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1867 saw two versions of Shield nickels

item0612obv.jpgFor whatever reason, we do not seem to pay a lot of attention to Shield nickels. If asked, many would have a tough time even coming up with the key Shield nickel dates. While not one of those key dates, the 1867 is certainly an interesting Shield nickel. In fact, there are a couple  of 1867 Shield nickels.

In 1867 there was still a rush to produce as many examples of the Shield nickel as possible. Technically, the Civil War was over, but the problems were far from over. There were no silver or gold coins in circulation because they had vanished into hoards long before 1867. The Mint was trying its best to make enough examples of items like Shield nickels so that small change could be made without the use of Fractional Currency because that paper currency had never been popular with the public.

The Shield nickel with a copper-nickel composition made its debut in 1866. Using this coin meant not carting around lower denominations and lessened the need for use of Fractional Currency. The Shield nickel solved a lot of problems and that probably explains why, even after mintage of 14,742,500 in 1866, another large output was planned for 1867.

item0612rev.jpgThere had been one problem with the new Shield nickel. It had been tough on dies. We can see evidence of dies cracking and other problems even on top grade examples. The belief was that in order to get the design to come up right, a high degree of metal flow was required, and that was a problem with the alloy. It must be remembered that even though there had been copper-nickel cents, the new Shield nickel and three-cent pieces were a different alloy. The Shield nickel was a more complicated design than the three-cent piece and earlier cents.

Production continued while the decision to eliminate the reverse?s rays was pending. A total of 2,019,000 pieces were made prior to the decision to eliminate the rays. The 1867 with rays is a better date today with a price of $37.50 in G-4. This is well above the more common date price of $18. The premium continues in upper grades as an MS-60 1867 with rays is at $350 while a more common date is $160. In MS-65, the 1867 with rays is at $4,150 while a more common date is $900. Finding an MS-65 is a challenge because the problems with the dies make finding top-quality examples more difficult than the mintage might suggest.

The proof situation is tricky. The chief coiner is understood to have said that there should be no proof production because design change was coming. Someone ignored him and produced a small number of proofs. We cannot be sure, but most thinking today puts the total at about 35. The possibility exists that it could have been more, since Professional Coin Grading Service alone has graded 45 with-rays proofs. It is likely that some were submitted more than once, but 35 may be low. The current $75,000 listing may be high because about 21 graded Proof-65 or better.

The rays were eliminated quickly in 1867. With its large mintage, the no-ray 1867 is an available date at just $18 in G-4. An MS-60 is at $160 and an MS-65 lists at $900.

Most can easily afford an example of each type of 1867. It?s a good choice since they are historic coins from a time of emergency.

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