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19 Most Valuable Nickel Worth Money

19 Most Valuable Nickel Worth Money

You might know Nickelback as the most hated band on the internet. (Though it’s not clear why!) But do you know how they got their name? Mike Kroeger used to work at Starbucks, and whenever he issued change, he’d say, ‘Here’s your nickel back.’ At the time, their band was called Village Idiot, but the new name stuck. So let’s go spot the most valuable nickel!

Most Valuable Nickel

1. 1935 Buffalo Nickel PCGS MS63 DDR FS-801 (FS-018) 5c

1935 Buffalo Nickel PCGS MS63 DDR FS-801 (FS-018) 5c

We’ll start by looking at the history of the nickel. It’s an American 5-cent coin that’s been in use since 1866. Like other coins, it’s made of a cupronickel alloy that’s 75% copper and 25% nickel. Here’s the key difference – with nickels, this metal composition started from day one.

  • Year: 1935
  • Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
  • Grade: MS63
  • Value: $6,650

Quarter and half-dollars were mostly made of silver until the Johnson Sandwich of 1965. It was introduced to battle rising silver prices. On these later coins, a copper core was clad with a cupronickel coating. And for 5c coins, early versions (known as half dimes) were silver too.

 

2. 1976 S Proof Jefferson Nickel NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo Low Pop!!

1976 S Proof Jefferson Nickel NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo Low Pop!!

These half dimes were minted in pure silver from 1792 to 1873, so nobody called them nickels yet. During the Civil War, people switched to paper money because precious metals were being hoarded during the war. This paper money included a fractional currency 5c note.

  • Year: 1976
  • Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)
  • Grade: PF70
  • Value: $4,999.99

At one point, Spencer M. Clark put his face on the 5c note, causing some controversy. Clark was in charge of the Currency Bureau, but the hubris of putting his face on federal money caused a stir. These notes were banned in 1865, and in 1866, Congress allowed base metals.

 

3. Liberty V Nickel Collection 1883-1912 100% Complete- Incl 1885 Proof! Framed

Liberty V Nickel Collection 1883-1912 100% Complete- Incl 1885 Proof! Framed

This Clark issue could have been an innocent mistake. Maybe. Congress had asked for the 5c fractional note to have ‘Clark’ on the front, meaning explorer William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame. But the Currency Bureau boss cheekily applied creative license and used his own face.

  • Year: 1883 to 1912
  • Mint Mark: Mixed
  • Grade: Mixed
  • Value: $2,499

Beyond banning the note, Congress legislated that no living person could be placed on cash. They wanted to fire Spencer Clark but the Treasury Secretary (Salmon P. Chase) wouldn’t let them. Congress then asked for 5-cent coins similar to the existing 3-cent cupronickel coins.

 

4. 2005-d Jefferson Nickel Bison PCGS MS67 TOP POP 4/0 Jamie Franki Auto The Best

2005-d Jefferson Nickel Bison PCGS MS67 TOP POP 40 Jamie Franki Auto The Best

This move to base metals was never intended to be permanent. For reference, base metal coins contain copper, tin, zinc, etc. while silver and gold coins are technically referred to as specie coins. But businessman Joseph Wharton wanted this use of nickel to go on forever.

  • Year: 2005
  • Mint Mark: D (Denver)
  • Grade: MS67
  • Value: $2,000

Why? He controlled most of the nickel production in the US, and he frequently used political connections to lobby for the use of nickel in currency. He also spent a fortune setting up the infrastructure for federal nickel minting. But let’s talk about cupronickel 25c and 50c coins.

 

5. 1965 Full Steps Regular Strike Nickel

1965 Full Steps Regular Strike Nickel

Quarters and half-dollars are clad, but cupronickel comprises the entire content of a nickel. The other coins only have nickel on their outermost layers, but nickels themselves have the same metal mix all through. If you slice a nickel, it’ll still be shiny and whitish in the middle.

  • Year: 1965
  • Mint Mark: None (Coin Shortage)
  • Grade: None
  • Value: $2,500

But if you cut through the thickness of a quarter or half-dollar, the innermost sections will be a gorgeous reddish-brown tone that’s characteristic of copper. And if the innards are exposed long enough, they’ll soon acquire that greenish tinge that comes from oxidation and tarnish.

 

6. 1921 ¾ Horn Old Buffalo Nickel WW I Era US Coin Scarce Date

1921 ¾ Horn Old Buffalo Nickel WW I Era US Coin Scarce Date

The first nickels to be minted were nicknamed Shield Nickels since they had a shield on the obverse – that’s the technical name for the heads side of a coin. The tails side is referred to as its reverse. Shield Nickels have Roman No. 5 (V) on the back, with stars and rays around it.

  • Year: 1921
  • Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
  • Grade: None
  • Value: $2,000

These coins were 20.5mm in diameter (0.807”) and they were minted from 1866 to 1883. The coins were hard to make and Wharton claimed the shield looked like a tombstone. By 1883, the Shield Nickel had been replaced by the Liberty Nickel, which stayed until 1913.

