The year was 1883, and one year after FDRs arrival in that nursery, the United States Mint was busy giving birth to a baby of its own: the Liberty Head five-cent piece. The father of the new coin was A. Loudon Snowden, Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint. Snowden believed that the nations three minor coinsthe cent, three-cent piece and five-cent pieceshould be uniform in design and metallic composition.
In 1881 he directed Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber to prepare suitable sketches for these denominations, with all three to feature a classical head of Liberty. Barber completed the task late that year, and trial strikes were made of the three coins. All were very simple in design, with the Liberty head on the obverse and a Roman numeralI, III or Von the reverse within a wreath, signifying values of one, three and five cents, respectively.
All were struck in copper-nickel, the same alloy being used already in the three-cent piece and the Shield nickel. It soon became apparent that Congress would oppose a change in composition for the cent, which was made of bronze. Furthermore, the Treasury would not permit a design change for the three-cent piece.
That left only the five-cent piece, and Snowden and Barber concentrated on overhauling it. The Shield nickel, introduced in 1866, was the first base-metal five-cent piece in U. History; up to then, the half dimea small silver coinhad filled the nations need for that denomination. Though reasonably well accepted, the Shield nickel was hardly untouchable; its stark, bland design made it a prime candidate for remodeling. And its newness didnt protect it from replacement: At that time, there wasnt yet a federal law establishing a minimum life expectancy for U.
Snowden admired Barbers new design, and he also welcomed the change because it gave him a chance to increase the diameter (and thus reduce the thickness) of the nickel. He believed that this would lengthen die life dramatically. Snowden proudly unveiled the Liberty Head nickel at a special ceremony on January 30, 1883. Dignitaries attended, and souvenirs of the first strikes were distributed to the guests. Regular coinage began later that weekthen suddenly the celebrating stopped.The first V nickels had barely left the Mint when appalled officials found a fundamental flaw in their design: Barber had omitted the word CENTS. His oversight soon created a crisis for Uncle Sam: Confidence artists were plating the nickels with gold and passing them off to unsuspecting merchants as five-dollar gold pieces.
They were, after all, virtually the same size as half eagles. As brand new coins, they were still unfamiliar to the public, and they lacked any statement of value beyond the letter Vwhich, of course, could represent either five cents or five dollars. Barber quickly prepared a new design, this time placing CENTS in big, bold letters below the V. By then, however, the Mint had struck nearly 5-1/2 million of the so-called No CENTS nickels, and many had been gold-plated and passed.Even today, it isnt uncommon to find these racketeer nickels in hoards and collections. Their value as collectors items is small, but they hold great appeal as historical curiosities. By the end of 1883 the Mint had produced more than 16 million nickels with CENTS on the reverse, but the No CENTS variety is far more common today in choice condition.
Many people set examples aside, mistakenly believing that, having been replaced, these would someday be rare. Following all the drama surrounding its introduction, the Liberty Head nickel settled down to a sedate existence and one more befitting its role as a coin of the realm in the late Victorian Era. There were no significant further changes in its simple, straightforward design and, for all but the final year, there were no branch-mint issues to complicate matters, either; the Philad. The item "1885 LIBERTY HEAD 5C PCGS MS 65+" is in sale since Friday, May 12, 2017.This item is in the category "Coins & Paper Money\Coins\ US\Nickels\Liberty (1883-1913)". The seller is "rarecoinwholesalersca" and is located in Irvine. This item can be shipped to United States.