Liberty Head nickels were first conceived in 1881 when it was desired to replace the Shield motif that had been in use since 1866. Patterns were made showing Miss Liberty with LIBERTY on her coronet, a portrait said by some to have been inspired by the classical Diana. Patterns were made in 1881 and also in 1883, culminating in early 1883 with production for circulation. The first issues had Miss Liberty on the obverse, surrounded by stars and with the date below, a motif continued through the rest of the series. On the reverse of the first issues the denomination was stated with a capital letter V representing five, without the word CENTS. It was assumed that this would be self explanatory. By that time the nickel three-cent piece was identified as to the denomination by the Roman numeral III on the reverse, without CENTS.
Trouble was that the diameter of the nickel was approximately the same as the $5 gold piece. Unscrupulous individuals gold plated the new nickels and passed them off as gold coins, some sharpers adding reeding to the edge. A recipient had no way of knowing whether this coin, with the denomination as V, was a half eagle or not. Certainly it didn’t look like the nickel five-cent pieces anyone was used to.
Nationwide publicity resulted, it was said the Mint had made an error, and that the design would soon be discontinued, which it was. Soon, a new reverse was made with CENTS added at the bottom of the reverse die. Word spread that the 1883 Liberty Head nickel without CENTS would be called in by the Treasury Department and it would become rare and valuable. A mad scramble ensued to round them up, with the result that so many were saved by the public that even today the issue is recognized as the most common of all Liberty Head nickels in high grade.
From 1883 through 1912 circulation strikes were made at the Philadelphia Mint as were Proofs for collectors. The Land of Smiles Collection was formed by a discriminating connoisseur who endeavored to obtain the very finest possible certified grade in both categories—circulation strikes and Proofs. As a result of this careful attention and connoisseurship, the Land of Smiles Collection uniformly contains high level examples, many of which are one of a kind with regard to certification in a given grade, and others of which are among the finest. Beyond that, each coin has superb eye appeal. If Liberty Head nickels are of interest to you—and what a beautiful series this is—review our offering carefully and bid accordingly. There is nothing better than the best, and the best awaits you in our Baltimore sale!