By Steve Carr
I don’t know about you, but my most exciting moment in coin collecting is the hunt. The prospect of finding an unidentified rare date or variety, an under-graded coin, or even a mis-labeled coin is always possible. For me, the hunt cannot be too easy or too expensive, but it has to be somewhat possible (seeking an un-identified 1804 silver dollar is impossible!). Otherwise, lack of results will cut my search short.
If you too are into the hunt, I have a perfect set of coins for you. Shield nickels are not the most popular series among collectors, but they do offer several different coins that can make for an awesome “hunt”.
One of these coin types is the “Missing Leaf Variety.” When the master hub for the first Shield Nickel obverse dies (Hub A) was cut, the outer leaf on the second cluster of leaves on the right was not cut into the hub. After this mistake was noticed, mint engravers had to engrave this leaf into each individual die. This explains why this leaf often comes in different shapes and sizes. As would be expected, some of these dies were missed and no leaf was added. On coins struck from these missed dies, the number of leaves in the clusters on the right side is 3/3/4/3 instead of the normal arrangement of 3/4/4/3.
This type of nickel is downright rare. In several years of searching, I have only found three. All told, only 29 different known dies were used to strike these missing leaf coins. Dates include 1866, 1867 No Rays, 1868, and 1869. Six of these dies, one from 1866 and 5 from 1868, also have a double die obverse or repunched date.
When I first learned about this hub error, I was hooked. This is perfect for me – something rare, but not expensive. Isn’t that the ideal way to collect? You don’t have to spend any more then you can comfortably afford to loose and you can acquire coins that are difficult to find.
Currently, there are few Shield Nickel collectors, so competition for these coins is limited. On top of that, there is a book, Edward Fletcher’s The Shield Five Cent Series, and several neat web sites, including Howard Spindel’s http://www.shieldnickels.net/top20/missingLeaf.html and http://www.shieldnickels.net.
Some of these missing leaf coins are identified by dealers and often are priced as true rarities (which they are!). Save some money and seek out those that are not identified. It adds a little fun to the chase and can save you money!
Next week I will cover another Shield Nickel group that is also rare, but is not often recognized by dealers.