC LabelVarietyPlusFivaz-Stanton (NEW)Fivaz-Stanton (OLD)Fletcher
5CMS1866 RAYS DDO$15FS-101 VP-008 FS-001.7F-22
5CMS1866 RAYS DDO$15FS-102 VP-009 FS-001.5F-21
5CMS1866/1866 RAYS$15FS-301 VP-002 FS-001F-08
5CMS1866/1866 RAYS$15FS-302 VP-001 FS-001.1F-10
5CMS1866/1866 RAYS$15FS-303 VP-004 FS-001.2F-20
5CMS1866/1866 RAYS-FS-304 VP-005 FS-001.3F-16
5CMS1866/1866 RAYS$15FS-305 VP-006 FS-001.4F-13
5CMS1866/1866 RAYS$15VP-003    F-11
5CMS1866/1866 RAYS$15VP-007    F-12
5CMS1867 RAYS-     
5CMS1867/1867 RAYS$15FS-301 VP-002 FS-002.1F-08
5CMS1867/1867 RAYS DDO$15FS-302 VP-001 FS-002.4F-09
5CMS1867/1-67 RAYS$15FS-303 VP-003 FS-002.7F-02
5CMS1867 18/18 RAYS$15VP-011    F-04
5CMS1867 RAYS MPD$15FS-304   FS-002.6F-01
5CMS1867 NO RAYS-     
5CMS1867 NO RAYS DDO$15FS-1101 VP-009 FS-001.8F-59
5CMS1867/1867 NO RAYS DDO$15FS-1102 VP-001 FS-002F-54
5CMS1867/1867 NO RAYS$15FS-1301 VP-002 FS-001.9F-23
5CMS1867/1867 NO RAYS$15FS-1302 VP-005 FS-002.15F-25
5CMS1867/1867 NO RAYS$15FS-1303   FS-002.2F-21
5CMS1867/1867 NO RAYS$15FS-1304 VP-006 FS-002.25F-20
5CMS1867/1867 NO RAYS$15FS-1305 VP-003 FS-002.3F-22
5CMS1867 18/18 NO RAYS$15FS-1306 VP-008 FS-002.35F-8.01
5CMS1867/1867 NO RAYS$15FS-1307 VP-004 FS-002.5F-38
5CMS1867/67 NO RAYS$15FS-1308 VP-007 FS-002.9F-46
5CMS1867 NO RAYS MPD$15FS-1309   FS-002.45 
5CMS1867/67 NO RAYS$15VP-010    Unlisted?
5CMS1867/1867 NO RAYS$15VP-012    F-26
5CMS1867 18/18 NO RAYS$15VP-013    F-13
5CMS1868 REV OF 67$15     
5CMS1868 DDO REV OF 67$15FS-101 VP-001 FS-003F-42
5CMS1868 DDO REV OF 67$15FS-103 VP-002 FS-003.8F-40
5CMS1868 DDO REV OF 67$15FS-104 VP-005 FS-003.9F-34
5CMS1868 DDO&DDR REV OF 67$15FS-105 VP-006 FS-003.95F-45
5CMS1868 1/1 DDO REV OF 67$15FS-107 VP-003 FS-003.97F-43
5CMS1868/8 DDO REV OF 67$15VP-021    F-35.01
5CMS1868/1868 REV OF 67$15FS-301 VP-010 FS-003.2F-19
5CMS1868/68 REV OF 67$15FS-303 VP-103 FS-003.35F-28
5CMS1868/1868 REV OF 67$15FS-304 VP-012 FS-003.4F-25
5CMS1868/1868 REV OF 67$15FS-305 VP-018 FS-003.45 
5CMS1868/68 REV OF 67$15FS-306 VP-017 FS-003.5F-24
5CMS1868/68 REV OF 67$15FS-307 VP-016 FS-003.7F-NL-1
5CMS1868/68 REV OF 67$15FS-309 VP-015 FS-003.85F-11
5CMS1868/1868 REV OF 67$15FS-310 VP-009 FS-003.98F-20
5CMS1868 18/18 REV OF 67$15FS-311 MISSING LEAF VP-019 FS-003.985 
