[The following excerpt is published courtesy of DLRC Press and its author, Gloria Peters & Cynthia Mohon. This information was originally published in 1995 in The Complete Guide to Shield and Liberty Head Nickels
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Collecting varieties in the Shield and Liberty Head series can be exciting for those persons who enjoy the “sleuth” aspect in numismatics. The initial discovery of a variety, how the particular deviation occurred and the minting process employed during that particular period in our coinage history is an intellectual endeavor which goes beyond collecting the regular, standard issue coins. Some collectors concentrate only on these “so-called” minting mistakes, but eventually even regular coinage collectors add a few pieces in the variety, error and oddity categories to enhance their collections. The Shield series is richly endowed in minting varieties and many are highly sought by collectors. Liberty Head nickel varieties are scarcer, and most are not as dramatic as some of the shields, but they are interesting and contain a few controversial overdates.
This section contains known varieties we have been able to identify in the Repunched Date (RPD), Repunched Mint Mark (RPM), Doubled Die (DDO and DDR), Overdate, and Blundered Die (MPD in Fletcher) categories. We have not included the Missing Leaf Varieties listed in Fletcher; or those varieties listed in Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins which are vague in description. Varieties have been cross referenced for the reader’s convenience. Different die states are not considered to be different varieties.
In the chart which follows varieties are listed by date with a description, type, rarity estimate, and cross reference. Breen (Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins) is listed as B#; Fivaz/Stanton (Cherrypicker’s Guide to Rare Die Varieties) by FS#; and Fletcher (The Shield Five Cent Series A Comprehensive Listing of Known Varieties) by F#. The Rarity Ratings used are consistent with those listed in the Sheldon Rarity Scale. Coins which we believe are described for the first time are simply rated “new.” Time will tell how scarce they are once their existence is known. Included in the chart are approximately 38 shield and 62 liberty head varieties that fall into this category. Hopefully more new varieties will be found, or be made public, in the near future.
Prices are not listed for any variety. The condition of a coin — particularly when circulated — regardless of grade; coupled with rarity and the strength of the variety are all factors in determining price. For the collector the adding of a new variety to his or her collection, upgrading a piece, or perhaps even finding one that’s not listed makes variety collecting worthwhile and an exciting challenge in numismatics.
Unfortunately, there is some inconsistency among writers regarding which letter or number is described as the first punch and also how the shift is described. We use rt., lf., north, south and the first (under) punch as the direction description designator. For example if we say “repunching is south” then the over punch is lower on the coin than the first impression.
The URS Scale is used by some authors and sometimes in auction catalogs. It is definitely a complete reversal of the two older Rating Scales (Sheldon’s and Judd’s). A URS rating of 1, is 1 known or unique while Judd’s rating of R- I means over 1250 exist and Sheldon’s R-1 means Common. This can be confusing. To assist readers we have attempted to blend R and URS numbers into verbal ratings.
Sheldon Rarity Rating Scale
R-2 Not So Common
R-4 Very Scarce (Pop est. at 76-200)
R-5 Rare (31-75)
R-6 Very Rare (13-30)
R-7 Extremely Rare (4-12)
R-8 Unique, or Nearly So (1, 2 or 3)
Universal Rarity Scale -Q. David Bowers
URS-0 None Known
URS-1 1 known, unique
URS-2 2 known
URS-3 3 or 4 known
URS-4 5 to 8 known
URS-5 9 to 16 known
URS-6 17 to 32 known
URS-7 33 to 64 known
URS-8 65 to 125 known
URS-9 126-250 known
URS-10 251 to 500 known
URS-11 501to 1,000 known