 

7. Old Coin USA 5 cent Buffalo Indian Head Nickel 1915P (373)

Old Coin USA 5 cent Buffalo Indian Head Nickel 1915P (373)

During the early years of the nickel, trade was an issue. Starting 1867, the Mint made two obverse designs – one with rays and one without. This made the public assume some were fake and made them wary of using these coins, which they already considered quite ugly.

  • Year: Unclear
  • Mint Mark: Unclear
  • Grade: None
  • Value: $2,300

Also, legally, you could only pay up to $1 in nickels at the bank, and the Treasury wouldn’t take less than $100 in nickels, giving you a $100 banknote in exchange. So shops and post offices got stuck with tons of nickels they couldn’t use. In 1871, the limit was dropped to $20.

 

8. 1930 Buffalo Nickel – PCGS MS 67 – Gold Shield

1930 Buffalo Nickel - PCGS MS 67 - Gold Shield

Despite all this, people still preferred specie coins when they could find them. And silver half dimes still existed, mostly hidden in people’s treasure chests. As the price of silver started to drop, these bullion stacks got devalued. Plus nickel exchange limits made them inconvenient.

  • Year: 1930
  • Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
  • Grade: MS67
  • Value: $2,157

So from 1876, the silver half dimes reappeared. With so many silver 5c pieces in circulation, the Mint stopped making nickels until 1881. Bad news for Joseph Wharton’s nickel mines! It was his political lobbying that led to the introduction of the cupronickel Liberty Head Nickel.

 

9. 1913-D Buffalo Nickel – PCGS MS 67 – Type 1 – Gold Shield

1913-D Buffalo Nickel - PCGS MS 67 - Type 1 - Gold Shield

In an interesting twist, Wharton’s nickels seemed to be easily faked. Various design mishaps meant some had United States on the front instead of the back while others didn’t have the word ‘Cents’ on them. They were also similar in size and weight to circulating $5 gold coins.

  • Year: 1913
  • Mint Mark: D (Denver)
  • Grade: MS67
  • Value: $2,077

Counterfeiters then looked for coins without ‘cents’, coated them in gold, added reeding on the edge, and traded them as $5 coins. The Mint soon fixed the Liberty Head Nickel to insert the word ‘cents’ in June 1883. On that same day, the Mint stopped making Shield Nickels.

 

10. 1918/7-D PCGS F12 Buffalo Nickel Great Eye Appeal

19187-D PCGS F12 Buffalo Nickel Great Eye Appeal

Let’s talk about the acceptance of nickels in the market. The demand for these 5c coins came through coin-operated casinos, vending machines, 5c ‘penny’ arcades, coin-fed violins, pianos, psychics, and nickelodeons, where you could watch 12-minute movies on a loop.

  • Year: 1918/7
  • Mint Mark: D (Denver)
  • Grade: F12
  • Value: $2,050

A lot of this popularity came from the Liberty Head Nickel, which people loved. But when it was replaced in 1912, a few 1913 specimens popped up, though there’s no record of when they were authorized or coined. Only five are known, and one sold in 2010 for $3,737,500.

 

11. Very Rare No date Indian head/Buffalo Nickle

Very Rare No date Indian headBuffalo Nickle

Next came the Buffalo Head Nickel, which was coined until 1938, when we switched to today’s Jefferson Nickel. After 1883, nickels were 21.21mm in diameter (0.835”) and 1.95mm thick. While other coins had textured reeding on their edges, the nickel had a smooth edge.

  • Year: Unclear
  • Mint Mark: Unclear
  • Grade: None
  • Value: $2,450

Base metal nickels were necessitated by the Civil War when citizens were hoarding gold and silver coins for their melt value. But another war – WWII – needed nickel for weapons and war machines. So the metal mix changed to 56% copper, 35% silver, and 9% manganese.

 

12. Very Rare 1960D Jefferson Nickel ERROR 0& R is filled in at Top Collectible Coin

Very Rare 1960D Jefferson Nickel ERROR 0& R is filled in at Top Collectible Coin

If people liked Liberty Head Nickels so much, why did the design change? You can blame that on Teddy Roosevelt. He felt American coins weren’t sufficiently artistic or pretty, and he wanted them crafted by professional sculptors. Several coins were redesigned to please him.

  • Year: 1960
  • Mint Mark: D (Denver)
  • Grade: None
  • Value: $2,249

These coins were remade starting in 1904. For the nickel, a coin with a Native American obverse and a bison reverse was minted from 1913 to 1938. They’re sometimes called Indian Head Nickels, or Buffalo Nickels, and they came in two styles with a slightly tweaked design.

 

13. 1916 5c Buffalo NGC Old Gen 2.1 Holder Proof PF 64 CAC Rare!!!

1916 5c Buffalo NGC Old Gen 2.1 Holder Proof PF 64 CAC Rare!!!

Both the obverse and the reverse of this nickel were done by James Earle Fraser. He was the assistant to the deceased Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who had designed the $10 gold eagle and the $20 gold double eagle. He had been working on other designs before he died of cancer.

