Liberty Head nickels have been forgotten by the majority of the populace but are still a popular series for collectors. Although simple, the design for Liberty Head nickels has long been seen as elegant and a true work of art. With a large amount of surviving Liberty Head nickels, collectors are able to get most dates at an affordable price.
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The designer of the Liberty Head nickel was US Mint engraver Charles Barber, whose design went into production in 1883. A total of 29 years would pass before the Liberty Head nickel would be discontinued in 1912. James Fraser’s Buffalo nickel would be the replacement for Barber’s Liberty Head nickel.
On the obverse of the coin, a bust of Lady Liberty can be found centered and facing left wearing a coronet inscribed with “LIBERTY.” Thirteen small stars circle the bust of Liberty but do not complete a full circle around the coin; the date that is found centered below the bust stops the stars from completing a full circle.
Barber’s reverse design features a main element of the roman numeral “V” surrounded by a wreath. Just above the wreath are the mottos “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” The word “CENTS” is found centered below the “V” and was included to prevent counterfeiting of Liberty Head nickels into $5 gold pieces.
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 1904 Liberty Head Nickel
Liberty Head nickels minted near the end of the series tended to have a much higher mintage than those produced at the beginning of the series. In this article, we will be examining the Philadelphia-minted 1904 Liberty Head nickel, which does not feature a mint mark.
The Mint at Philadelphia reports striking 21,403,000 Liberty Head nickels in 1904. This was a much larger number than years before, but falls in line with later year mintages. This mintage also explains the reason that many 1904 Liberty Head nickels survive to this day.
Liberty Head nickels are composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, which has been the common composition for United States’ nickels. Each also has a 21.21-mm diameter and a weight of 5.0 grams. Denticles can be found on the obverse and reverse, and no reeding is present on the edge of the coin.
1904 Triple Punched Date Liberty Head Nickel
Although not really known for errors in the series, there are some 1904 Liberty Head nickels that have had a triple-punched date. This error is relatively small but can have an effect on value.
Since dates were added to coin dies manually, sometimes those applying the dates would make a mistake and need to “punch” the date on the coin a second time. This normally results in a small almost ghost-like raising of the date that was first applied. Value for this type of error comes from the separation and definition of the repunched date.
Most repunched date errors show only two punches and little separation. It is rare to have examples that show three date punch attempts.
Despite the rarity of being punched three times, this particular error has very little separation in each punch. This makes finding the error very hard, and it does not give the coin a huge premium because the error is very subdued.
If you think that your 1904 Liberty Head nickel is of the triple-punched-date variety, be sure to get a reputable coin dealer’s opinion. Alternatively, you could send the coin to a third-party grader like PCGS or NGC for certification.
Pricing the 1904 Liberty Head Nickel
Since many surviving examples of the 1904 Liberty Head nickel are still available for sale, prices remain somewhat low.
In Good 4 to Very Good 8 condition, each coin is approximately $1.75–$2.25. Fine 12 sees a price increase to $4. Very Fine 20 increases to $13 and Extremely Fine 40 realizes prices of $31.
Most surviving examples will be in grades of Good to Fine; very few make it above Extremely Fine. Uncirculated examples are generally rare and command a much higher price.
MS-60 examples have a given price of $85. A jump to $165 is seen for coins that make a MS-63 grade. Although rare, coins that meet the MS-65 grade are given a value of $515!
This range in price gives collectors very different price points if they want to purchase a 1904 Liberty Head nickel. These prices should not change by that much as demand continues to stay similar to supply. Uncirculated examples may see price rises if more investors move to coins as a way to diversify their portfolio.