What is the most expensive nickel? Nickels may seem like insignificant coins, but some rare nickels can be worth a fortune to collectors. If you’ve ever wondered what the most valuable nickel is, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The 1913 Liberty Head nickel is widely considered the most expensive and valuable nickel, with one example selling for over $3 million at auction in 2013.

The Famous 1913 Liberty Head Nickel

Backstory and Rarity

The 1913 Liberty Head nickel is one of the rarest and most valuable coins in existence. Only five examples are known to exist. This iconic coin was never meant to be minted, making its origin story quite fascinating. In 1913, the Buffalo nickel was slated to replace the Liberty Head design.

However, before the switch officially occurred, a few 1913 Liberty Head nickels were mysteriously and illegally struck at the Philadelphia Mint. It’s unclear who exactly was responsible, but legend has it that a Mint employee secretly and illegally struck a small batch of the nickels to keep the coin design from disappearing completely.

The 5 Known Examples

The five 1913 Liberty Head nickels known to collectors today each have an intriguing backstory:

  • The first example was discovered in 1920 when a dealer noticed one in a batch of Buffalo nickels. It was later purchased by King Farouk of Egypt for over $37,000 in 1944. This coin disappeared for decades before surfacing again in 2003 when it was sold at auction for $3 million.
  • The second example was found by accident in 1924. A collector spotted it while looking through Liberty Head nickels. In 2010, this coin sold at auction for $3.7 million.
  • The third example was uncovered in 1942 as part of a large coin collection. This coin now resides as part of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, making it unavailable for private ownership.
  • The fourth example was once owned by legendary Texas collector Amon G. Carter Sr. It was sold in 2001 for approximately $1.84 million.
  • The fifth and final example was found in 2003 when an old coin purse was brought in for appraisal. This last Liberty Head nickel stunned the numismatic world when it sold for $4.56 million later that year.

Record-Breaking Auction Sales

With only five examples in existence, the 1913 Liberty Head nickels have sold for increasingly astronomical prices at auction over the past 15+ years. In January 2018, one coin broke all previous records when it sold for $4.56 million to an anonymous bidder.

In August 2018, another 1913 Liberty Head nickel was sold privately through a deal negotiated between its owner and a group of buyers. While the final sale price was not disclosed publicly, experts estimate this coin likely traded hands for $4.5-5 million.

Clearly, these ultra-rare coins continue to shatter pre-sale estimates and establish new record prices. And there’s no sign of slowing down. As some of the most legendary rarities in all of American numismatics, the 1913 Liberty Head nickels will surely remain hotly pursued by serious collectors for generations to come.

Other Rare and Valuable Nickels

1885 ‘Racketeer’ Nickel

The 1885 ‘Racketeer’ nickel is one of the most famous and coveted rare nickels. Only about 100-200 of these nickels are estimated to still exist today. They were minted in 1885 when there was a change in the nickel design from the Liberty Head nickel to the V-nickel.

During the transition, some Liberty Head nickels dated 1885 were produced without the word “CENTS” on the reverse side. This led to some people gold-plating these nickels and passing them off as $5 gold pieces, gaining the nickname “racketeer nickels.”

An 1885 nickel without CENTS is worth around $850 in typical circulated condition and can be worth up to $3,000 or more if in a pristine state.

1900 Barber Nickel

Barber nickels were minted from 1883 to 1912, with the rarest dates being 1895, 1913, 1909-S, and 1900. High-grade versions in mint state can sell for over $1,000.

Even lower-graded circulated versions can still sell for $75-$250+. Key factors that determine a 1900 Barber nickel value are the grade/condition, proof vs circulated, where it was minted, eye appeal, surface preservation, strike sharpness, and authentication/certification from professional coin gradings companies like PCGS or NGC.

1955 Doubled Die Obverse Nickel

The most valuable and famous error nickel is the 1955 Doubled Die Obverse, created by a hub doubling error during minting. This resulted in a heavy doubling of text and date on the obverse side. Around 20,000 were produced before the error was caught.

In pristine mint condition, this nickel can be worth over $20,000. Even lower-graded versions sell for $1,000+. Heritage Auctions has sold multiple 1955 doubled die nickels for over $30,000. Authenticating one requires an expert numismatist opinion.

Subtle differences exist between authentic doubles dies versus machine doubling or die cracks. Key identification points are the clear, obvious doubling of letters, numbers, and dates.

What Makes a Nickel Valuable

Low Mintage

One of the main factors that increase a nickel’s value is having a low mintage, meaning not many were originally made. For example, the famous 1913 Liberty Head nickel had an extremely low mintage with only 5 coins being produced before production was halted.

This exceptionally low number has made the 1913 nickel one of the most prized and expensive coins in history, with one selling for $4.5 million in 2013!

