8 Rarest Nickels in the World

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The U.S. Mint produced millions of nickels in the late 19th and early 20th century. This was around the time that people began seriously collecting coins and many people saved their nickels. Due to this, old nickels are quite common and very few of them are rare. This list contains some of the rarest nickels in the world, which are mostly proof coins. The other nickels on this list are rare because so few have survived because they were largely ignored when they were first produced.

  1. 1926-S Buffalo Nickel
  2. Estimated Number in Existence or Number Minted: 970,000
    Year Created: 1926
      Mint: San Francisco
     Value (Based on Highest Price Paid at Auction): $322,000
    1926-S Buffalo Nickel
    photo source: PCGS CoinFacts

    The Buffalo Nickel series are some of the most popular coins to collect. The 1926-S Buffalo Nickel had the lowest mintage in the entire Buffalo Nickel series, with 970,000 coins produced. Although this may seem like a lot, only a small number of 1926-S Buffalo Nickels have survived, making the coin pretty rare in any condition. According to coin collectors the 1926-S Buffalo Nickel is the key date for any Buffalo Nickel collection.

    Since so few 1926-S Buffalo Nickels have survived, they are very valuable. One 1926-S Buffalo Nickel was sold in 2008 for $322,000.


  3. 1879 Shield Nickel
  4. Estimated Number in Existence or Number Minted: about 25,900
    Year Created: 1879
      Mint: Philadelphia
     Value (Based on Highest Price Paid at Auction): $11,750
    1879 Shield Nickel
    photo source: PCGS CoinFacts

    In 1879, the U.S. Mint resumed making Shield Nickels after only producing proof coins in 1877 and 1878. The Mint significantly reduced the number of Shield Nickels made in 1879, producing only about 25,900 coins. This was about a 90% decrease from 1876, the last year that the Mint had issued regular Shield Nickels.

    Today, not many 1879 Shield Nickels are in good condition and collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars for one. The 1879 Shield Nickel proofs are even rarer and more valuable. Only about 3,200 proofs were made and one 1879 Shield Nickel proof sold for $86,250.


  5. 1880 Shield Nickel
  6. Estimated Number in Existence or Number Minted: about 16,000
    Year Created: 1880
      Mint: Philadelphia
     Value (Based on Highest Price Paid at Auction): $117,500
    1880 Shield Nickel
    photo source: PCGS CoinFacts

    The 1880 Shield Nickel had the lowest mintage of any coin in the Shield Nickel series. Only about 16,000 Shield Nickels were made in 1880 and very few have survived today. Only about 100 1880 Shield Nickels have been graded by either PCGS or NGC. In fact, 1880 Shield Nickel proofs are more widely available than the regular issued coins even though fewer than 4,000 proofs were struck.


  7. 1885 Liberty Head Proof
  8. Estimated Number in Existence or Number Minted: 3,790
    Year Created: 1885
      Mint: Philadelphia
     Value (Based on Highest Price Paid at Auction): $14,300
    1885 Liberty Head Proof
    photo source: PCGS CoinFacts

    The 1885 Liberty Head Proof nickel is rare because fewer than 4,000 were made. However, since the 1885 Liberty Head proof nickels were sold to collectors, a number of them have survived. Like with any coin, the ones in better condition are rarer.

    Overall, the 1885 Liberty Head nickel is considered rare even though about 1.4 million were put into circulation. People were more interested in the 1883 Liberty Head nickels and did not think about also saving some of their 1885 Liberty Head nickels. So there aren’t that many 1885 Liberty Head nickels around today and the coins are considered valuable in any condition.


  9. 1878 Shield Nickel Proof
  10. Estimated Number in Existence or Number Minted: about 2,350
    Year Created: 1878
      Mint: Philadelphia
     Value (Based on Highest Price Paid at Auction): $25,850
    1878 Shield Nickel Proof
    photo source: PCGS CoinFacts

    In 1877 and 1878, only proof versions of the Shield Nickel were made. The 1877 proofs are rarer, but there were only about 2,350 Shield Nickel proofs made in 1878. Although the 1877 Shield Nickel proofs are rarer, the 1878 Shield Nickel proof is more valuable. In 2017, an 1878 Shield Nickel proof was sold for $25,850.


  11. 1877 Shield Nickel Proof with No Rays
  12. Estimated Number in Existence or Number Minted: about 510
    Year Created: 1877
      Mint: Philadelphia
     Value (Based on Highest Price Paid at Auction): $19,550
    1877 Shield Nickel Proof with No Rays
    photo source: PCGS CoinFacts

    The 1877 Shield Nickel Proof with No Rays is rare because only proof coins of this nickel were produced that year. There were only about 510 Shield Nickel proof with no rays made in 1877 for collectors. As one of the rarest Shield Nickel proofs, the 1877 coins are pretty valuable. One 1877 Shield Nickel proof with no rays was sold for $19,550. That particular coin had a nice patina with colors like periwinkle, mint-green, and lemon-gold.


  13. 1867 Shield Nickel Proof with Rays
  14. Estimated Number in Existence or Number Minted: 25 to 60 minted
    Year Created: 1867
      Mint: Philadelphia
     Value (Based on Highest Price Paid at Auction): $132,250
    1867 Shield Nickel Proof with Rays
    photo source: PCGS CoinFacts

    The 1867 Shield Nickel Proof with Rays is the rarest proof in the Shield Nickel series. The total number of Shield Nickel proofs with rays from 1867 is unknown. Depending on the source, the number varies from 60 to 25 of these rare nickels. It is believed that only a few Shield Nickel proofs with rays were made before the design was revised to have the rays removed.

    There is some skepticism in the coin collecting community that the Shield Nickel proofs with rays are as rare as people think they are. A number of specimens have showed up over the years at auction, casting doubt on the extreme scarcity of the 1867 Shield Nickel proofs with rays. Regardless of how few were actually made, the 1867 Shield Nickel Proof with Rays is valuable and has fetched as much as $132,250 at auction.


  15. 1913 Liberty Nickel
  16. Estimated Number in Existence or Number Minted: 5
    Year Created: 1913
      Mint: Uncertain, but believed to be Philadelphia
     Value (Based on Highest Price Paid at Auction): $4,560,000
    1913 Liberty Nickel
    photo source: Wikimedia Commons

    The 1913 Liberty Nickel is not only the rarest nickel in the world, it is one of the most valuable coins ever. There are only five known 1913 Liberty Nickels and in May 2007, one was sold for nearly $5 million! There are rumors that there may be a sixth 1913 Liberty Nickel in someone’s private collection.

    Earlier Liberty Nickels were minted without the word “CENTS” on the coins and this information went viral in the newspapers. People hoarded these Liberty Nickels and by 1913 the line of Liberty Nickels ended. Not much is known about the 1913 Liberty Nickel, which does have “CENTS” stamped on it, other than the fact that very few were minted. According to one theory, the 1913 Liberty Nickels were struck as test pieces, but the dies were destroyed to prepare for the debut of the Buffalo Nickel. People did not even know that the 1913 Liberty Nickels existed until 1920 and since then, they have become some of the most sought after coins in the world.

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