As promised last week, here is another Shield Nickel type that can be a nice find.
While Shield nickels are not the most popular series, they do offer coins that can make a great “hunt.” One of these is the 1868 nickel. Four different reverse hubs were used to create all the reverse dies for the entire Shield Nickel series. The third hub, designated IIb, is often called the “reverse of 1868,” and was used to strike some of the 1868 dated coins. Coins struck from dies made with this hub are easy to identify. Just look at the star at K12 (K12 is a kolit number, referring to the 12 o’clock position) on the reverse. If the star points to the E in STATES, it is the common “reverse of 1867.” If the star points to the S, it is the “reverse of 1868.”
Dennis Paulsen has studied “reverse of 1868” dies and he believes that only 10% of the nickels struck dated 1868 used this reverse. Thus, of the 28,817,000 nickels struck with this date, about 2,900.000 ”reverse of 1868” coins were struck.
In addition, this reverse had 6 different die states, which Paulsen calls varieties. Initially, only 5 varieties were known, which helps explain the variety numbering for this reverse. Variety 5 is the rarest, represented by only a couple of working dies. Varieties 3 and 5.5 are also considered rare while varieties 1, 2, and 4 are considered more common. The Cherrypicker’s Guide has a copy of Paulsen’s article, along with pictures, in it.
The following is a listing of these varieties:
Variety 1 has one broken letter, the lower upright of the C in CENTS
Variety 2 has two broken letters, the bottom of the C in CENTS and the bottom of the S in CENTS
Variety 3 has 3 broken letters, the C and S in CENTS and the upper loop of the first S in STATES
Variety 4 has 4 broken letters, the three identified for variety 3 and the top of the D in UNITED
Variety 5 has no broken letters
Variety 5.5 has a weak lower upright of the C in CENTS
This is another rare and underappreciated series to collect. And it is kind of fun examining those Shield Nickels for “reverse of 1868” and missing leaf varieties.