5CMS1868 MPD REV OF 67$15FS-313   FS-003.6F-02
5CMS1868 18/18 REV OF 67$15VP-014    F-18
5CMS1868 REV OF 68$15     
5CMS1868 TDO REV OF 68$15FS-102 VP-007 FS-003.65 
5CMS1868 DDO REV OF 68$15FS-106 VP-004 FS-003.96F-107
5CMS1868 DDO REV OF 68$15VP-020    F-108
5CMS1868/868 REV OF 68$15FS-302 VP-011 FS-003.3F-NL-2
5CMS1868 MPD REV OF 68$15FS-312 VP-008 FS-003.1F-102
5CMS1869 REV OF 67$15     
5CMS1869 REV OF 67$15NARROW DATE  FS-301FS-005F-01
5CMS1869/1869 REV OF 67$15FS-1302 VP-004 FS-005.3F-104
5CMS1869/1869 REV OF 67$15FS-1306 VP-005 FS-005.68F-105
5CMS1869 REV OF 69$15     
5CMS1869 DDO REV OF 69$15FS-1101 VP-001 FS-004F-413
5CMS1869/69 DDO REV OF 69$15FS-1102 VP-003 FS-004.5F-414
5CMS1869/69 DDO REV OF 69$15FS-1103 VP-002 FS-005.67F-411
5CMS1869 18/18 REV OF 69$15FS-1303 VP-006 FS-005.4F-202
5CMS1869/1869 REV OF 69$15FS-1304 VP-007 FS-005.5F-408
5CMS1869/1869 REV OF 69$15FS-1305 VP-008 FS-005.6F-409
5CMS1870/70 DDO$15FS-101 VP-002 FS-005.7F-03
5CMS1870 DDO$15FS-102 VP-003 FS-005.74F-12
5CMS1870/0 DDO$15FS-103 VP-001 FS-005.75F-3.01
5CMS1870 DDO$15VP-008    F-08
5CMS1870 1/1/1 1C CLASH$15FS-301 VP-006 FS-005.77F-15
5CMS1870/870 MPD$15FS-302 VP-005 FS-005.76F-01
5CMS1870 DDR$15FS-801 VP-004 FS-005.9F-14
5CMS1870 DDR$15VP-007    F-13
5CMS1871 DDO$15FS-101 VP-001 FS-006 
5CMS1871/1871 $15FS-301 VP-002 FS-006.5F-02
5CMS1872 DDO$15FS-101 VP-006 FS-007F-121
5CMS1872 DDO$15FS-102 VP-004 FS-007.1F-123
5CMS1872 DDO$15FS-103 VP-002 FS-007.2F-124
5CMS1872 DDO$15FS-104 VP-003 FS-007.3F-109
5CMS1872 TDO$15FS-105 VP-005 FS-007.4F-05
5CMS1872 DDO$15FS-106 VP-001 FS-007.5F-116
5CMS1872 DDO$15VP-012    F-117
5CMS1872/1872 $15FS-301 VP-008 FS-007.6F-104
5CMS1872 7/2/2/2 $15FS-302   FS-007.65 
5CMS1872/1872 $15FS-303 VP-009 FS-007.7F-103
5CMS1872/72 $15FS-304 VP-010 FS-007.76 
5CMS1872/72 MPD$15FS-305   FS-007.77 
5CMS1872/187 $15FS-306   FS-007.9F-02
5CMS1872 MPD$15FS-307   FS-007.75 
5CMS1872 SM/LG DATE$15FS-308 VP-007 FS-007.8F-102
5CMS1873 CLOSED 3-     
5CMS1873 DDO CLOSED 3$15FS-101 VP-002 FS-008F-04
5CMS1873 DDO CLOSED 3$15FS-102 VP-001 FS-008.7F-05
5CMS1873 DDO CLOSED 3$15FS-103 VP-003 FS-008.8F-06
5CMS1873 DDO CLOSED 3$15VP-005    F-08
5CMS1873 OPEN 3-     
5CMS1873 DDO OPEN 3$15FS-1101   FS-008.3F-113
5CMS1873 DDO&MPD OPEN 3$15FS-1102 VP-004 FS-008.5F-102
