By CoinWeek ….
Sunday, June 30 will see the end of bidding on GreatCollections.com for this 1884 Liberty nickel, graded MS-66+ by PCGS and granted a green sticker by Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC). A scarce coin in High Mint State, this specimen features light toning and a relatively sharp strike for the type.
While there are more examples graded PCGS 66+ that are graded 65 (the PCGS Census reports 42 coins as opposed to 37), there are only five specimens graded higher at MS-67. Still, PCGS gives an 1884 nickel graded MS-66+ an estimated value of $5,000 USD – which is slightly less than the average price of the last five most recent auction records. In June 2018, an example sold for $3,360, and in 2017 two pieces each sold for $3,995–one in July and one in April.
However, a February 2016 auction saw an MS-66+ 1884 Liberty Head nickel sell for $5,758, and in August of 2015, an example garnered $8,225.
To check on auction results for this or any other coin, search through the GreatCollections Auction Archives, with records for over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years.
At the time of writing, the high bid on this 1884 Liberty nickel is $2,600 after 12 bids.
The Liberty Head nickel was designed by U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber, who is the namesake behind the Barber (officially “Liberty Head”) dime, quarter and half dollar; some hobbyists have similarly dubbed the Liberty Head nickel as the “Barber” nickel, though this has not been common practice.
It was first produced for circulation in 1883 after two years of development of various patterns for the proposed type, including an 1882 pattern virtually identical to the design actually released. The issued 1883 nickel did not have text indicating the denomination but instead utilized a large letter “V” on the reverse, part of a proposed plan to use Roman numerals on new one-cent and three-cent coins as well. Whether this plain symbology, minus descriptive text, was an actual blunder or a result of a not too unreasonable assumption that the size, color, and “V” would be a sufficient indicator of the denomination is unknown.
However, some individuals saw an opportunity to make a quick profit with the new nickels by reeding the edges and plating them in gold, ultimately passing the final product on to the unsuspecting as a new five-dollar gold piece. These “racketeer” nickels naturally caused a sustained protest, and Mint Director A. Loudon Snowden ordered Barber to modify the coin to explicitly state that the “V” meant cents, not dollars.
According to the Red Book, the United States Mint minted 11,270,000 pieces of the 1884 Liberty Head nickel, which is almost five million fewer than the 1883 WITH CENTS variety.
The Liberty Head nickel features a leftward-facing bust of Miss Liberty, whose hair is tied into a bun behind her head. She is crowned with a tiara bearing the inscription “LIBERTY”. Thirteen stars, representing the 13 original states of the Union, encircle the bust along the obverse rim. At the bottom center of the obverse is the coin’s date.
But while the Liberty Head nickel may only infrequently be identified as the “Barber” nickel by collectors, the coins do have one widely popular nickname: the “V” nickel, thanks to the aforementioned Roman numeral on the reverse. The letter “V” sits within a wreath of cotton, corn, wheat, and tobacco – all important crops representative of different parts of the country. Centered under the wreath is the inscription CENTS, which was added to the design in late 1883 to ensure that the coin could not be plated gold and misrepresented as a five-dollar gold piece.
On either side of the word CENTS is a single dot, which divides the denomination inscription from the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, which wraps around the top three-quarters of the reverse along the rim. Near the top center of the coin, under the words STATES OF, is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. Translated from Latin to English, E PLURIBUS UNUM means “OUT OF MANY, ONE”.