The Liberty Head nickel was a coin with a simple design that had great success among consumers and has now found a place in today’s coin collectors’ hoards. Liberty Head nickels can still be had for reasonable prices, which makes them a great coin for casual collectors and those interested in American history.
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Charles Barber, who was the chief mint engraver for the US Mint, designed the Liberty Head nickel that was put into production in 1883. The coin would have a production run of 29 years, ending in 1912 with a few accidental strikes in 1913. Because the reverse of the coin features a large Roman Numeral “V,” the coin is commonly called a “V” nickel.
On the obverse of the coin is a bust of Lady Liberty facing left and wearing a coronet with the word “LIBERTY” inscribed on it. Thirteen stars can be found around the rim of the obverse. The date of mintage can be found centered directly below the bust of Liberty.
The reverse is very plain with the main design featuring a Roman Numeral “V” surrounded by a wreath. “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” can be found along the rim of the reverse. The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” can also be found directly above the wreath.
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 1912 Liberty Head Nickel
Although the Liberty Head nickel was also minted at Denver and San Francisco, we will specifically be focusing on the more common Philadelphia mintage. Examples minted at the Philadelphia mint lack any type of mint mark.
The Mint at Philadelphia reports a total of 26,234,000 examples of the Liberty Head nickel dated 1912. This is a larger mintage than most earlier years and is mainly attributed to the increase in coin-operated machines during the early 1900s.
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 grams. Denticles can be found on the obverse and reverse and no reeding is present on the edge of the coin.
1912 Liberty Head Nickel: End of a Series
Although successful in commerce, the Liberty Head nickel was to be replaced at the end of 1912, which marked its 29th year in production. During that time, it was common for the mint to redesign certain denominations of coins at or near 30 years of production.
The design change would come in 1913 when James E. Fraser’s Buffalo nickel would go into production. Despite this change, Liberty Head nickels would continue to circulate and continue to be used in commerce for years to come.
Minted during the the late 1800s and early 1900s means that the Liberty Head nickel was minted during a time of great prosperity in the United States. With the industrial revolution in full swing, America would see a surge in growth and a need for new currency.
Liberty Head nickels were minted in plenty during the series’ lifespan and has resulted in many surviving today. Collectors enjoy holding Liberty Head nickels that have seen some of the greatest growth in the history of the United States.
Even though the Buffalo nickel tends to upstage the Liberty Head nickel in popularity and common knowledge, most collectors still have a section of their collection dedicated to the Liberty Head nickel.
Pricing the 1912 Liberty Head Nickel
Before examining the prices that each grade brings, it needs to be known that most 1912 Liberty Head nickels are in a lower grade and are quite common.
Examples in Good 4 and Very Good 8 see a price range of $1.75 – $2.50. Fine 12 coins see a price increase to $4.50 and Very Fine 20 coins jump up to $13. A significant increase to $31 can be seen when the grade increases to Extremely Fine 40.
Uncirculated examples are most sought after by collectors and have much higher prices than circulated examples. Currently, MS-60 examples bring about $85 per coin. An increase in grade to MS-63 realizes a price increase to $140.
Grades above MS-65 are very rare but command significant prices. MS-65 grades currently have an estimated price of $550. Additionally, very few MS-66 examples have been graded, but are valued at $1,700!
What makes the 1912 Liberty Head nickel a great coin for collectors is the range in prices. For those wanting to just own a example of the coin can find a example for under $5, while collectors and investors can buy premium coins for well over $100. Prices should continue to stay steady because of demand regularly meeting supply.