Coin Specifications

Category: Shield Five Cents (1866-1883)
Mint: Philadelphia
Mintage: 14,742,500
Obverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Reverse Designer: James B. Longacre
Composition: Copper-Nickel
Weight: 5.0000g
Diameter: 20.5mm
Edge: Plain
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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: 2/15/2019

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

1866 RAYS 5C MS
Base $ 32.00 43.00 63.00 89.60 169 214 250 265 280 332 351 390 520 858 1850 4080 - - - -
$ 185 - - - - - - 415 625 1000 2650 11150 - -

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Total Graded: 1865
Low Grade: PrAg
Average Grade: 61
High Grade: 66

The chart showing PrAg series, G series, VG series, F series, VF series, 40 series, 45 series, 50 series, 53 series, 55 series, 58 series, 60 series, 61 series, 62 series, 63 series, 64 series, 65 series, 66 series.
NGC CENSUS DETAIL Last Updated: 2/18/2019 1866 RAYS 5C MS
 0 %0 %1 %1 %2 %2 %3 %2 %3 %5 %8 %0 %5 %10 %17 %31 %10 %1 %---- 

Auction Prices Realized

A random selection of coins is shown below.

Auction House
Sale / Lot
1/25/2004 PCGS MS 64   Goldberg January 25-28, 2004 Pre-Long Beach Coin and Currency Auction, 23/Lot# 1553 $805.00
2/2/2005 PCGS MS 64   Teletrade Auction 1996, 1996/Lot# 1096 $687.50
1/3/2012 PCGS MS 64   Heritage Auctions 2012 January 4-8 US Coins & Platinum Night FUN Signature Auction- Orlando Session(9), 1166/Lot# 9968 $805.00
3/31/2013 PCGS Genuine AU   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131315/Lot# 22081 $123.38
3/9/2014 PCGS Genuine XF   GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 03/09/2014, 167/Lot# 175806 $55.00
7/6/2014 NGC Details AU Details  GreatCollections GreatCollections Coin Auctions 07/06/2014, 188/Lot# 158933 $155.00
10/30/2014 PCGS MS 64   Stack's Bowers November Baltimore 2014, 6039/Lot# 4038 $8,812.50
11/16/2014 NGC MS 65   David Lawrence Rare Coins Internet Auction # 830, 839/Lot# 1020 $1,600.00
3/6/2018 PCGS AU 55   Heritage Auctions Internet Coin Auction Session(1), 131811/Lot# 23238 $144.00

NGC Registry

NGC Registry Score 1866 5C MS RAYS
Registry Image Gallery
Grade: MS 65
Points: 2643
Owner: Amazon
Grade: MS 65
Points: 2643
Owner: mtayl03
View the Registry Image Gallery

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