The Rich History of the Liberty Head
Origin & Design
The Liberty Head nickel was introduced in 1883 and was minted for circulation by the U.S. Mint until 1913. This nickel is composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel and is often referred to as the V-nickel for its reverse design featuring the Roman numeral “V.”
Designed by Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber, the Liberty nickel was produced to replace the Shield nickel. The obverse of the coin features a left-facing depiction of the goddess of Liberty, surrounded by 13 stars, with the year date at the bottom edge. The reverse of the coin features the Roman numeral “V” to denote the five-cent value, and is surrounded by a wreath made up of corn, wheat, and cotton.
The earliest coins did not indicate “Five Cents” on the reverse, which led to many new nickels being modified with gold-plating and reeded edges before being fraudulently sold as five dollar gold pieces. By the end of 1883, the U.S. Mint corrected this issue, and 1883 nickels are identified as “with cents” or “without cents.”
- The Liberty nickel remained in production until 1913, before it was replaced by the Buffalo nickel.
- Exactly five V-nickels were minted in 1913, and are now some of the most expensive coins in the world. One resides in the Smithsonian Institution, one in the American Numismatic Association Money Museum, and three others are privately owned.
- These iconic nickels were produced at the Philadelphia Mint during every year of the series, but production also took place at Denver and San Francisco during 1912.
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Which Liberty head nickels are most valuable?
The most valuable Liberty head nickels are those minted in the years 1885 and 1913. With only five coins produced in the year 1913, these rare and unique coins can be quite hard to come by, and sell for millions of dollars when they change ownership. The last purchase was for $4.56 million in 2018. Other rare and potentially valuable mint dates are 1885, 1886, and 1912-S.
What are key dates for Liberty head nickels?
Liberty Nickels were minted for circulation from 1883-1913. Both the first and final year of production saw very rare coins come into existence. In 1883, the nickel’s design was changed later in the year to add the text “Five Cents,” and only five nickels were produced in 1913, becoming one of the rarest coins in all of numismatics.
What metals are Liberty head nickels made with?
V-nickels are composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, and weigh 5.000 grams.