1908 Liberty Head Nickel: Panic of 1907 Leads to Lower Mintages

With a simple but pleasing design, the Liberty nickel became a public favorite when the coin was first released. Today, collectors continue to show their love for the Liberty nickel by adding it to their collections. Even new collectors can easily start collecting Liberty nickels because they are relatively cheap and can be commonly found at any coin shop.

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Liberty Head nickels were designed by Charles Barber in the year 1883. The same year, the design went into production and would continue to be produced until 1912. Liberty nickels are commonly called “V Nickels” because of the large roman numeral “V” on the reverse.

On the obverse of the coin is a bust of Lady Liberty facing left and wearing a coronet inscribed with the word “LIBERTY.” Thirteen stars surround the bust near the edge of the coin. The date of mintage is found below the bust, centered at the bottom.

The reverse design is very simplistic and is made up of the Roman Numeral “V,” which is surrounded by a wreath. “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” can be found above the “V.” The word “CENTS” is centered at the bottom of the reverse, just below the base of the “V.”

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 1908 Liberty Head Nickel

Because of the panic of 1907, the mint lowered overall production in 1908. Many examples are common, but uncirculated higher-grade examples may be harder to find or more expensive than other dates in the same decade.

The Mint at Philadelphia reported minting a total of 22,684,000 Liberty Head nickels in 1908. In the years to follow, mintages would increase again to levels just under 30 million.

Liberty Head nickels are composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, which is the established 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.

Normal Wear Patterns of Liberty Nickels

Each coin series has a particular type of wear pattern that is used to help determine grading. Wear patterns are unique and interesting given the way that certain parts of a coin will wear away before other parts.

Most coin series have a wear pattern that keeps most of the coin’s design from wearing away. Liberty Nickels have a wear pattern that results in many elements wearing away at once. This led to many Liberty Nickels losing all details in a matter of years when in heavy circulation.

One of the first parts of the coin to feature wear are the high points, like the strands of Liberty’s hair on the obverse or the wreath around the “V” on the reverse. Because these elements do not provide much of a shield for the rest of the design, widespread wear occurs quickly.

Areas like the coronet on the obverse and the legends on the reverse are the next elements that wear. At this point, wear is evident but not to widespread enough to make the coin lose its overall design.

The final stage of wear is where the entire reverse design is destroyed and the obverse is worn almost flat. Many Liberty Head nickels, especially those that are from earlier in the series, have reached the final category of wear and are worn almost flat. These coins are very abundant and relatively cheap.

Pricing The 1912 Liberty Head Nickel

Despite the slight drop in mintage for 1908, Liberty nickels from this year are very common in grades below uncirculated.

Examples in Good 4 to Very Good 8 are worth about $2–$2.50. A jump in price to $13 in observed for coins in Very Fine 20. Extremely Fine 40 examples currently realize a price of $31.

Uncirculated examples bring the highest prices as they are somewhat harder to find. Currently, MS-60 examples sell for $85 while MS-63 graded coins can be had for $170. Prices take a huge jump to $1,050 for examples that are graded as MS-65.

Only one example of a 1908 Liberty nickel has been graded by third-party grader NGC. This coin is currently valued at $9,500 and last sold at auction in 2010 at $6,600.

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