  • Year: 1916
  • Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
  • Grade: PF64
  • Value: $2,670

In his final days, his assistants would carry him to the studio to review their designs, so it made sense that Fraser, one of these assistants, would step in to continue his work. Despite objections from counterfeit detection makers Hobbs Manufacturing, the coin passed muster.

 

14. The Last Five Liberty Head Nickels

The Last Five Liberty Head Nickels

While the public (and the president) loved the aesthetics of the Buffalo Nickel, the coin didn’t hold up well. With frequent use and daily circulation, the dies deteriorated quickly and dates on these coins easily wore off. This diminishing quality eventually led to Jefferson Nickels.

  • Year: 1908 to 1912
  • Mint Mark: Mixed
  • Grade: Mixed
  • Value: $2,000

The design was chosen via a public contest, and the winner was Felix Schlag. His design stayed on the coin until 2004, though his initials didn’t appear on the coin until 1966 – it’s unclear why. Jefferson Nickels have a Thomas Jefferson obverse and a Monticello reverse.

 

15. Rare 1942 World War Jefferson Nickel No Mint Mark Error US War Coin

Rare 1942 World War Jefferson Nickel No Mint Mark Error US War Coin

Monticello is the name of Thomas Jefferson’s official home outside Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s a 5,000-acre tobacco and wheat plantation that he inherited from his dad when he was 26. He designed the house himself. Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd President of the USA.

  • Year: 1942
  • Mint Mark:
  • Grade: None (Error)
  • Value: $2,500

Jefferson Nickels are still made today, but from 1942 to 1945, their metal composition shifted because of the war. These War Nickels also had bigger mint marks so they could easily be identified and pulled from circulation after the war. Cupronickel came back in 1946.

 

16. 1944-D 5C FS Jefferson Nickel NGC MS68 5FS 6290074-003

1944-D 5C FS Jefferson Nickel NGC MS68 5FS 6290074-003

One of these big mint marks on the War Nickels was P for Philadelphia. It had never been used before since coins from the Philadelphia Mint were released without mint marks. Other cases of coins without mint marks are the ones made from all mints in 1965, 1966, and 1957.

  • Year: 1944
  • Mint Mark: D (Denver)
  • Grade: MS68
  • Value: $2,800

At the time, people were stashing silver quarters and half dollars for their melt value. They hoarded nickels and pennies too, even though their melt value was negligible. So Eva Adams, the Mint Director, ordered that no coins should bear any mint marks to deter these hoarders.

 

17. 1935-S Buffalo Nickel – PCGS MS 67 – Gold Shield

1935-S Buffalo Nickel - PCGS MS 67 - Gold Shield

Fun fact – the silver half dime of 1792 was initially spelled as half disme, though the ‘s’ was silent. The first batch of 1,500 coins was made in saw-maker John Harper’s cellar. They were coined using melted silverware from the household of President George Washington.

  • Year: 1935
  • Mint Mark: D (Denver)
  • Grade: MS67
  • Value: $2,577

Before the president ran out of cutlery, the US started selling coins abroad. These exports had the same psychological value as Spanish silver dollars, though the Spanish versions were heavier and contained more silver. These Spanish coins were then imported back to the US.

 

18. 1975 S Jefferson Nickel PCGS PR70DCAM (Extremely Rare)

1975 S Jefferson Nickel PCGS PR70DCAM (Extremely Rare)

This simple strategy enabled savvy entrepreneurs to accrue ‘bullion’ in the form of Spanish dollars. They sold the Spanish coins to the Mint where they could be melted and turned into new silver for new coins, making a profit for the sellers in the process. It became a problem!

  • Year: 1975
  • Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)
  • Grade: PR70DCAM
  • Value: $1,500

The US Mint stopped striking silver dollars and half-dimes to seal this loophole. Given the proven American tendency to stash silver coins as bullion (sometimes called silver stacking), war-time nickels – the ones with 35% pure silver – were only minted between 1942 and 1945.

 

19. 1967 Jefferson Nickel NGC MS67 SMS FS UCAM PQ MAC UHC Spotless Very Rare

1967 Jefferson Nickel NGC MS67 SMS FS UCAM PQ MAC UHC Spotless Very Rare

Like all coins, nickels with errors are worth a lot more in the resale market. Some mistakes are easy to spot and could earn you a few hundred dollars for your nickel. That’s a pretty sum for a coin with a face value of five cents. But some errors shoot coin value into the thousands.

  • Year: 1967
  • Mint Mark: None (Coin Shortage)
  • Grade: MS67
  • Value: $1,250

Doubling errors can be valuable – that’s when the die is stamped twice. Wrong planchets are good too when the coin is minted on the wrong denomination blank. Look for years with low mintage. Because the Mint made fewer coins in those years, their rarity raises the price.

 

Do you own any valuable nickels? Tell us all about your treasure in the comments section!

YouTube References:

The Most Valuable Nickels of All Time! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FtBYOvaOtg

Top 15 Most Valuable Nickels – Rare Nickels in Pocket Change Worth Money (Buffalo, Liberty, Shield) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utRjeztLFCw