The Shield Nickel is an iconic piece of American coinage not only because of how long ago it was produced, but also due to the fact that the coin was so crucial in the day-to-day lives of millions of Americans. Despite being minted well over 100 years ago, many Shield Nickels have survived and are still around today. Unfortunately, because of how much these coins were used, very few have survived the years in excellent condition.
For collectors, the condition of a coin is everything because most every collector only wants to add pristine pieces to their collection. With regard to the 1871 Shield Nickel, finding a well-preserved piece is no cakewalk.
Because the condition of a Shield Nickel means everything, the first thing collectors will do is pour over the coin in order to find any, even the smallest, imperfections. The process of judging a coin like this is known as grading. A grade, when talking about coins, is nothing more than a one or two word description of the coin’s overall condition.
Though grading is something that is typically done by a professional company, you can utilize the specifications below to gain a better idea of what qualities are present in a coin of a specific grade.
Uncirculated: An Uncirculated Shield Nickel is one that spent no time exchanging hands on the open market. Thanks to this coin being kept in a safe place throughout its life, the coin will have no signs of wear. Most appealing is the fact that this type of coin will have retained almost all of its original luster, giving it a pleasing appearance.
Extremely Fine: An Extremely Fine Shield Nickel did see some time in circulation, but the time it spent changing hands was minimal and so too is the incurred damage. Typically, the leaves surrounding the shield will have faded due to circulation, but the rest of the coin will have retained almost all of its texture and shine.
Fine: Graded to be Fine, a Shield Nickel of this grade is one that spent quite a few years being exchanged. As a result of this, the coin will show ample signs of wear including scratching and chipping. The coin’s imagery and inscriptions will still be intact, but the boundaries separating the inscriptions/images from the rest of the coin will have faded a bit over the years.
Good: This is the grade given to Shield Nickel in sub-par condition. These coins spent decades in circulation and were pretty beaten up during that course of time. You will see plenty of scratching, chipping, and other signs of wear. On top of it all, the boundaries between images and inscriptions will have faded quite considerably.
Giving a coin like the Shield Nickel an accurate valuation is no more difficult than assessing the coin’s condition. Naturally, collectors are willing to pay higher amounts for coins that have been well-preserved, but the 1871 is a bit of an upside exception in that its baseline prices, regardless of condition, are more than most other Shield Nickel editions. The chart below will help you better understand how much you will be asked to pay for a Shield Nickel of a given grade.
1871 Shield Nickel
|1871||$75||$150||$280||$350||Source: Red Book|