Written by Javier Mercado
Known as nickels, the US 5 cents are very much loved by american to be part of their coins collection. Given its low face value, its beauty and the ease with which it can be found in very good condition, it is a type of collection with many followers throughout the world.
Here you can find a guide with the most valuable nickels:
- Nickels from 1964 (specific and more detailed post about this type)
- Valuable buffalo nickels (specific and more detailed post about this type)
- 1940 Jefferson nickels and 1941 nickels
Valuable nickels – How to locate types of Mint
Mints that issued 5-cent nickel coins are represented on the coin itself by a small die-cut letter. We will show a small guide to identify our nickel or 5 cent mint:
- If it doesn’t have a letter or has a “P,” it comes from the Philadelphia Mint, which is also the leading mint in the United States
- “S” for San Francisco
- “O” for New Orleans
- “D” for Denver
In this image, we see the location of the mint mark on the nickel. In all of them it is on the back of the coin, surrounded by a red circle. Remember that if there are no letters on the coin, it will be minted at U.S. main mint, Philadelphia.
Nickels that are worth money
Nickels and half dimes are very prolific emissions. They have been minted over the last two and a half centuries in numbers of many billions. As in all modern numismatic series, there are some key dates and mints to complete the series, most sought after by collectors.
We will highlight some key references in nickel collecting, with their approximate values in the states of conservation most sought after by collectors:
|1885 “Liberty Head”||$2600||$2975||$4450||$9450||–|
|1886 “Liberty Head”||$1280||$1580||$2800||$18500||–|
Some tips about Nickels with value: 1940, 1941, Buffalo and others
Let’s give an approximation of the prices of the most valuable nickels. As we always explain, small differences in equal currencies, almost imperceptible to inexperienced eyes, can cause huge variations in selling prices. Therefore, we recommend that if you think you have a very valuable nickel, go to a professional and ask for an appraisal. For example, you can do this with the grading companies NGC or PCGS.
Most valuable nickels and key dates
We will take as reference a state of conservation MS60. This state of conservation means that a coin is not worn out by circulation, even though it may have different marks, blows or scratches from cleaning.
By far the most expensive nickels (rare nickels) are the “Early Half Dimes“. It is a coin that normally, the one who has it knows perfectly its value. We can say that it is very unlikely that a non-collector would find a forgotten Early Half Dime in a drawer at home.
We can divide this kind into two big groups:
- Coins minted between 1792 and 1805 are priced at MS60 between $12,000 and $20,000
- Coins minted between 1829 and 1837 have a collector’s market value of between $400 and $750.
List of Valuable Seated Liberty Half Dimes
The next type we’re gonna list is the Seated Liberty Half Dime. This prolific issue, which took place from 1837 to 1873 In addition, we can find them minted in Philadelphia (no mint mark), San Francisco (marked with an ‘S’) and New Orleans (marked with an ‘O’).
In general, we can find all the references of this currency for prices that vary in MS60 between $200 and $700, except for some key dates:
- Seated Liberty Half Dime 1846 This rare coin is the key-date for the Seated Liberty Half Dimes collection. Graduated as MS60, it’s priced at $18,000.
- Seated Liberty Half Dime 1853-O No Arrows. The variant without the arrows on either side of the New Orleans mint date is priced at approximately $11,000.
- Seated Liberty Half Dime 1844-O. Another of the key dates in the series, a coin dated 1844 and bearing the mint mark ‘O’ has a price of $7,500.
List of Valuable Shield Nickels
Let’s move on to the Shield Nickels. This series, coined between 1866 and 1883, which was only produced in Philadelphia, can be found on MS60 between $150 and $400 except for 4 key dates.
- Shield Nickel 1880. Undoubtedly the queen of the Shield Nickels collections. It has a retail price of approximately $14,500
- Shield Nickel 1879. This rare issue costs about $2,100
- Shield Nickel 1883/2. To mint some coins dated 1883, stamps from the previous year were used, and we can see the 2 engraved under the date. A coin with this correction costs about $1,900
- Shield Nickel 1881. The most affordable of the “Shield Nickels” key dates, priced at $1,200.
Value of Liberty Head Nickels
With the “Liberty Head Nickels” we are already starting to find more affordable coins for average collectors. Many of their dates cost less than $100, and almost all other dates are in the $100-$300 range on MS60. The key dates for this series, produced between 1883 and 1912 are as follows:
- Liberty Head Nickels 1885. It’s priced at $2,600
- Liberty Head Nickels 1886. The value of this date is $1,600
Value buffalo nickels
The Buffalo Nickels can be found between 1913 and 1938. In general, like almost all numismatics of the 20th century, they are coins with little economic value unless they are in a very high state of conservation. In MS60 we can consider them to be of medium quality, and they have few key dates. Among them, we will highlight some years, all from the San Francisco Mint:
- Buffalo Nickel 1924-S. It’s priced at $2,500
- Buffalo Nickel 1926-S. A value of approximately $5,100
- Buffalo Nickel 1918-S. It costs about $900
Click here to know our list of Buffalo Nickels prices.
