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1866 Shield Nickel with Rays

Published on 08/30/2018 by APMEX

Minted from 1866 to 1883, Shield Nickels are an integral part of U.S. coinage, as they were the first five-cent coins made of nickel. The 1866 Shield Nickels are sought after by collectors because of their history. Their predecessors were half dimes, which were primarily made of Silver.

The Shield Nickel was the very first nickel struck for production by the United States Mint. In 1866 more than 14 million coins were produced. The reason the nickel coin came into being was that during the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) everyone on both sides hoarded any Gold or Silver coins when they could find them. Prior to 1866 all 5 cent coins were made of Silver.

To alleviate the Silver shortage and the general shortage of coinage, the U.S. Mint began striking these coins. The obverse contained a picture of shield, hence the name. The reverse depicted the number “5” inside a circle of 13 stars. The design included unique rays between the stars, but the rays didn’t strike up well, so during the striking of 1867-dated Shield Nickels, the die was changed to eliminate the rays, causing there to be two varieties of Shield Nickel dated 1867.

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