USA Coin Album: The Nickels of 1883 – Part 2
Posted on 6/8/2021
The year of 1883 saw two different designs of copper-nickel five-cent pieces, the second of which comprised two significant subtypes before the year was done. It’s only natural that so many changes and so many coins resulted in a number of collectible varieties for all three issues.
The Shield nickel series is renowned for its seemingly countless varieties. There were quite a number of doubled-die obverse (DDO) varieties in the early years of the series, though these are increasingly uncommon for dates after 1876, when mintages fell for several successive years. In fact, there don’t appear to be any doubled-dies for 1883, but there is a generous assortment of repunched date (RPD) and overdate (OVD) varieties. These form a very nice collection in themselves.
One of the most desirable of the overdates is popular enough to be illustrated in the Red Book (A Guide Book of United States Coins). This is best known as variety FS-302 from the book Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins (aka CPG; the letters “FS” are the initials of the co-authors, Bill Fivaz and J. T. Stanton).
I would have selected FS-301 as the Red Book entry, since that die reveals more of the underlying numeral 2. Still, both reveal distinctive underlying numerals from a date that originally read 1882 before being overpunched for coining during 1883. NGC’s VarietyPlus® website features three more overdates for the 1883 Shield nickel, as well as three varieties that are repunchings of the single date 1883.
There are no overdates of the 1883 Liberty Head nickel, for the simple reason that none were coined during 1882, aside from a few very scarce pattern coins. There are, however, several repunched dates of varying collector appeal. FS-1302 includes a complete duplication of all four numerals, the entire date having been repunched clockwise to its first impression.
Another one that’s less obvious but no less collectible is not found in the CPG, so NGC assigned its own VarietyPlus® number, VP-004. This reveals numeral 1 doubled at its bottom, and the variety does appear in the book Treasure Hunting Liberty Nickels, by Kevin Flynn and Bill Van Note, as their RPD-011. An even better one from that book is RPD-001, which has the entire date repunched slightly counterclockwise to its first impression; NGC assigned Number VP-003 to this desirable variety.
All of the Liberty Head nickel varieties described thus far are found solely within the first emission lacking the word CENTS on its reverse. One especially interesting variety, however, is found both with and without this value statement. The CPG Number FS-1301 is assigned to the CENTS subtype of 1883 nickels, for which it is most often seen, but in rare instances it may be found on “No CENTS” nickels. The base of a duplicate numeral 1 is seen protruding left from the lower loop of the first 8.
Evidently, this obverse die was put into use shortly before the Philadelphia Mint prepared a new batch of reverse dies that included the value. It was used to strike a fairly small number of coins lacking the word CENTS before a new, modified die was installed into the press.
David W. Lange's column, “USA Coin Album,” appears monthly in The Numismatist, the official publication of the American Numismatic Association.
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