Description and Analysis
Shield Five Cents
1866 RAYS 5C PF
Description & Analysis
Coining of the nickel five-cent piece did not begin until June 11, 1866, well after most collectors had purchased their silver proof sets for the year. Walter Breen's figure of 125 proof nickels was derived from the number of silver sets sold after that time, these including the minor coins, as well. How many proof nickels were sold as part of the minor proof sets is uncertain, but estimates range from 600-1200, and it's also possible that restrikes were made a few years later for new collectors.
The proofs of this date are generally well struck, though a few will show slight weakness at the right side of the chief, the upper portion of the shield in which horizontal lines represent the color blue. This is in contrast to the currency pieces, which are almost always poorly defined.
There seem to be enough proof 1866 nickels to satisfy the demand, though gems are scarce. So, too, are Cameo examples, while Ultra Cameo specimens are ultra rare.
This is the only issue in the series to have a tiny centering dot on the reverse. This die was evidently unique to 1866 proofs and some pattern coins.