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HomeUS Coins1912-D Liberty Nickel : A Collector's Guide

1912-D Liberty Nickel : A Collector’s Guide

Obverse, United States 1912-D Liberty nickel, image courtesy David Lawrence Rare Coins
Images courtesy David Lawrence Rare Coins

The 1912-D Liberty Head nickel was struck during the only year when any of the coins in the series were struck at branch mints. The Liberty Head nickel series officially spanned from 1883 through 1912, though five examples of a 1913 Liberty nickel exist that may have been produced under a number of scenarios either legitimate or clandestine. But whether or not the 1913 Liberty Head nickel was struck under the authority of the United States Mint, the 1912 Liberty Head issues represent the last official entries for the series.

For its part, the 1912-D is scarcer than most other issues in the series. Less than 8.5 million were minted, and it is one of just eight official business-strike regular issues with a mintage of fewer than 10 million pieces.

The 1912-D nickel is noticeably more expensive in all grades than its circulated and uncirculated Philadelphia-Mint counterparts struck from 1899 through 1912. However, of the two branch mint Liberty Head nickels, the 1912-D is by far less expensive and more numerous than its 1912-S sibling hailing from the San Francisco Mint. The 1912-S Liberty Head nickel is the lowest-mintage coin in the series and is regarded as a key date for the type. It is also the third-most-expensive regular-issue coin in the series, behind only the higher-mintage 1885 and 1886 Liberty Head nickels, which were saved in smaller numbers than the 1912-S. Meanwhile, the 1912-D Liberty nickel is generally regarded as a common coin in all but the highest circulated grades and all levels of Mint State.



The Liberty Head nickel was designed by 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. The 1912-D 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.”

13 stars, representing the 13 original states of the Union, mostly encircle the bust along the obverse rim. At the bottom center of the obverse is the coin’s date, 1912.

Reverse, United States 1912-D Liberty nickel, image courtesy David Lawrence Rare Coins


While the Liberty Head nickel may only infrequently be identified as the “Barber” nickel by hobbyists, the coins do have one widely popular nickname: the “V” nickel. The “V” refers to the large Roman numeral “V” that anchors the reverse design and indicates the coin’s denomination of five cents. The “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.” The “D” mintmark representing the Denver Mint is located under the left dot beside the word CENTS.


The edge of the 1912-D Liberty nickel cent is plain or smooth, without reeding or edge inscription.


Charles Edward Barber was born in London in 1840. He was the son of William Barber, the fifth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, under whom he worked as an assistant engraver. Upon his father’s death in 1879, Charles Barber became the Mint’s sixth Chief Engraver. The coins he designed during his tenure are collectively known as “Barber coinage” and include the dime, quarter and half dollar. His Liberty “V” nickel is also well-known, as is his feud with engraver George T. Morgan.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1912
Denomination: Five Cents (USD)
Mint Mark: D (Denver)
Mintage: 8,474,000
Alloy: 75% Copper; 25% Nickel
Weight: 5.0 grams
Diameter: 21.2 mm
Edge Plain
OBV Designer Charles E. Barber
REV Designer Charles E. Barber
Quality: Business Strike


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Q. David Bowers: https://www.pcgs.com/News/Pedigree-Of-Five-Known-1913-Liberty-Nickels

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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    • That means it was struck at Philadelphia.

      Remember, until the famous “war nickels” made during WWII, Philadelphia coins never carried a mint mark. War nickels were the only coins at that time to carry a P mint mark; all other denominations remained “plain”.

      The use of a P on Philadelphia nickels ended with the resumption of standard coinage in 1946. The Mint didn’t shift gears until 1979 when the new SBA dollars gained a P mark. In 1980 it was added to all other denominations except the cent (which is another story in itself).


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