Coin collecting is an enjoyable and profitable hobby that has fascinated individuals for centuries. While many focus on quarters, dimes, and other more glamorous coins, nickels have unique charm and value. In this detailed guide, we’ll discuss the ten most valuable and rare nickels worth money, offering insights into their histories, scarcity, and market value.
The Most Valuable US Nickels
1913 Liberty Head V Nickel:
Worth over $3 million, only five are known to exist. They were minted in secrecy and never officially released.
1916 Double Die Buffalo Nickel:
With the “doubling” error in the date and words, this coin can fetch up to $3,800.
1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel:
This nickel is worth up to $2,000 due to a minting error that left the buffalo with only three legs.
1926-S Buffalo Nickel:
A rare find with less than 1 million made, this coin can be worth up to $4,200.
1880 Shield Nickel:
Valued at around $2,000 due to its rarity.
1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel:
This overdated coin is worth around $3,500.
1942-P Jefferson Nickel:
Valued at about $800, it was one of the earliest coins to feature a P mint mark.
1879 Shield Nickel:
A rarity due to limited mintage, valued at around $2,400.
1950-D Jefferson Nickel:
With only 2.6 million mints, these can sell for $600 to $800.
1939 Doubled Monticello:
Worth about $500, this coin features a doubling of the word “Monticello.”
Nickels have undergone several transformations in design and minting series. Here are the main series:
- Shield Nickels (1866-1883): These were the first 5-cent pieces to be called nickels, distinguished by a shield design on the obverse.
- Liberty Head or V Nickels (1883-1913): These were named for the Roman numeral V on the reverse, signifying five cents.
- Buffalo or Indian Head Nickels (1913-1938): These feature the head of a Native American and the image of a buffalo.
- Jefferson Nickels (1938-Present): These are the current nickels in circulation and feature Thomas Jefferson and Monticello, his Virginia home.
What Years of Nickels are Worth Money?
Certain years stand out in terms of rarity and value:
- Pre-World War I Nickels: Older nickels tend to be more valuable due to limited mintage and high demand.
- War Nickels (1942-1945): These are special nickels made with additional silver and manganese to save nickel metal for the war effort. They tend to be worth more than their face value.
- Nickels from the 1950s: Some nickels from this era have higher market values due to low mintage numbers.
- Overdate Nickels: These are coins where the year stamped over an older year can be worth a lot.
What Year Jefferson Nickels are Worth the Most?
Among Jefferson’s Nickels, certain years stand out for their value:
- 1950-D: As mentioned earlier, this nickel can fetch between $600 and $800.
- 1939-D: A key date with only 3.5 million minted, valued up to $300.
- 1943-P 3/2: An overdate error makes this coin worth up to $400.
- 1945-P Double Die Reverse: A doubled “Monticello” and “Five Cents” can bring in up to $1,000.
Which Nickels Should I Keep?
If you’re starting a collection or just stumbling upon old nickels, you might wonder which ones are worth keeping:
- Older Nickels: Anything before 1960 is worth keeping for its potential value.
- War Nickels: Made from 1942 to 1945, these have a higher silver content and are more valuable.
- Nickels with Errors: Any nickels with obvious minting errors can be valuable.
- Low Mintage Nickels: Coins produced in low quantities are always worth keeping.
Why is the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel so Rare?
The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel is perhaps American coins’ most legendary and mysterious. Despite the 1912 cessation of the Liberty Head design in favor of the Buffalo Nickel, five specimens of the 1913 Liberty Head were mysteriously minted.
This fabled coin is so valuable precisely because of its questionable legality and the mystery surrounding its production. It’s said that a Mint official produced these coins illegally, which is part of why they are so rare. As they were never publicly released, they didn’t see general circulation, further adding to their allure and value. These coins have broken multiple auction records, with one selling for over $3 million.
Collecting nickels can be more than just a casual hobby; it can also be a lucrative venture if you know what to look for. While this guide offers a comprehensive overview, the value of a nickel—like any piece of history—is often in the eye of the beholder. Keep these pointers in mind, and you may have a small fortune in nickels.
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