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1912-S nickel showing gains in all grades

The 1912-S Liberty Head nickel was a real sleeper among coins of the past century back when it was worth less than $50 in G-4.

The 1912-S Liberty Head nickel was a real sleeper among coins of the past century back when it was worth less than $50 in G-4. Today it is more correctly priced at $175. But even after a number of years of rising prices, the 1912-S still ranks as a very good value for a low-mintage and historic issue.

The story of the 1912-S will always be tied to the 1912-D Liberty Head nickel since the two were the first nickels ever produced outside the main facility in Philadelphia.

Nickels and cents were not allowed to be produced at other facilities. Silver mine owners only wanted gold and silver produced in other mints. The logic was that if the mints were busy with cents and nickels, it would take time away from the production of silver and gold coins. Mine owners saw the mints as the best way to use up large amounts of silver. Since the discovery of the Comstock Lode, the price of silver had been on a downward spiral.

By the early 1900s it was clear that keeping cents and nickels from being produced at other mints would not prevent silver prices from reaching lower levels. Moreover, the West was having some trouble making change.

Officials did not want to send train loads of cents and nickels to the West to make change. The West had more mints than the East so there was every reason to make the lower denominations there. The law was changed and finally the West had to make the coins it needed for commerce. It was probably no accident that this took place shortly after the required silver dollar production ended in 1904.

The cents came first in 1908 at San Francisco, then in 1911 at Denver. Both mints produced nickels in 1912. Denver nickel production was 8,474,000, but the San Francisco total stood at just 238,000.

As an historic and low-mintage coin, the 1912-S should have been saved. Some probably were, but there was not a large number of collectors at the time. Many new collectors started with the new Lincoln cent.

We know that the 1912-S circulated. A total of 160 examples were found in the ?New York Subway Hoard,? which wasn?t started until the 1940s. To find so many examples in a hoard started so late suggests that it circulated with little interest.

It seems that the real interest in the 1912-S has begun fairly recently. In G-4 in 1998 it was just $43 ? a far cry from today?s $175. In 1998 it was at $750 in MS-60. Today it is at $1,550. In MS-65 it has moved from a 1998 level of $2,100 to a current $7,500. It has posted a solid gain in all grades.

In fact, the future seems bright for the 1912-S. There are some examples in all grades, but the demand varies. The 1912-S Liberty nickel is extremely tough because it is the lowest mintage nickel of the century and an issue with a historical connection.