Know your U.S. coins: Shield 5 cents

Nearly 75 years after the first silver 5-cent coin (Flowing Hair half dime) was struck, the copper-nickel Shield 5-cent coin began its relatively short (24 years) span from 1866 to 1889.

The date of authorization for the new composition 5-cent coin was May 16, 1866. Less than one month later on June 11, 1866, the coins were officially struck and released to the public. For seven years, the United States Mint struck two compositions of the 5-cent denomination, as production of the silver half dime continued through 1873.

COIN VALUES: See how much your 5 cent coin is worth today 

The Shield 5-cent coin was designed and engraved by James B. Longacre. Its copper-nickel metallic content is 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. The edge of the coin is plain and because all of these 5-cent coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, the coin has no Mint mark.

Collectors of this series have the choice of obtaining coins struck as Proof or as business strikes. However, coins dated 1877 and 1878 were struck only as Proof.

The design used during the initial year, 1866, features rays on the reverse extending outward from the 5. The Rays design was discontinued in 1867, with both Rays and No Rays versions struck.

The 1880 coin ranks as the No. 1 rarity as a business strike for the series. It is certainly a key date.

The only overdate in the series was struck during the last year of production for the series. The 1883/2 is a semi-key and desired by collectors in all circulated grades.

Besides the Proof 1877, the 1866 and 1867 Rays 5-cent coins are very popular among collectors. The key Proof of the series is the 1867 With Rays variety, with an estimated 15 to 25 known specimens.

Keep reading from our "Know Your U.S. Coins" series:

Cents and half cents:

2- and 3-cent coins:


Dimes and half dimes:


Half dollars:


Gold coins:

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