Errors and Varieties

Error coins and coins with unique varieties can also drive a nickel’s worth up substantially. Some examples include the 2004 Peace nickel with its unintentional extra leaf detail or the 1937-D 3-legged buffalo nickel.

While normal 1937-D nickels trade for around $3, the 3-legged Buffalo nickel variety can sell for $5,000! Other factors like doubled dies, overdates, and clipped planchets can make otherwise normal nickels trade for impressive premiums.

Condition and Grading

A nickel’s condition and assigned grade plays a major role as well. While a well-worn common date buffalo nickel may trade for melt value, a pristine uncirculated example graded MS-65 can sell for $8. And if that same date and type scores an elusive MS-67 grade?

The value can soar to $65! So nickels that grade in certified mint state holders, especially at the upper ranges, tend to garner strong collector interest making them highly valuable.

In the end, while most nickels trade close to face value, select coins with optimal combinations of low mintage, dramatic errors/varieties, and top-graded condition can and do trade for life-changing sums.

For example, the world record for a nickel is still held by one of the 5 known 1913 Liberty Head Nickels which last sold for $4.5 million in 2013!

Nickel Type Price
Common Date Buffalo Nickel (G-4 Grade) $0.07
Uncirculated MS-65 Buffalo Nickel $8
1913 Liberty Head Nickel (1 of 5 known) $4.5 million

How to Tell if You Have a Rare Nickel

Examine the Date and Mint Mark

The easiest way to spot a potentially valuable nickel is to carefully inspect the date and mint mark. Look for key dates like 1913, 1939, 1950-D, and 1955, which can have significant collectible value if in pristine condition.

You’ll also want to check for any mint marks like a D (for Denver) or S (San Francisco), as coins made at those mints often have lower mintages and are worth more.

Check for Any Errors or Varieties

While examining your nickel, inspect the coin closely for any errors or varieties, as those can dramatically increase a coin’s value to collectors. For example, a small number of 1937 nickels have a 3-legged buffalo variety that sells for over $4,000 in Fine condition.

There are also doubled die errors and coins with a partial copper core that can make a nickel extremely rare.

Have the Nickel Professionally Graded

If you believe you have a high-value nickel, consider having it professionally graded and certified by services like PCGS or NGC. The grading process assesses the coin’s condition and confirms its authenticity.

While grading costs money, the increased value of a certified rare nickel is well worth the investment. For example, a 1913 Liberty Head nickel certified in great condition once sold for over $3 million!

By closely analyzing your nickel’s date, mint, and condition and checking for errors, you can determine if your coin is a common type or a super rare variety worth big bucks. Using online coin price guides like the PCGS Price Guide can give you an estimate too. 

The Outlook for Rare Nickels in the Future

The market for rare and valuable nickels continues to be strong, with no signs of slowing down. As existing rarities become harder to find, demand from collectors pushes prices ever higher. Here are some insights into where this exciting market may be headed in the coming years:

Increasing Scarcity

Many of the most prized nickel issues are already scarce due to low original mintages. As time passes, more examples are lost or damaged, making the remaining coins even harder to obtain. This shrinking supply against steady demand will likely translate to continued price increases for the rarest dates and varieties.

Growth of the Collector Base

Interest in coin collecting continues to expand globally. More collectors focusing on niche areas like rare nickels means greater competition for a limited number of coins. Prices are likely to rise as more buyers pursue headlines like the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, which sold for $4.56 million in 2018.

Changing Collector Demographics

Younger and more tech-savvy collectors are entering the market for rare coins, aided by internet commerce and information sharing. Online auction sites like eBay and Heritage Auctions make buying rare coins easier than ever.

This new generation of collectors thinks nothing of paying strong premiums for scarce numismatic treasures.

Nickel Series Completion

Many date/mintmark combinations had tiny original mintages, like the 1885 Liberty Head nickel with just 1,473,300 business strikes produced. Filling holes in advanced collection sets requires paying more as key coins become virtually unobtainable.

Nickel Issue Mintage Value Trend
1913 Liberty Head Nickel 5 coins extant Appreciating
1885 Liberty Head Nickel 1,473,300 coins Rapid appreciation

Rare nickel collecting has an exciting road ahead. With increasing collector interest and ever-growing prices realized at auction, the most valuable nickels seem likely to continue outpacing other series.

Decades from now, today’s record-setting nickels may seem like bargains compared to future sale levels. Passionate collectors and savvy investors will certainly be watching this space!

What Is The Most Expensive Nickel – Conclusion

While the famous 1913 Liberty Head nickel holds the record for being the most valuable nickel, there are a number of other rare nickels that can be worth big money to serious collectors.

By knowing what to look for in terms of mintage, errors, condition, and more, you just may uncover a hidden gem in your pocket change. Happy hunting!

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