United States 1866 5 cents

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from the Mountain Groan Collection
United States 1866 5 cents rev DSLR.jpg

The shield nickel was introduced in 1866 as a larger cousin of the nickel three cents introduced the year before. The design was modified in the middle of 1867 to delete the rays between the stars on the obverse as that feature was blamed for excessive die breakage. It seems doubtful that that was the actual cause, as die breaks and other minor varieties continued to the end of the series in 1883. The base metal issues quickly established their superiority over the silver three cents and half dime and the latter were terminated in 1873. It took longer for the battle between the three cents and five cents to produce a victor but in 1889 production of the three cents ceased while the five cents is still in use. All shield nickels were produced at Philadelphia, no branch mints produced nickels until 1912.

Record mintage: 14,742,500.

Specification: 5 g, copper-nickel, 20.5 mm diameter, plain edge. The subsequent Liberty Head nickel had a diameter of 21.2 mm.

Catalog reference: KM 97.


  • Alexander, David T., Coin World Comprehensive Catalog & Encyclopedia of United States Coins, Sidney, OH: Amos Press, 1995.
  • Breen, Walter H., Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U. S. and Colonial Coins, New York: Doubleday, 1987.
  • Michael, Thomas, and Tracy L. Schmidt, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900, 9th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2019.
  • Yeoman, R. S., and Kenneth Bressett (ed.), A Guide Book of United States Coins, 65th Ed., Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing, 2011.

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