5CMS1873 DDO OPEN 3$15VP-008     
5CMS1873 LG/SMDT OPEN 3$15FS-1301 VP-006 FS-009F-106
5CMS1873 8/1 OPEN 3$15FS-1302   FS-009.3F-103
5CMS1873/18-3 OPEN 3$15FS-1303 VP-007 FS-009.5F-110
5CMS1873/73 OPEN 3$15FS-1304   FS-009.7F-108
5CMS1874 DDO$15FS-101 VP-004 FS-010F-05
5CMS1874 DDO$15FS-102 VP-003 FS-010.4F-12
5CMS1874 DDO$15FS-103 VP-001 FS-010.5F-08
5CMS1874 DDO$15FS-104 VP-002 FS-010.6 
5CMS1874 18/18 $15FS-301   FS-010.7F-02
5CMS1874 1/1 $15FS-302   FS-010.8F-01
5CMS1875 DDO$15FS-101 VP-002 FS-011F-04
5CMS1875 DDO$15FS-102 VP-001 FS-011.3F-05
5CMS1875/75 DDO$15FS-103 VP-003 FS-011.5F-03
5CMS1876 TDO$15FS-101 VP-001 FS-012F-04
5CMS1876 DDO$15FS-102 VP-002 FS-012.1F-05
5CMS1876/187 DDO$15FS-103    F-08
5CMS1876 DDO$15VP-003    F-07
5CMS1879 18/18 $15VP-001    F-001
5CMS1881/881 $15VP-001    F-01
5CMS1882 DDO$15FS-101    F-19
5CMS1882/2 $15FS-301   FS-012.5 
5CMS1882/1882 $15FS-302    F-02
5CMS1883/2 SHIELD-     
5CMS1883/1882 SHIELD$15FS-301 VP-001 FS-013F-08
5CMS1883/882 SHIELD$15FS-302 VP-002 FS-013.1F-09
5CMS1883/82 SHIELD$15FS-303 VP-003 FS-013.2F-10
5CMS1883/882 SHIELD$15FS-304 VP-004 FS-013.3 
5CMS1883/2 SHIELD$15FS-305    F-07
5CMS1883 1/1 SHIELD$15FS-311 VP-006 FS-012.8F-04
5CMS1883/1883 SHIELD$15FS-312 VP-005 FS-012.9F-02
5CPF1872 DDO$15VP-012    F-06
5CPF1879 18/18 $15VP-001    F-001
5CPF1883 SHIELD-     

* In order to have the above varieties requiring the $15 fee designated by NGC, VarietyPlus service must be requested at time of grading. VarietyPlus service is also available for coins already encapsulated by NGC. For coins where the fee column is blank, no VarietyPlus charge is required to have your coin designated during grading. For coins marked $15, a $15 surcharge applies to the tier fee during grading, or a $15 fee applies to have the VarietyPlus designation added to any coin already graded and encapsulated by NGC.
Fivaz, Bill & J.T. Stanton. The Cherrypickers' Guide to Rare Die Varieties, 5th Edition, Volume 1. Whitman Publishing, Atlanta, 2009
Fletcher, Edward L., Jr.,. The Shield Five Cent Series: A Comprehensive Listing of Known Varieties. Dead End Publishing, Ormond Beach, 1994
Peters, Gloria & Cynthia Mohon. The Complete Guide to Shield & Liberty Head Nickels. DLRC Press, Virginia Beach, 1995