How much Jefferson Nickels are worth?
The most modern nickels, the so-called “Jefferson Nickels”, we could say that they have a negligible value on MS60. They’re coins minted in the millions, very easy to find. Collectors are looking for PROOF coins. Circulating issues are very difficult to get into collections, as even PROOF coins are very affordable.
Valuable Nickels 1964: nickels worth money
A special case is the 1964 5 cents issue. There’s nothing special about this issue of the Jefferson nickels in its regular print run. A total of 2.8 billion pieces were minted between the Denver and Philadelphia mints, and it is priced even at the highest states of conservation at less than $100.
However, there is a so-called ‘specimen’ issue, with a characteristic satin finish and particularly strong minting. These special pieces, originally produced to enter the NationalNumismaticCollection, ended up entering the private collector’s market.
They are considered too rare and valuable a reference to enter normal collections. However, the most powerful collectors do aspire to get a 1964 Jefferson Nickel ‘Specimen’. They have a market price of:
|1964 Jefferson Nickel ‘Specimen’||$1750||$2250||$3350||$5750|
Nickels History: Types of nickels in the United States
The nickel coin is popularly known as ‘nickel’, because when it first became popular, it was made of an alloy of copper and nickel.
Active since the end of the 18th century, the type used and its composition have been evolving. The price of nickel or half dime can vary greatly between the oldest and the current ones.
It began to be coined in 1792, as part of the monetary system established by the Coinage Act. The first issues were made of 1.20g of pure silver, and at that time they were known as ‘half dimes’, being the dime the 10 cents coin.
These first issues are very scarce coins, as all the small modules, circulated quite a lot, so it is very difficult to find them in high states of conservation. For this reason, they are very appreciated and valuable coins in the numismatic market, sometimes reaching exorbitant prices.
The first types used, popularly known as “Early Half Dimes“, were discontinued over time, not being coined every year. What they have in common is that they all show a bust of an allegory of Liberty on the obverse, and a representation of the bald eagle with the United States shield on the reverse. They are made of a .900 silver alloy.
In 1837, the type was totally modified, and the so-called “Seated Liberty Half Dime” began to be coined, with a design that would also be used on its older sisters of 25 cents, half dollar and silver dollar.
With the same composition as the “Early Half Dime“, they are still quite rare and loved by collectors. In Mint State they are pieces that vary in price from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars, due to the fact that not too many units have arrived in good condition until today.
The first great reform of the monetary system that affected the nickel 5 cents coins took place in 1866. In it, the composition was changed and minting in non-noble metals began. An alloy of copper and nickel was chosen, and the size of the coins was considerably increased, up to 5 grams in weight.
Between 1866 and 1883 we find the “Shield Nickel” type. On the obverse side, the heraldic shield of the United States is represented, and on the reverse side, surrounding the number 5 in representation of its facial value, a composition of rays and stars.
From 1883 to 1912, we again find nickels with the bust of the allegory of Freedom on the front. On this occasion, the reverse side represents the value in Roman numerals ‘V’, surrounded by a laurel wreath. It is known as the “Liberty Head Nickel“.
Perhaps the most well-known type of nickel, because of the beauty of its design and the representativeness of its dexterity, is the “Buffalo Nickel”. On the obverse side, we find the bust of an American Indian. On the back, we find a beautiful engraving of a bison. These coins are very popular in the collector’s market, as they are very different from the typical motifs represented in American numismatics.
Finally, from 1938 to the present day, with more than 80 years of use, we find ourselves with one of the longest-lasting motifs in world numismatics. The so-called “Jefferson Nickel” is a coin often used as an introduction to numismatics. It has a great abundance, and a scarce economic value, which makes it used by collectors around the world to complete the series without the need to make a significant economic outlay.
Apasionado de las inversiones, historia y coleccionismo de monedas en general. Licenciado en Antropología Cultural por la UNED y graduado en Informática por la Universidad de Cádiz. Escribo en diversos medios digitales especializados en coleccionismo, subastas y antigüedades.
A fan of investments, numismatics, history and coin collecting in general. Graduate in Cultural Anthropology and computer science. I write in several digital media specialized in collecting, auctions and antiques reviews. I like reliable information, so my main sources are the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and numismatic publications: CoinWeek, COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter and Coin Values.