Liberty Head Nickel Overview
Despite being relatively unknown to most collectors, Liberty Head nickels have a niche following with collectors who constantly look to find the best examples. Other collectors have found that collections of Liberty Head nickels can be put together for a relatively low price. No matter the collector, most agree that the Liberty Head nickel is a eye-pleasing and historically important series of US coins.
In 1883, the US Mint approved Charles Barber’s proposed nickel design. Barber’s design was put into production later that year and were produced until 1912. The popular Buffalo nickel succeeded the Liberty Head nickel in 1913.
On the obverse of the Liberty Head nickel is a bust of Lady Liberty, facing left and wearing a cornet inscribed with “LIBERTY.” Found along the edge of the obverse are thirteen small stars. The date of mintage can be found just below Liberty’s neck.
A Roman numeral “V” is found centered with a wreath around the outside on the reverse. Above the Roman numeral are the mottos “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and “UNITED STATES.” The word “CENTS” is centered at the bottom of the reverse and is meant to go with the “V,” thus designating the value of the coin at five cents.
If you would like to know more about the Liberty Head nickel or other rare and collectible nickels, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Nickels.
History of the 1899 Liberty Head Nickel
The Liberty Head nickel was minted in massive numbers in 1899. These large mintage runs would continue for a decade due to a higher demand for currency because of the rapidly growing United States.
The Mint at Philadelphia reports minting a total of 26,027,000 examples of Liberty Head nickels dated 1899. Most strikes were somewhat lacking in detail, which affects today’s market for 1899 Liberty Head nickels.
Liberty Head nickels are composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, which has been the common composition for America’s nickels. Each also has a 21.21-mm diameter and a weight of 5.0 g. Denticles can be found on the obverse and reverse, and no reeding is present on the edge of the coin
Grading Liberty Head Nickels
Because a coin’s value is based on the amount of wear and overall condition of the surfaces, it is important to apply a correct grade. Grading a coin is subjective, but you can get a close grade using some simple guidelines.
Here are some simple ways to help determine what grade your Liberty Head Nickel is in.
- Good 4 – Rims are full and reverse letters are mostly clear. The bust of Lady Liberty is well worn but still defined. No letters from the word “LIBERTY” are visible on the headband.
- Very Good 8 – Overall better detail across the entire coin. At least three letters of “LIBERTY” should be present. “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is full but may be slightly weak.
- Very Fine 20 – “LIBERTY” is fully visible and more detail in Liberty’s hair is present. Some wreath details will be visible.
- Extremely Fine 40 – Overall light wear across the entire coin. Heavier wear on the hair near Liberty’s ear is present. Small amounts of luster may be present.
- Uncirculated 60 – A coin that hasn’t seen any type of circulation and has no wear on any surface. Several contact marks are present and luster is present across the entire coin.
- MS-63 – There are fewer contact marks, and the strike and luster are stronger than that of an MS-60 example. One contact mark can be somewhat distracting, but small.
- MS-65 – A coin with great strike, great luster, and eye appeal. Two or fewer very small contact marks in obscure places. A very quality strike that has many strong details.
Valuing the 1899 Liberty Head Nickel
Many examples of the 1899 Liberty Head nickel can still be commonly found in all grades. Lower grades tend to be more common and have a much lower price tag than premium grades.
Examples that are in Good 4 to Very Good 8 condition are valued at $2.50. The price increases to $21 for coins that are in Very Fine 20 condition. Extremely Fine 40 examples see a total price of $31.Uncirculated examples like MS-60 and MS-63 have a value of $90 and $155, respectively. MS-65 examples are relatively rare and command a price of $575. A MS-67 example sold at auction a year ago for just over $4,000!